Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy - photo courtesy of the Ninth Circuit Court
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy opened the Hawaii conference - photo courtesy of the Ninth Circuit Court

BY MALIA ZIMMERMAN – MAUI, HAWAII – Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinskiat said Thursday, August 16, at the conclusion of the 2012 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference on Maui this has been “our most successful circuit conference.”

In a statement to Hawaii Reporter, Kozinskiat said: “We had an outstanding educational program focusing on a number of cutting-edge issues in the administration of justice. All of the sessions were well attended, most of them standing room only. We conducted the necessary business of the courts through a variety of meetings. And there were numerous opportunities for informal interaction among the judges, and between judges and members of the bar.”

(Hawaii Reporter will have a full wrap up of the panel presentations this weekend).

Hawaii is a part of the Ninth Circuit as are Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington and the Territory of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

But the Judiciary’s decision to hold the conference in Maui took the national spotlight on May 18, when Republican Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Charles Grassley of Iowa, ranking members of the Budget and Judiciary committees, sent a letter to Kozinski, questioning why during tough economic times, the Judiciary would spend as much as $1 million to hold a 3-day conference in Maui.

The Senators requested information about previous conference attendance and expenditures, and questioned why the conference had a number of vacation activities such as Zumba dancing, golfing and a beachfront Hawaiian luau that did not include “plans to improve the administration of justice.”

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, who opened the conference on Tuesday and closed the event on Thursday, twice defended the choice to hold the conference on Maui.

Kozinskiat added: “Much of what we do as judges is very formal. We conduct ourselves at arm’s length from others. If you are an appellate or trial judge, you do much of your work in chambers, far from public view. The Conference is our chance to spend time with other judges, with lawyers, with spouses and families. It is important in cementing the bonds that unites us as a profession and that are vital in improving the administration of justice in our geographically diverse circuit.”

He said having Justice Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy present for the entire Conference was an affirmation of its importance.

“We appreciated their participation very much. I would also thank the people of Maui for being such gracious hosts. It has truly been a pleasure to be here and we all look forward to returning to the great state of Hawaii, which we are proud to have as part of the Ninth Circuit,” Kozinskiat said.

All of the circuits hold annual conferences – they are sanctioned by law – but after considerable criticism from Congress and the media for holding the conference on Maui, the Ninth Circuit administration agreed to postpone the 2013 conference in Monteray, California, for one year.

Meanwhile, Sessions and Grassley continue to look into expenditures for the Hawaii conference and others, including the $397 per diem per day for judges, and have asked to review receipts from the past 5 years.

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