Sen. Coburn: Judges Attend Lavish Conferences on Taxpayer Dime

Monday, 05 Aug 2013 04:15 PM

By Dan Weil

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Federal judges continue to frequent conferences at fancy resorts on the taxpayers' dime, even as some complain about the impact of the sequester on their operations, says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

He said 150 judges for the federal appeals court based in Richmond held a conference last month at the posh Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, The Washington Times reports. The rooms cost $270 a night and the conference caused the court to close for business on a Friday, Coburn said.

"In times of limited financial resources and fear that furloughs may cause cancellation of hearings, the AOUSC should prioritize the administration of justice over a conference," he wrote in a letter to Judge John Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, The Times reports.

Earlier this year the chief judge of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals warned of the "devastating impact" the sequester would have on federal courts, Coburn said. But just weeks afterward, the court held a conference at the Westin Savannah (Georgia) Harbor Golf Resort and Spa.

In another example of wasteful spending, hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on "unneeded" new courthouses and renovations of existing ones, Coburn said, according to The Times.

In his letter, the senator asked for the records of all judicial conference spending during the past five years. "While taxpayers expect judges will sometimes need to spend tax dollars to meet . . . [for legitimate reasons], in these fiscal times, they also expect non-essential conferences to be cut when judges claim there are not enough resources for basic judicial services."

The Internal Revenue Service also has received heated criticism for sending staffers to expensive conferences.

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