US federal judge, 95, faces new competency claims as she battles the investigation

US federal judge, 95, faces new competency claims as she battles the investigation


By Jacqueline Thomsen and Blake Brittain

May 16 (Reuters) – A US federal appeals judge facing a competency investigation has been unable to complete simple tasks independently and threatened an employee with arrest, according to witness statements in an order from her court on Tuesday included.

A U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals investigative committee rejected a request by Judge Pauline Newman, 95, to transfer the probe to another circuit. It ordered her to undergo a neurological evaluation and neuropsychological tests, with a Friday deadline to say if she will comply.

The Washington-based Federal Circuit said it will not comment on the order or other related documents it released Tuesday.

Newman last week sued in district court to stop or transfer the investigation, alleging violations of the constitution.

An attorney for Newman, John Vecchione of the New Civil Liberties Alliance, declined to comment on the new allegations, saying people who have seen the judge recently can judge the claims “for themselves.” He criticized the committee’s decision not to transfer the investigation, expressing concern about whether Newman’s colleagues can be impartial.

According to interviews with court officials cited in Tuesday’s warrant, Newman has alleged many times over the past year without evidence that her devices — including her email, phones and computer — are being hacked or wiretapped.

In another episode detailed in the order, Newman said she was not required to comply with a court order issued by the chief justice, referring to a judge who left court 32 years ago and died in 2006.

Newman also threatened to have one of her court aides arrested, the document says.

“While it’s hard to say this, I believe Judge Newman is just mentally losing it,” a staffer told forensic investigators.

The Federal Circuit announced the investigation last month, citing concerns about Newman’s ability to handle cases and her refusal to cooperate with the investigation.

Federal judges are appointed for life and can only leave their courts by retirement, resignation, impeachment, or death.

Newman was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1984 to the patent-focused Federal Circuit, which often hears large cases involving technology and pharmaceutical companies. (Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen and Blake Brittain; editing by Christopher Cushing)