Grassley: Courts visiting 'lavish resorts'

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is pressing the heads of three federal courts for a detailed accounting of separate conferences they hosted at “lavish resorts” in Colorado and Georgia.

Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, wrote to the chief judges for the 8th, 10th and 11th circuit court of appeals, calling attention to the budget cuts from sequestration that have affected the courts in recent months.

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“It’s difficult to make sense of the decision to move forward with these conferences, when sequestration loomed for over a year,” said Grassley in a statement accompanying the letters, which were made public on Tuesday but sent on Sept. 6.

“The courts have pled to Congress that they can’t make additional cuts, yet, by the looks of it they aren’t willing to give up their conferences at what appears to be some pretty lavish resorts. It seems to me that there is a problem with priorities.”

Grassley asked Eighth Circuit Chief Judge William Jay Riley for an accounting of a conference the court hosted last month in Estes Park, Colo., saying that the conference appeared to go beyond standard training and educational exercises.

The top ranking Republican also pressed Tenth Circuit Chief Judge Mary Beck Briscoe for more information about a conference the court hosted at the five-star Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo. late last month.

Federal employees used taxpayer money to rent rooms starting at $273 per night and training seminars during the conference included classes on how to use tablet computers, according to Grassley’s letter.

Grassley picked up on an article by the Atlanta Journal Constitution in his letter to Eleventh Circuit Chief Judge Ed Carnes, in which the newspaper highlighted a conference the court held at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa in Savannah, Ga.

In all three letter, Grassley asked for full accounting of costs, extracurricular activities, and a detailed explanation as to what the resort conferences accomplished that a teleconference or a cyberconference could not.