A blog on practice in the Nation’s second-most powerful court

Federal Circuit judge sues her fellow judges in D.C. district court

Yesterday, in federal district court in DC, Federal Circuit Judge Pauline Newman sued her fellow judges for trying to oust her from the Federal Circuit.

This dispute has been simmering for over a month, but Judge Newman’s suit represents a major escalation. After all, Judge Newman is asking the courts of a sister circuit—located blocks away—to adjudicate a dispute within the Federal Circuit itself.

According to the complaint, Judge Newman (who is 95 years old) is fit to serve. Yet her fellow judges have formed a committee led by Chief Judge Kimberly Moore to issue unlawful “orders and threats” in an “attempt to remove [Judge Newman] from office.”  These steps allegedly include:

(a) refusing to assign [Judge Newman] any new cases …;

(b) removing, without [Judge Newman’s] consent, judicial staff [Judge Newman] is statutorily authorized to retain and refusing authorization to hire replacement staff;

(c) interfering with [Judge Newman’s] abilities to administer her own chambers; and

(d) ordering [Judge Newman] to undergo an involuntary mental health examination without a sufficient basis or legal authority for doing so, by physicians unknown to and unapproved by [Judge Newman].

Obviously this case raises many questions—not least, whether one Article III court can adjudicate an internal dispute within another Article III court, especially when the latter hasn’t relinquished authority over the dispute. Judge Newman’s complaint seems to duck this question, relying solely on federal question jurisdiction.

The case isn’t in the D.C. Circuit yet. But it’s hard to see how it avoids going up. Stay tuned.