A panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the denial of a death row inmate's request for discovery and a hearing on the subject of the trial judge’s mental competency at the inmate's re-sentencing hearing. The opinion in Deere v. Cullen discusses various allegations concerning the judge's senility, including an attorney's description of the judge stopping another case in the same year by suddenly stepping down from the bench and shaking hands with the litigants and spectators, telling them he assumed they were all Christians and attended church, remarking upon the lawyers’ inability to settle, and dismissing the case. The majority found the anecdotal evidence of the judge's senility unpersuasive:
The most Deere offered were anecdotes recounted by a grand total of three lawyers, anecdotes that are either hearsay, or that do not shed light on Judge Metheny’s mental status in 1986, or that reveal no more than eccentricity as distinguished from dementia.
The dissent strongly disagreed:
It is an open secret that some judges stay on the bench too long. Formal procedures exist for removing senile judges, but they are rarely employed. Attorneys hesitate to challenge judges they appear before, and judges hesitate to blow the whistle on their colleagues. I am as reluctant as most judges to seek to remove a senile judge or to set aside a decision reached by such a judge. But when a man’s life is at stake, I cannot stay silent.