Annual Survey of American Law honors Judge Pauline Newman ’58

Judge Pauline Newman '58

When President Ronald Reagan appointed Judge Pauline Newman ’58 to the bench of the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in 1984, she had already built an extensive career in science and patent law. In addition to her law degree, she earned her MA in pure science from Columbia University and a PhD in chemistry from Yale University. She had worked as a research scientist at American Cyanamid; director of patents, trademarks, and licensing at FMC Corporation; and a science policy specialist in UNESCO’s Department of Natural Resources.

Now, in Newman’s 33rd year on the court, the NYU Annual Survey of American Law has dedicated its 74th volume to her in honor of her long and prolific career. At the dedication, Newman’s colleagues on the court and in the field of intellectual property and patent law, as well as several of her former clerks, spoke with great respect and awe of her scholarship, eloquence, and devotion to her work.

Judge Raymond Chen '94

Judge Raymond Chen ’94, Newman’s colleague on the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, recalled first reading Newman’s opinions as an NYU Law student. In particular, he pointed to Paulik v. Rizkalla, a 1985 case that centered on determining which of two inventors who happened to invent the same thing at roughly the same time should be awarded the patent. Newman’s majority opinion, he said, demonstrated her stubborn commitment to scrupulously reviewing all of the relevant precedent and furthered the patent system’s basic purpose: to encourage innovation and its fruits. That case, he said, “serves as a calling card for how she has approached cases during her decades on the court…. All along she has consistently been able to work through the sometimes convoluted legal frameworks and technologically difficult factual records to reach wise and just decisions that always help to remind us of the core principles underlying our laws.”

Rochelle Dreyfuss

Pauline Newman Professor of Law Rochelle Dreyfuss, after noting that she owes the title of her professorship to the judge, spoke about Newman’s reputation as an author of many dissents. “The first Justice Harlan is often called the great dissenter, but within the world of patents, that title unquestionably goes to Judge Newman,” she said. Newman has written 202 dissents—the most, Dreyfuss noted, of any federal circuit judge. Dreyfuss also observed that, even in her dissents, Newman’s views tend to be the ones that ultimately prevail. The US Supreme Court has taken up nine cases in which Newman authored a dissent. Eight of those times, the court agreed with her.

Three of Newman’s former clerks—Rachel Elsby, counsel at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld; Daniel Klein, associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; and Judge James Worth of the US Patent and Trademark Office—spoke of Newman as a role model and mentor. “She defined my notion of the ideal judge,” said Klein.

In accepting the dedication, Newman spoke about the changes in the role of technology—and, by extension, patent law and the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit—in US culture and the economy during the three decades of her judicial career. With an eye to current events, Newman noted, “I’m happy to see that again, perhaps, it’s finally coming to be understood that the judiciary is not the least dangerous branch after all.”

Newman also recognized the role NYU Law played in shaping her legal education and career: “It was this extraordinary law school that put me on this path, and I treasure the honor of this dedication.”

Watch the full video of the dedication (1 hr, 3 min):

Posted March 7, 2017