Hawaii’s senators are pushing back against criticism of a judicial conference scheduled this summer at a resort hotel on Maui.
"I resent the implication that no serious discussion can take place in Hawaii. We are much more than sunsets and beautiful beaches," Sen. Daniel Inouye said after questions were raised about the four-day meeting of judges, court personnel and members of the legal community from the 9th U.S. Circuit.
Inouye and fellow Democrat Daniel Akaka rallied behind their state, much as Nevada lawmakers defended Las Vegas as a low-cost, convenient destination for government conferences during the fallout over the GSA’s now-infamous Western Regions Conference at the M Resort in 2010.
"Hawaii is so much more than a vacation spot," Akaka said in a joint statement. "It’s our home and we should be treated like any other state."
Sens. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., have demanded the circuit’s chief judge explain why the Aug. 13-16 conference was being held at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, where the amenities include snorkeling, yoga, tennis, surfing and dance lessons.
Court executive Cathy Catterson has said recreational activities during the event are not being paid by the government, and that otherwise the conference would provide "an excellent educational program" and opportunities for participants to network and "improve circuit governance."
The Hawaii senators said appeals courts regularly hold similar conferences within their circuits. "This conference is no different," Inouye said.