Legal Ethics

Mediation Initiated in Dispute Regarding Competency Probe of US Judge
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US Judge Pauline Newman’s lawsuit against her colleagues on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has taken a new turn as the case has been ordered into mediation. Retired judge Thomas Griffith will now oversee the ongoing legal battle between federal judges from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, who has been appointed to preside over an “informal mediation” process.

The controversy began when Judge Newman, aged 96, filed a lawsuit in May against her colleagues, seeking to put a stop to an investigation into her competency as a judge. Furthermore, she refused to cooperate with the probe. In the lawsuit, she requested that a federal judge in Washington, D.C. terminate a suspension imposed by her colleagues, who had expressed concerns about her mental fitness and her ability to promptly resolve cases.

Judge Newman, known for her expertise in patent law, has repeatedly asserted that she can carry out her duties and has accused her colleagues of unjustly sidelining her from the court while the investigation remains ongoing. To demonstrate her seriousness, her legal team has stated that she will only cooperate with the investigation if it is transferred to another appeals court.

  
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Presiding over the lawsuit is U.S. District Judge Christopher “Casey” Cooper, who strongly recommended that both parties consider mediation during a court hearing last week. He expressed his concern that the dispute had become overly personal and urged them to seek an amicable resolution through mediation.

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In response to Judge Cooper’s suggestion, a court order was issued on Thursday to halt impending deadlines in the lawsuit while the mediation process takes place. However, both sides have been directed to provide an update on the progress of the talks by August 2.

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As part of the mediation process, Judge Newman and at least one member of the three-judge committee responsible for investigating her will be required to participate in negotiations. The goal of mediation is to facilitate open and constructive dialogue between the involved parties, with the aim of finding a mutually agreeable solution to the dispute.

The decision to pursue mediation reflects the recognition that resolving the conflict outside of a courtroom may yield better outcomes for all parties involved. Mediation provides an opportunity for the judges to engage in confidential discussions and explore potential compromises. It allows for a more flexible approach compared to a formal legal proceeding, which can be adversarial and may result in a winner-takes-all outcome.



The outcome of the mediation process will have significant implications for the ongoing investigation into Judge Newman’s competency. If a resolution is reached, it could potentially lead to the termination of the investigation and the lifting of the suspension imposed on Judge Newman. On the other hand, if the mediation fails to produce a satisfactory agreement, the legal battle will likely continue, and the investigation may proceed as planned.

The involvement of a retired judge with experience in the appellate court system, like Judge Griffith, adds expertise and impartiality to the mediation process. His role will be to facilitate productive discussions, help the parties identify common ground, and guide them towards a resolution that addresses their concerns.

As the mediation process unfolds, legal experts and observers will closely monitor the developments in this unique case. The outcome will impact the parties involved and serve as a precedent for how similar disputes between judges are handled in the future. Ultimately, the hope is that mediation will provide a path towards reconciliation and allow the judges to refocus their attention on their important judicial responsibilities.

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