“Our conferences are renowed for the quality and depth of their educational programs,” Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinksi wrote to lawmakers. ”It is the only event that brings together the bench, the bar and court administrators from all corners of our circuit.
Last month, Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) wrote to Kozinski asking for the conference’s expense details. They remarked that the conference sounds “more like a vacation than a business trip.” The senators estimated in their letter that the conference might cost more than $500,000 for accomodations.
“We have an obligation to protect taxpayer dollars against waste, fraud, and abuse,” the lawmakers wrote. ”We want to ensure that the courts are utilizing their current funding allocation effectively.”
The Ninth Circuit says the conference, through national and local news coverage, exposes the public to the role of the federal courts. Conference attendees also attend general sessions aimed at “improving the administration of justice”; learn about significant cases in the most recent Supreme Court term; will attend a special convention in anticipation of the high court’s anticipated ruling on health care reform; and receive “IT awareness training” for judges who desire paperless offices. Throughout the weekend the the Ninth Circuit has scheduled 27 business meetings to give lawyers and judges a chance to meet and discuss pertinent legal issues within the Ninth Circuit. Judges and court staff strictly adhere to judiciary travel regulations and the Ninth Circuit’s courts will continue without interruption, the letter notes. Kozinski authored the circuits response.
The circuit is headquartered in San Francisco, Calif., but it has jurisdiction in several other states, including Hawaii, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Alaska and Nevada.
The 17-page letter also details how the Ninth Circuit chose Maui; the origin of flights for all attendees and round trip travel costs; the number of attendees; how the Hyatt Maui Regency Resort and Spa was chosen as the conference’s venue; and whether judges and lawyers will be allowed to attend extracurricular activities during “official business.”
The conference is scheduled for August 13-16 at the Hyatt Maui Regency Resort and Spa.