Last week was the Third Circuit judicial conference in Hershey. I was there. A few hyper- hyperlinked thoughts:
- The circuits have come under fire for their judicial-conference spending (CA9 held theirs in Maui in 2011: oops), but I saw nothing to criticize here. Especially since CA3 foisted the cost of receptions off on outside groups including the Third Circuit Bar Association. I agree with Justice Kennedy that “The circuit conference is a prudent and proper exercise of the judicial function.” Even in this time of federal judicial budget struggles, judges and lawyers need a forum to grapple with systemic legal issues,.
- Chief Judge McKee’s influence on the program was evident and, in my opinion, very positive.
- Justice Alito: budding stand-up comedian. I did learn two things from his talk: (1) the Court has an internal deadline of the end of May for majority opinions and June 15 for dissents, and (2) the Justices have a no-talking-about-cases-at-lunch rule. During Alito’s talk, I kept rolling my eyes and mouthing “Not true,” but no one noticed.
- SG Verrilli said the reason the US sided with the town in the recent legislative-prayer case was Congress’s interest in keeping its own opening prayers. I found that wacky, but this time I kept it to myself.
- EDNY judge John Gleeson stole the show with his talk on innovative sentencing. Sixty-year-olds aren’t Scotus nominees, but Gleeson sounded Scotus-caliber to me.*
- Cheryl Krause, whose CA3 nomination is pending before the full Senate, was there, often with a sitting judge or 2 at her side. On the rumor front, I overheard that Becker’s district court chambers have been designated for her, which may reflect the confidence that she’ll be confirmed.
- Screened at the conference was a documentary film on criminal re-entry called Pull of Gravity. Website here, trailer here, reaction video here. The odd part: the Philly US Attorney’s office was the film’s executive producer (what sequester?), and Executive AUSA Robert Reed is its biggest champion. The good part: the film itself is eye-opening and honest. Look for it.
- If you’re in Hershey for a meal, try Troeg’s Brewery tasting room; Nugget Nectar is the beer-nerd choice.
* Update: for more on mandatory minimums, see yesterday’s thoughtful post at Hercules & the Umpire.
The cost of the receptions at the Conference was not “foisted” onto the Bar Associations. As a member of the Executive Committee of the Third Circuit Bar Association, I can tell you that we have voluntarily subsidized one reception at each Judicial Conference since our founding in 2006. The Court’s planning committee asked us if we could do it again this year, the matter was presented at a Board meeting and openly discussed, and we decided to say yes. It was up to us to say yes or no, and to decide the amount we felt was appropriate and that we could afford. We consider this expenditure to be of mutual benefit to the Association (and thus to its members) and to the Court.
Thanks for posting, Peter. To clarify on my end, my only point was that the recent criticism of extravagant circuit-conference spending doesn’t apply when the court is getting someone else to pick up the cost of core events such as that reception. “Foisted” was an attempt at humor, not an actual criticism of either the court or the bar association.
Matt, thanks for this engaging summary. Was there any discussion about the terrible state of nominations for the E.D. Pa. bench? I think there are 5 vacancies without nominations and have been at least that many for some time. In addition, the pool of senior judges is smaller than it was just a few years ago (Pollak passed on, Fullam leaving, etc.) so there are fewer hands and minds overall to handle the caseload.
Good question, John. I did not hear that discussed at the conference. There were a number of EDPA judges there. There was a flurry of news last month about a supposed package deal on PA federal judicial nominations that I posted about here:
I just googled around and nothing seems to have happened since then.