Caught: High-Ranking Judges Splurge on Lavish Conference

Posted: Aug 05, 2013 3:00 PM

The irony here is that the judges were known to have complained about the dreaded sequester cuts earlier this year, but somehow were still able to find the resources to afford a luxurious weekend getaway recently, courtesy of the American taxpayer. Say, how on earth were they able to do it, I wonder?

The Washington Times reports:

Even as courts warn of job cuts and furloughs to their employees due to the sequester, federal judges continue to attend taxpayer-funded conferences at lavish resorts, according to a top senator who is calling on the courts to change their priorities.

Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican and Congress’s top waste-watcher, said 150 judges for the federal appeals court based in Richmond last month held their conference at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, spending $270 a night per room — and, Mr. Coburn said, leaving the court closed for business on a Friday.

“In times of limited financial resources and fear that furloughs may cause cancellation of hearings, the AOUSC should prioritize the administration of justice over a conference,” he said in a letter to Judge John D. Bates, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.

The letter is the latest in Mr. Coburn’s effort to make federal agencies square their initial dire warnings about budget cuts with the way they’ve continued to spend, even after the sequesters took effect on March 1.

Mr. Coburn said that earlier this year the chief judge of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals complained about the “devastating impact” of sequesters on the federal judiciary, but weeks later his circuit hosted its conference at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa.

The Times reports that sequestration cut $350 million from the courts’ annual budget. This isn’t an insignificant or trivial amount of money, to be sure, but if indeed the sequester cuts were that devastating, why splurge on a non-essential conference -- and leave work early to attend it? Surely they could have at least found hotel rooms for less than $270 a night -- or perhaps postponed or even canceled the event?

Kudos to Senator Coburn for keeping these government judges honest, especially since their actions seem to completely belie their rhetoric.