Judges cancel California conference, but leave Maui getaway on the books

Federal judges in California have postponed next year's scheduled conference in Monterey, Calif., under pressure from lawmakers to cut costs -- but are sticking by plans hold a conference next month in Maui, the event that sparked senators' outrage in the first place.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said in a brief written statement that it would push off its 2013 conference in Monterey to 2014, citing "budget constraints" facing the judiciary.

"We firmly believe in the importance of the conference in educating the federal bench and bar and in advancing governance of the circuit. But we also recognize the need to conserve financial resources during the present fiscal crisis," said Cathy Catterson, Circuit and Court of Appeals executive, said in a statement. "We think this approach will meet both goals."

The statement, though, did not address the upcoming Maui conference -- likely because the 9th Circuit had already indicated it was going forward with that gathering.

Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, are now renewing their call for the 9th Circuit to cancel its Hawaii getaway as well.

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"During this time of extraordinary debt, and given the history of opulence -- including repeated trips to the Hawaiian Islands -- we believe you should cancel the million-dollar conference," they wrote in a letter Friday to Chief Judge Alex Kozinski.

The senators accused the judges of ignoring what they described as "our serious concerns about the size, scope and price tag of your conference," calling their response "unsatisfactory."

The senators were referring to a June statement from Kozinski defending the choice to host the affair at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, where the group also stayed in 2010.

Kozinski said planners looked at other sites in the western circuit area -- including Alaska and Idaho -- but found a good deal on Maui.

"The decision to return to Maui was based on a very competitive room rate and lesser travel costs due to the greater number of air carriers competing in the Hawaii travel market," he wrote.

The rate is $230 a night.

Kozinski also defended the conferences themselves, saying they are "renowned for the quality and depth of their educational programs." He said 27 business meetings will be held at the upcoming conference, claiming that saves money since those meetings would otherwise be held in several different places at different times. Attorneys and other judiciary staff members also attend the conferences.

Sessions and Grassley, though, have voiced concern about the itinerary for the conference, which advertises an array of recreational activities, including sport fishing, golf, paddle-board lessons, yoga and Zumba.