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Monday, May 21, 2012
Maui Judicial Conference Threatened in Wake of GSA Scandal
By Selected News Articles @ 3:52 PM :: 7385 Views :: Kauai County, DHHL, Energy, Environment, National News, Ethics

9th Circuit Takes Plush Maui Vacation At Taxpayer Expense, As Others Cut Back

by Dan Riehl, Breitbart.com

Judges from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, federal district and bankruptcy courts in nine Western states and two Pacific island territories, along with lawyers practicing in those courts, and court staff, will gather at the luxurious Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa from August 13 - 16, 2012 in what looks like a less than valiant attempt to ensure American justice is being served...at a cost to taxpayers of approximately one million dollars.

From tennis courts to the caddy shack and luau experience, justice will be served in a manner many Americans never get to experience. Breitbart News has reviewed a letter from the offices of the Ranking Member of the Senate Budget Committee, Senator Jeff Sessions, and the offices of Senator Chuck Grassley, the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, with several detailed questions they want answered by the Ninth District.

The letter cites the 2010 version of the Ninth Circuit's annual judicial conference that cost taxpayers over $657,000 in travel costs alone, along with $860,000 in combined travel costs for the Ninth Circuit's 2008 and 2009 annual conferences in Monterey, California and Sun Valley, Idaho, respectively. It also provides evidence of the Ninth Circuit's awareness of the Government's budget challenges in the face of a still suffering Obama economy, going on to challenge why the Ninth Circuit seems determined to go on spending large amounts of money on plush conferences, when a more prudent approach could provide the same value for professional purposes.

The Senate's latest effort doesn't appear to be just a bit of politically motivated PR of some form. The Ninth District is considered by many to be the most liberal of all U.S. Court Districts, with 64% of sitting judges having been appointed by Democrats--the highest of all the districts. Many also consider the district as having the highest rate of being overturned by the Supreme Court. Research by Breitbart News suggests other districts are making efforts to cut back, while the Ninth District appears to have maintained a Party on, dude! attitude when it comes to putting on its judicial conferences.

As in past years, the Ninth District seems content to leave taxpayers on the hook for whisking many judges and aligned judicial professionals off to an exclusive destination, so that they might also enjoy "yoga, surfing lessons, stand up paddle board lessons, Zumba (a Latin-inspired dance program), a tennis tournament, a day trip and tour of Upcountry Maui, a Gemini Catamaran snorkle trip, and an activity called 'The Aloha Experience.'"

That list from the Senate letter appears to have been taken directly from a flashy webpage that functions as a brochure of sorts for the expedition. All of the activities would be subsidized, or paid for by tax payers to some extent, despite a claim at bottom that "Government funds are not used for any sporting or recreational activities".

What happens in Maui may stay in Maui, but one still has to get there and back, while salaries also have to be taken into account. That was pointed out in a previous report on the Ninth Circuit's 2011 conference by another news outlet. In 2011, they claimed, "a minimum of $700,000 will be spent on salaries of the 267 judges in attendance, which range from $164,000 to $223,500" for last year's event. They also reported that each judge was eligible for a $391 per day stipend for hotel and food costs, that could total $417,600 over last year's four day Ninth Circuit conference.

Meanwhile, independent research by Breitbart News suggests some, if not all other districts, are taking a more prudent, responsible approach in hosting their annual conferences this year. The Eighth Circuit seems to be taking a more modest approach with a three day event, if this is representative: "The judges of the Eighth Circuit invite you to join them August 8 - 10, 2012, at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown for the Eighth Circuit Judicial Conference."

The Seventh Circuit appears to team up with the District's Bar Association for a 3 day conference in Chicago, at first glance, at least appearing to be far more down to business oriented. The main site for the Sixth District's 2012 annual conference is here. It lists a number of what it calls "social" events in this linkable document, and the Sixth Circuit doesn't appear to have the fancy website, though it looks inviting enough, without going to the length, or approach of the Ninth District, relying instead on typed documents in pdf form to present relevant information.

While deadline prevented Breitbart News from doing an exhaustive analysis of all the districts, there does appear to be a glaring contrast between the Ninth Circuit's approach and that of many other districts, as pointed out in an August 2011 write up by U-T San Diego, done while the Ninth Circuit was presumeably educating, as well as entertaining and serving justice and itself in grand style--some part of it at taxpayer expense--at the La Costa Resort & Spa with "400 lush garden acres near the beach in Carlsbad, CA–but miles away from the pressures of the world" according to this report.

CARLSBAD — Hundreds of federal judges from nine western states are gathering at the La Costa Resort & Spa this week for the annual 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Judicial Conference.

The event is costing $225,000 to put on — funded with $50,000 of taxpayer money and $175,000 in payments from attorneys who are charged to attend.

In addition, The Watchdog estimates a minimum of $700,000 will be spent on salaries of the 267 judges in attendance, which range from $164,000 to $223,500.

A conference session Wednesday afternoon highlighted the impact of judiciary budget cuts.

While federal law permits the conference as a means for improving the justice system, some circuits have started canceling or curtailing the conferences, citing budget woes.

Three of the 12 federal court circuits — the ones in New England, the Rocky Mountain states and some mid-Atlantic states — have canceled their next judicial conference, The Watchdog found in a survey.

Others aim to keep costs low by holding conferences at lower cost venues. For the Washington D.C. Circuit, that means Farmington, Penn., where they can stay in $110 per night accommodations.

They may not always get the law right, given what many view as the Ninth Circuit's high rate of being overturned, but it appears as though they can do a mean "Zumba" and have some darned good tans, while not exactly starving themselves as many Americans continue to look for work in President Obama's down economy.

In background discussions for this report, the offices of Senators Sessions and Grassley seemed determined to get to the bottom of what's going on in the Ninth Circuit in this regard. No doubt conservative media and new media outlets will be spanking the bottoms of some mostly liberal judges on conservative blogs and other venues, perhaps as they should, while this story unfolds this week.

---30---

Roll Call: Grassley, Sessions Question Judicial Conference in Hawaii

The Hill: GOP blasts $1 million Hawaii conference for judges in wake of GSA scandal

DC: Ninth Circuit judges defend Hawaii conference paid for by taxpayers

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