9th Circuit defends Hawaii conference, but reviewing GOP request for details

Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) on Monday blasted the conference as excessive, and indicated that they expect the conference will cost upwards of $1 million and provide a chance for judges to partake in yoga, snorkeling and dance lessons.

Catterson defended the planned itinerary as one that would provide an "exceptional educational program and the opportunity to conduct numerous business meetings that further circuit governance."

"Costs for lodging and air travel to attend the conference are comparative to those found at mainland venues," she added. "Any sporting and recreational activities are paid for by individuals and are not reimbursable."

But in an email late Monday from Sessions's office, Republican staff dismissed the notion that the Hawaii conference is acceptable simply because participants will pay for their own recreational activities.

"This fact … of course misses the entire point: Why are taxpayers in the middle of a fiscal crisis subsidizing a million-dollar conference at a beach resort so that attendees can indulge in tropical recreation?" the email asked. "If the topics addressed at the conference are so rigorous and pressing, why does the schedule allow for so much R&R?"

The email also noted that participants will get a $400 per diem, and asked, "What message does it send during this time of grave financial duress?"

Sessions and Grassley gave the 9th Circuit until June 15 to answer numerous questions related to the expense of the Hawaii conference.

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