By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R) from Alabama and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) from Iowa called on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to cancel a planned $million conference in Hawaii. The two members of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski asking for an accounting of the funds being spent on this Hawaiian excursion. Sen. Sessions released a copy of the letter.
Sen. Sessions and Sen. Grassley wrote: “We write to follow-up on our letter dated May 18, 2012 and your response dated June 15, 2012, regarding the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference planned for August 13–16 in Maui, Hawaii. We find your answer unsatisfactory. Your response, almost without reservation, states the Conference will go on. It does not present a compelling case for spending more than $1 million in taxpayer funds for what you describe as “collegiality and consensus achieved through personal interaction.” We invite and encourage you, once again, to take the necessary steps to cancel or at least scale back this Conference.”
The two conservative Senators continued, “While there can be value in judicial conferences, that value is substantially eroded when judges and employees are distracted with extracurricular activities unrelated to the matters of the court. There is no indication that attendees are required to attend even one official event while on the Island… In our initial letter, we requested specific documents pertaining to the total cost of the Conference but were given vague excuses instead… Perhaps not tracking spending is the reason you believe this and previous conferences have been managed in the ‘most efficient and least costly manner.’” “During this time of extraordinary debt, and given the history of opulence—including repeated trips to the Hawaiian Islands—we believe you should cancel the million-dollar conference.”
The letter was sent to Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. The Senators asked Judge Kozinski to provide the Senate with “the total amount paid for the use of conference facilities, including room rental … and all other expenses charged by the facility.” The Senators also requested that the Ninth Circuit provide information for the 2008 through 2013 conferences including: all contracts and/or agreements executed by the Ninth Circuit Court related to each yearly conference; documentation of all travel rewards “points” earned by all employees and judges of the Ninth Circuit Court; how many food and lodging credits were earned per conference, what they were applied toward at each conference, and how any remaining credits have been used; the court employees, by title, who will be attending the 2012 conference in Maui (including duties there or explanation why they were there if not needed); the actual receipts submitted by the speakers over the last five years for reimbursement including but not limited to: airfare; ground travel, and meals and lodging.
Senator Sessions is the Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Budget Committee, and Sen. Chuck Grassley is the Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has long been considered the most liberal Circuit Court in the country by most court watchers.