As the saying goes, you can't un-ring a bell. That maxim rings true for judicial conference planning, as well. Once the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals planned a Hawaiian spectacular judicial conference, it was pointless (and wasteful) to cancel it.
But that doesn't mean that the circuit can't try to make amends.
As you may recall, the 2012 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference will be August 13-16 at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa in Maui, Hawaii. In May, congressional leaders publicly scolded conference leaders for hosting such a chi-chi event.
Republican Senator Jeff Sessions even suggested to Politico that all the courts should consider cancelling their judicial conferences. "If the courts can justify it being important to their work product, conducting them in a lean, efficient, cost effective way, perhaps it can be justified ... but I think the courts ought to look at whether they even need to do those, whether it needs to be done every year, and how it can be done cheaper."
The appellate court responded to the criticism with a statement, noting "The conference is authorized by law 'for the purpose of considering the business of the courts and advising means of improving the administration of justice within the circuit.' The conference fully adheres to these goals ... Costs for lodging and air travel to attend the conference are comparative to those found at mainland venues. Any sporting and recreational activities are paid for by individuals and are not reimbursable."
(To underscore the point, the conference schedule has been updated with asterisks indicating events -- like a tennis tournament, golf tournament, and luau -- which are not paid for with government funds.)
Friday, conference organizers continued on their path to congressional redemption by postponing the 2013 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in Monterey, Calif. until 2014. The move ends the Ninth Circuit's 68-year streak of annual conferences.
Circuit and Court of Appeals Executive Cathy Catterson said in a statement, "We firmly believe in the importance of the Conference in educating the federal bench and bar and in advancing governance of the Circuit. But we also recognize the need to conserve financial resources during the present fiscal crisis. We think this approach will meet both goals."
If you were lucky enough to make the cut for
the conference that left a two-year hangover the Maui conference, we hope you enjoy the activities. Despite the proximity to Pebble Beach, Monterey sounds like it will be a significantly scaled-down event.
- Maui Judicial Conference Still a Go (The Washington Post)
- Will the Ninth Circuit Conference Kill All Future Conferences? (FindLaw's Tenth Circuit Blog)
- Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference: As Bad as GSA's Vegas Trip? (FindLaw's Ninth Circuit Blog)