LAHAINA, Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy pushed back against pressure from two senior Republican senators who had called for cancellation of this weeks annual U.S. 9th Circuit Judicial Conference in Maui, which is costing taxpayers about $1 million.
In the opening ceremony, Kennedy spent most of his 30-minute speech defending the value of the conference, as well as its location in Hawaii.
The judges and the members of the profession who are with us at this conference are committed to the idea of absolute probity, Kennedy said. Absolute probity in the way we behave, absolute probity in the way we discharge our duties, and absolute probity as we seek to come closer to the real idea of freedom. And that is the purpose of this conference and that is the history of this conference over many years and Im immensely proud to be with you.
Sens. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called for cancellation of the conference because of the countrys budget problems and the expense of the event at the Hyatt Regency Hawaii. They also have criticized activities which cost extra for attendees including yoga, surfing and stand-up paddleboard lessons.
Kennedy, who chaired the 9th Circuits Committee on Pacific Territories for eight years, defended the locale. It is important that this conference meet frequently in Hawaii. There is a loveliness, even a loneliness, in the Pacific that makes it fitting for us to search in quiet for the elegance and the beauty of the law.
The Hawaiian Islands a state on equal footing of and of equal dignity with the 13 original states and all the other states is a bastion of freedom in the Pacific. And together with our friends from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshal Islands, Palau, the Northern Marianas Islands and from Guam they, in a war that is still within the living memory of many of us, suffered anguish and disaster and hurt and death in defending freedom.
Kennedy spoke after the Pledge of Allegiance was led by Eichi Oki, a World War II veteran of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and father of U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway of Hawaii. The 442nd received the Congressional Gold Medal in 2011 for service in the face of racial discrimination.
Kennedy, a former chairman of the annual conference, spoke of the first 9th Circuit meeting he attended in 1975. He said that meeting helped spur a shift in the profession that made judges actively involved in managing cases. Kennedy said as a lawyer in private practice hed resisted that change, but became convinced at the conference that judicial intervention was a necessary efficiency.
Its not the attorneys case, its not the clients case, Kennedy said. Its the courts case, its the laws case, its the publics case.
Kennedy also drew a parallel with continuing education that happens across professions and trades in the American economy and said attending the meeting is helpful to appellate judges whove been away from trial practice. The further you are removed from the trial process, the more of a public danger you are, he said. This conference is immensely valuable for those of us who are no longer actively engaged in practice and I very much appreciate and value the opportunity of being here.