Welcome to Original Jurisdiction, the latest legal publication by me, David Lat. You can learn more about Original Jurisdiction by reading its About page, and you can email me at email@example.com. This is a reader-supported publication; you can subscribe by clicking here. Thanks!
For the past 10 months, the legal world has been transfixed by the Pauline Newman saga. At 96, Judge Pauline Newman is the nation’s oldest active federal judge. Last March, her longtime colleague, Chief Judge Kimberly Moore, initiated an effort to remove Judge Newman from the Federal Circuit.
The complaint against Judge Newman was initially based on her supposed “cognitive decline” and “paranoid and bizarre behavior,” but it later morphed to focus on her unwillingness to cooperate with Chief Judge Moore’s investigation. Judge Newman said she’d be happy to cooperate with an investigation—as long as it’s conducted by a neutral party, namely, the judicial council of another circuit.
As I have written repeatedly, I agree with Judge Newman on her due-process argument. It’s routine for circuit judges to transfer an investigation of a fellow circuit judge—as opposed to, say, a district, magistrate, or bankruptcy judge—to another circuit. And there are some interpersonal issues between Chief Judge Moore and Judge Newman, which I might write about in the future, that make it completely inappropriate for Moore to be leading this investigation.
I was agnostic, however, on Judge Newman’s mental capacity. I read, along with everyone else, the gossipy details in Chief Judge Moore’s various reports that made Newman sound, well, totally out of it. But I also read and heard accounts from other sources—such as journalists who visited Newman in chambers, and lawyers who saw her speak at conferences—stating that she’s just fine.
On January 4, I met with Judge Newman and her clerks in chambers, for about four hours. Last Friday, I interviewed Judge Newman on my podcast, for another hour. I’m now of the view that she’s completely lucid and sane—and I have reason to disbelieve or at least question much of what I’ve read in the takedowns of her. (I’m hoping to publish a deep dive into the drama at the Federal Circuit, which is actually quite fascinating—and if you have information or insight to share, please email me.)
But you don’t have to take my word for it when it comes to Judge Newman’s condition. Listen to our almost hour-long podcast conversation—or watch video clips of the judge that I’ll be posting later this week, at her request—and judge for yourself.
Pauline Newman bio, Wikipedia
Colleagues want a 95-year-old judge to retire. She’s suing them instead, by Rachel Weiner for the Washington Post
Fed. Circuit’s Newman, 96, Fights Colleagues From Sideline, by Michael Shapiro for Bloomberg Law
Prefer reading to listening? For paid subscribers, a transcript of the entire episode appears below.
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