HONOLULU -- The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is postponing a conference for federal judges that was slated for next year in northern California, as controversy surrounding a similar gathering in Maui persists.
Republicans Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa have been critical of the circuit's conferences, which they say are expensive affairs in the midst of government budget cuts.
Alaska is one of nine states in the 9th Circuit, which supervises U.S. District Court judges as well as handling appeals.
On Friday, Sessions and Grassley called for August's Maui conference to be canceled or at least scaled back. On the same day, the circuit announced it would push back next year's gathering planned for Monterey, Calif., to 2014.
"We firmly believe in the importance of the conference in educating the federal bench and bar and in advancing governance of the circuit," said Cathy A. Catterson, circuit and court of appeals executive. "But we also recognize the need to conserve financial resources during the present financial crisis."
Sessions, ranking member of the Budget Committee, and Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, are not satisfied with the argument that conferences are booked far in advance and that the Maui conference in August can't be changed.
"After weeks of scrutiny, it's good to see a response at last to criticism of expensive conferences," Grassley said Monday. "However, while an encouraging sign, canceling next year's conference does not necessarily signal lasting change."
Former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle asked the senators to back off from calling for the Maui conference's cancellation. Lingle, a Republican like Grassley and Sessions, is running for Hawaii's open U.S. Senate seat.
She said canceling the event would be detrimental to Maui's economy and defended the islands as being a place where serious business can be conducted.
In addition to Alaska and Hawaii, the court serves Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, as well as Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands.