Monday, August 6, 2012

Ninth Circuit to Senate: It is your fault.

Back in May, we posted about how the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit was not going to let a couple of senators push them around about where the Ninth Circuit decided to have a judicial conference. When the senators asked about the costs associated with having a conference in Maui, the Ninth Circuit told them to buzz off.

Unhappy with this response, on July 13, 2012, the two senators, Charles Grassley and Jeff Sessions (both of whom are on the Senate's judiciary committee),wrote back and pointed out that that "The Ninth Circuit Court is not unaccountable to Congress and the taxpayers for their actions," and suggested the conference be cancelled.  The senators also asked for a lot of detailed information about the conference including a list of all court employees that would attend the conference.  The senators closed by saying
Finally, we noted that your defense of the Maui Conference, is grounded, in part, on the fact that Congress has authorized judicial conferences since 1944.  But surely you recognize that the congressional authorization for the Circuit's judges to meet and discuss court business is not an invitation to gather annually at the most expensive and far-flung island paradise with the Circuit.  If it is necessary to amend the statute to reflect that fact, we will work to do so.
On Friday, Judge Alex Kozinski, the chief judge for the Ninth Circuit, finally decided to respond to the July 13 letter. Judge Kozinski did not provide most of the requested information.  Instead, he pointed out that the conference was scheduled and booked in 2010.  Therefore, cancelling the conference would cost money in the form of penalties to the hotel as well as lost business for the hotel.  He also pointed out that the government-bought tickets for some of the attendees were non-refundable.  Judge Kozinski said that the 2013 conference would be rescheduled to 2014 to alleviate the senators' budgetary concerns.

Lest anyone think that the Ninth Circuit was caving into the Senate, Judge Kozinski closed by writing,
In hindsight, had we foreseen the nation's current fiscal problems, we may have chosen a different site for this year's conference. But as stated earlier, cancelling contracts at this late date is just not feasible, and we remain convinced that the conference will improve the administration of justice within the circuit as 28 U.S.C. § 333 envisions.
I read this as Judge Kozinski saying that had the executive and legislative branches done their jobs and fixed the economy between 2010 and 2012, then this conference would not be an issue. He is probably right about that. However, I do not think Judge Kozinski should stay up late waiting for an apology from either senator.

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