Oldest US federal judge suspended for questioning mental competency

A staff interview revealed evidence that the appeals court judge, appointed in 1984 by then-President Ronald Reagan, “may be suffering from significant mental problems – including memory loss, poor comprehension and confusion (…),” it said the decision of the Judicial Council of the Court of Appeal.

Colleagues complained that Newman worked too slowly and was often confused, nervous and argumentative, it said. Although her workload has already been reduced, Newman takes four times as long as other judges to issue opinions on cases.

Judge rejects investigation

Because the 96-year-old refused an examination by a neurologist and psychiatrist selected by the court, she was suspended for one year. The judicial council said the suspension could be extended if she continued to refuse to cooperate.

Newman himself described the decision as unlawful and the result of personal animosity. Newman’s hired psychiatrist, Regina Carney, had stated that “Judge Newman does not exhibit any significant emotional, medical or psychiatric disability that would interfere with the performance of her duties as a judge.”

Too old in leading positions in the USA

The incident could once again fuel the debate about the old age of many people in positions of responsibility in the USA – including many politicians.

The 81-year-old Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently made headlines with misfires at press conferences. Three other senators are even older than McConnell, including Republican Chuck Grassley (89) and Democrat Dianne Feinstein (90).

Age is also a key issue ahead of next year’s presidential election. Incumbent President Joe Biden is 80 years old, his possible Republican challenger, former President Donald Trump, is 77 years old.

Hank Peter

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