ByÂ Thomas Ferraro
(Reuters) – The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals’ upcoming conference on a Hawaiian island sounds more like “a vacation than a business trip” to discuss the administration of justice, two Republican U.S. lawmakers charged on Monday.
In a letter to Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, Senators Charles Grassley and Jeff Sessions wrote that Congress has an obligation to guard against “waste, fraud and abuse” and demanded details about the conference, set for August 13-16 in Maui.
The letter came in the wake of the disclosure of a lavish, four-day conference in Las Vegas in 2010 involving the General Services Administration, an independent agency of the federal government, that cost $823,000 and featured fine food, a comic, a clown and talent show.
Democrats and Republicans denounced the GSA conference as a spending scandal, and quickly passed legislation to better guard against such gatherings.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, covers eight western states plus Hawaii. It stood by its upcoming conference, describing it as an important gathering.
Cathy Catterson, the court’s executive, wrote that the 9th Circuit understands its responsibilities as a “steward of public funds” and that its conference is “authorized by law” to improve “the administration of justice.”
In a statement, Catterson also said recreational activities – such as fishing, golf, yoga and surfing – that will be offered between working sessions will be paid for by attendees, not the government.
Based on a 2010 gathering by the court in Maui that drew 700 participants, the senators wrote that accommodations alone for the upcoming conference should cost upward of $500,000.
Their letter was dated May 18 and released on Monday, along with statements by both senators.
“This conference is further evidence the federal government is in a state of financial chaos,” Sessions said.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/05/22/us-usa-congress-judicial-idUSBRE84K1BR20120522
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