Attorney: 96-year-old judge is ‘quite competent’

  • Judge Pauline Newman has been on the court for nearly four decades
  • Impeachment is the only legal means to remove a federal judge
  • Attorney Greg Dolan: "She's certainly in a fighting spirit"

(NewsNation) — At a time when discussions about age and term limits for elected and federally appointed officials are at the forefront, a recent case involving a 96-year-old federal circuit judge has stirred debate over mandatory retirement ages and cognitive testing requirements.

Judge Pauline Newman, a President Ronald Reagan appointee who has been on the court for nearly four decades, was barred from hearing cases for a year after a panel said she refused to undergo medical testing amid concerns that she is no longer mentally fit to serve on the bench.

Newman underwent two separate exams by board-certified medical practitioners, both of which she passed. These evaluations, in her view, validate her competence to continue her role.

The Judicial Council’s order said the suspension could be renewed after a year if she continues not to cooperate or could be rescinded if she decides to comply. 

Greg Dolan, the attorney representing Judge Newman, argued that the actions taken against her are illegal.

“Although she has not sat on new cases since April,” Dolan said, “She has been writing opinions throughout. And in fact, she has a couple of opinions that she’s still still working on. So she, you know, all of those opinions show that she’s quite competent.”

While many positions in the public sector have mandatory retirement ages, such as pilots, air traffic controllers, Foreign Service employees, and state judges, federal officials, like Newman, serve for life and are not subject to such age restrictions.

Impeachment is the only legal means to remove a federal judge who has been appointed for life.

Dolan is resolute in preventing the situation from escalating to impeachment, citing that there are no grounds for such action given Newman’s fitness to serve.

“She’s certainly in a fighting spirit,” Dolan said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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