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Federal Circuit refuses to hand Judge Newman fresh cases


The Federal Circuit will also narrow its investigation into Judge Newman to focus on whether her failure to cooperate constitutes misconduct

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has refused Judge Pauline Newman’s request to be assigned new cases, it emerged yesterday, June 5.

The court’s judicial council issued an order yesterday saying that Newman, who is 95, shouldn’t be assigned new cases at this time.

It is the latest development in the court’s investigation, which first emerged in April.

The council had previously voted not to assign new cases to Newman in March. But in May, the judge asked to immediately be restored to the rotation of new case assignments.

The committee investigating Newman – which includes Chief Judge Kimberly Moore, Judge Sharon Prost, and Judge Richard Taranto – then referred Newman’s request to the council.

Increased concerns

“The council’s concerns about Judge Newman’s abnormally large backlog of cases and her apparent inability to issue opinions in a timely fashion have not abated. To the contrary, they have increased,” the council stated in the June 5 order.

According to the order, Newman had a backlog of seven opinions. Three have been pending for more than 200 days and the rest have been pending for more than 100 days.

“Four of them, moreover, are cases submitted without argument that are generally among the most expeditiously resolved. These are all opinions which she assigned to herself yet has been unable to circulate to the panels for vote,” the council stated.

Newman authored 28 opinions, including concurrences and dissents, between October 1, 2021 and March 24, 2023, while other active judges wrote an average of 61, according to the order.

She also took an average of 199 days to issue opinions, whereas others had taken 58 days.

“The council is concerned that assigning additional cases to Judge Newman now will only interfere with her ability to clear her current backlog and exacerbate delays in her already long-delayed opinions.

“This is not a censure but rather a decision made for the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the court.”

The council’s order stated that action was warranted under Section 332 of Title 28 of the US Code, which gives a judicial council the authority to “make all necessary and appropriate orders for the effective and expeditious administration of justice within its circuit”.

The US Supreme Court recognised in the 1970 case Chandler v Judicial Council that federal courts could prevent judges with backlogs from being assigned new cases, according to the order.

The document published yesterday also referenced previous allegations that Newman lacked the mental fitness to do her job.

It stated that the council didn’t need to decide at this time whether those concerns alone would justify its order for her not to be assigned new cases.

Orders revealed

The court also released orders yesterday that had previously been under seal.

Among those was an order from the investigating committee on June 1 that said it would narrow its investigation to focus on whether Newman’s failure to cooperate with orders to undergo medical examinations and provide medical records constituted misconduct.

Although the investigation is not currently focused on whether Newman has a disability that prevents her from doing her job, the committee stated that it has strong evidence suggesting that she does.

But the committee believes it is important to obtain input from independent medical professionals.

“Because narrowing the focus of further proceedings to the question of misconduct dramatically narrows the issues at stake, the committee believes that this approach will also necessarily result in a more streamlined process”, the June 1 order that was previously under seal stated.

Newman can submit a brief by July 5 addressing whether her actions constituted misconduct.

The committee will hear oral arguments from Newman’s counsel on July 13, but those will be confidential.

The June 1 order came after a separate order published on May 26, in which Judge Moore stated that there was sufficient evidence that Newman had failed to cooperate and had committed additional misconduct.

Among the documents also released yesterday was a letter from Newman’s counsel that had originally been published on May 25.

The letter stated that Newman would undergo necessary testing and provide records if she was immediately restored to her rights and duties as a judge and the investigation was transferred to the judicial council of another circuit.

All documents released yesterday have been published on the court’s website.

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