Senators appeal judges’ Maui choice


Federal judges gathering at the Hyatt Regency Maui might make their way to Fleming Beach. Without the robes, one would hope. (Associated Press)
June 20, 2012

The simmering dispute between two senators and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit over a judicial conference in Maui in August doesn’t seem headed for resolution anytime soon.

The Senate Judiciary Committee’s ranking Republican, Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), and his counterpart on the Budget Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), wrote the circuit’s chief judge, Alex Kozinski, on May 18 asking why, in these tough budget times, the yearly conference had to be held in a pricey “island paradise.” It’s at the Hyatt Regency Maui.

The 2010 conference in Hawaii cost more than $1.1 million “for travel and accommodation expenses alone,” they noted, demanding answers to a series of questions about costs and such.

The senators helpfully noted the available “activities” the conference offers, such as sport fishing, golf, yoga classes, surfing lessons, tennis, a catamaran snorkel trip and Zumba, which is “an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired calorie burning dance fitness program.”

The most obvious cost concern might be transporting many of the mainland’s 150 or so 9th Circuit district and appellate judges (from California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Montana) — plus a similar number of judicial employees and government lawyers — to Hawaii rather than have the Hawaii’s five federal judges fly to the mainland. (More than half the circuit’s judges are in California.)

Kozinski submitted a 13-page response, meeting the June 15 deadline the senators had given him.

“Our conferences are renowned for the quality and depth of their educational program,” Kozinski said, explaining in some detail how the conference was put together and the various cost options. And he noted that conference attendees “are reimbursed for their travel in accordance with judiciary travel policies.”

Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy — the justice assigned to that circuit — and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. are scheduled to attend.

In a statement, a circuit official said “the conference is cost efficient and a productive investment into the administration of justice in the western states.”

Grassley and Sessions issued a statement Monday saying that they were reviewing Kozinski’s letter but the it appeared the circuit officials “remain defiantly unapologetic about the conference’s scale, location, and itinerary in our current hour of financial crisis.”

Stay tuned. (Zumba?)

Lobbing softballs

Typically, members of Congress and the media keep their natural enmity in polite check. But the gloves are coming off — or rather, they’re going on — as lawmakers and the journos who cover them prepare to face off at Wednesday’s fourth annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game.

And as ugly as things might get on the diamond, it’s all for a good cause: Proceeds go to the Young Survival Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to young women affected by breast cancer.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a breast cancer survivor, should get a spot in the event’s Hall of Fame for a play in the inaugural game in which she broke her leg sliding into second.

Batter up — and let the trash talk begin.

The lawmakers are feeling confident that they can repeat last year’s victory against the reporters at the game, which will be played at Watkins Recreation Center on Capitol Hill. “We’ve really gelled as a team in the last few years,” Wasserman Schultz boasts. “When we shred [them], it’s going to be because of our teamwork, hitting and superior fielding skills.”

Plus, she thinks politicians have a built-in advantage over the newsies. “We eat, breathe and sleep strategy all day long,” she says.

But the media team, dubbed the Bad News Babes, has been practicing “like crazy,” boasts Jennifer Bendery of the Huffington Post. Evidence of their commitment: team members Brianna Keilar of CNN and Shawna Thomas of NBC have been stuck in Cabo covering President Obama at the G-20 summit, but they’ve been sending teammates pictures of their practice sessions on the beach.

“The Bad News Babes are just generally committed to delivering a resounding defeat this time around,” Bendery says.

Braggadocio aside, Wasserman Schultz notes that the event has grown since its scrappy beginnings. “The congressional family has rallied behind this game, and it’s become an institution,” she says. “And that’s because we are so committed to fighting breast cancer and raising awareness, particularly among young women. . . . It’s really been incredible.”

The Loop will bring you full coverage of the action on and off the field Wednesday night. Meanwhile, feel free to suggest player nicknames by sending an e-mail to intheloop@
washpost.com
or leaving a comment online.

Green and the greens

Washington is fully focused on the November electoral showdown.

But savvier folks know that life — and political fundraising — won’t end Nov. 6. On the contrary, lawmakers can never stop thinking about hitting up contributors for cash. Even if they’ve got a safe seat.

For example, Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) is thinking about 2014. And he’s got a great fundraiser, the “11th Annual Pebble Beach Golf Weekend,” planned for Nov. 30 to Dec. 2 at the fabled California course.

Our invitation last week says former House member (now lobbyist at Nixon Peabody) Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) and his longtime House aide and chief of staff Sally Vastola (who’s also at the firm) are hosting a fundraiser for Tiberi. Only $5,000 for a PAC and $2,500 for an individual. (And the money raised can be used for this campaign cycle.)

“Each package includes one round of golf at Pebble Beach Golf Links” and “optional golf” — which apparently will cost you optional money — at two nearby courses.

But hurry. “As usual, space is very limited,” says the invite sent out by Bill Oorbeek, so “Let me know TODAY if you can join us in Monterey.”

And keep those wallets open.

With Emily Heil

The blog:washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter:@InTheLoopWP.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993.
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