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US appeals court judge sues to halt competency probe

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U.S. Circuit Judge Pauline Newman of the Federal Circuit sued the appeals court’s chief judge and others in Washington federal court on Wednesday, seeking to block their investigation into her fitness to hold office.

Newman, who is 95, said in her complaint that the probe violated her constitutional rights, and she denied that there were legitimate concerns about her mental and physical capacity.

The judge asked the district court to halt or transfer the investigation.

An attorney for Newman said the complaint “speaks for itself.” Representatives for the Washington D.C.-based Federal Circuit did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Newman, a leading intellectual property law jurist, was appointed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984 to the patent law-focused Federal Circuit, which often hears major cases involving technology and pharmaceutical companies.

An order by Federal Circuit Chief Judge Kimberly Moore that was made public last month said a three-judge committee had determined that Newman may “suffer a disability that interferes with her ability to perform the responsibilities of her office,” and that she had refused a medical evaluation.

Newman’s lawsuit claimed that the orders justifying the probe were “riddled with errors,” describing as false an assertion that she was hospitalized after having a heart attack in 2021.

She said that she served on more appeals panels than most of her colleagues and issued at least eight opinions that summer, and that her productivity has not dropped over the past three years.

The complaint said the committee investigating her gave her only a few days to comply with requests for mental evaluations and her private medical records, which she called a “baseless invasion” of her privacy.

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