Sens. Chuck Grassley and Jeff Sessions are urging the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to cancel its annual judicial conference in Hawaii, saying the estimated cost to taxpayers of more than $1 million is unacceptable.
In an appearance Monday night on Fox News’ “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” the two Republicans criticized the August conference as basically a taxpayer-supported vacation for judges and lawyers who practice before the court.
They also took issue with ‘the tone” of a letter from Ninth Circuit Chief Justice Alex Kozinski defending the Maui conference as a responsibility imposed on the court by law.
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“It seems like they expressed very much unconcern and were very unapologetic about spending a million dollars for a conference in Maui, Hawaii, that could probably be done by teleconferencing,” said Iowa’s Grassley. “Or the very least, they could do like a lot of other [circuit courts] do, maybe not have a conference as often as they do.”
Alabama’s Sessions agreed.
“The tone of the letter is: ‘We’re authorized to do this, we’ve been doing it since 1944, we think it’s good, people like to go to Hawaii, we have better attendance in Hawaii,’” Sessions said, adding that there seemed to be “no recognition” at all of the million-dollar-plus cost and the fact that 40 percent of that amount “is borrowed money.”
Sessions said the letter was simply another example of how government officials seem to be “in denial about the danger of our debt.”
Grassley also noted that the judicial branch of government has cut expenditures by 5 percent, resulting in the layoffs of some court workers. That’s reason enough, he suggested, to cancel this year’s meeting in Hawaii.
“So it’s a case of priorities, and I would think that an expensive conference like this would not have as high a priority as maybe taking care of other things when you don't have the money to do it,” Grassley said.
Of the seven that do plan to hold them, Sessions said, “there’s no circuit that comes close to the expenditure size of the Ninth Circuit conferences.”
“We’re in a deep debt crisis, and much of our bureaucracy does not recognize it,” Session added. “It’s still business as usual.”
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