The oldest federal judge in the United States, at 96, was suspended from duty on Wednesday because of questions about her mental competency after she previously refused an examination. A staff interview would have revealed evidence that judge Pauline Newman "may be suffering from significant mental problems - including memory loss, lack of comprehension and confusion (...)," said the decision by the Court of Appeal's Judicial Council. Newman was appointed in 1984 by then-President Ronald Reagan.
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.
Because the 96-year-old refused an examination by a neurologist and psychiatrist selected by the court, she was suspended for one year. The suspension could be extended if she continues to refuse to cooperate, the judicial council said.
Newman himself described the decision as unlawful and the result of personal hostilities. Newman's hired psychiatrist, Regina Carney, had stated, "Judge Newman does not exhibit any significant emotional, medical or psychiatric disability that would interfere with the performance of her duties as a judge."
The incident could once again fuel the debate about the old age of many people in positions of responsibility in the US - 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.