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6th Circuit Makes Right Call in Cancelling Judicial Conference

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By William Peacock, Esq. on September 11, 2013 7:42 PM

Perhaps conscious to the appearance of insensitivity to the current budget crisis, specifically, the federal court system's budget crisis caused by sequestration, the Sixth Circuit has agreed to do what many other circuits have declined to do: cancel the party.

By law, the heads of each circuit are authorized to have a judicial conference either every year, or every other year. In the Sixth Circuit, there is a biennial judges-only conference, as well as a biennial open conference for judges and lawyers in the intervening years. Possibly influenced by the criticism levied at other circuit courts, which have thrown lavish conferences at local resorts, the Sixth Circuit announced that the 2014 conference is cancelled, says the Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog by Squire Sanders.

Other Circuits' Conferences

The Eleventh Circuit, earlier this year, held a conference at a luxury golf resort. The Ninth Circuit, last year, held its conference in Maui, Hawaii (though it postponed its 2013 conference).  The Tenth Circuit, after waiting a year, will have its conference at a resort in Colorado Springs.

These are just a few of the circuit court conferences that have drawn attention from budget hawks and others that argue that while these conferences may serve some practical purpose, that purpose is outweighed by the cost, and the appearance of insensitivity to those who have faced layoffs and furloughs in the federal system.

Senator Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma, joined the chorus of outrage last month, penning a letter to the director of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts (AOUSC), asking for a breakdown of expenses since the recession, both from conferences and court construction.

Other Effects of the Budget Crunch

It isn't just parties that are being questioned, delayed, and in some cases cancelled. The U.S. Judicial Conference announced late last month that they would be forced to cut private federal defender rates by $15 an hour for the next two years, plus, in some cases, defer payment until the following fiscal year. This is in addition to furloughs and layoffs.

Right Call

While other circuits may have had the built-in excuse that it was too late to cancel, due to contractual obligations and contracts, the longer we live in an era of sequestration and recession, the less that excuse works. The Sixth Circuit, after having conferences in 2013 and 2012, while other circuits faced criticism, didn't have much of a choice here, especially now that congressmen are looking into federal court spending.

Of course, many would say that attention is misplaced, as the judiciary's budget is less than one percent of the entire federal budget, according to the courts' website. Still, every bit helps, right? 

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