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Chief Judge Calls Circuit Conference "Our Most Successful"

August 31, 2012 / Ninth Circuit Public Information Office


Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said the interaction among judges, lawyers, their spouses and families helps 'unite us as a profession.'

Kaanapali, Maui - Chief Judge Alex Kozinski described the recently completed 2012 Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference as "our most successful."

"We had an outstanding educational program focusing on a number of cutting-edge issues in the administration of justice.  All of the sessions were well attended, most of them standing room only.

"We conducted the necessary business of the courts through a variety of meetings.  And there were numerous opportunities for informal interaction among the judges, and between judges and members of the bar.

"Much of what we do as judges is very formal.  We conduct ourselves at arm's length from others.  If you are an appellate or trial judge, you do much of your work in chambers, far from public view.  The Conference is our chance to spend time with other judges, with lawyers, with spouses and families.  It is important in cementing the bonds that unite us as a profession and that are vital in improving the administration of justice in our geographically diverse circuit.

"Having Justice Kennedy and Mrs. Kennedy present for the entire Conference was an affirmation of its importance.  We appreciated their participation very much.  I would also thank the people of Maui for being such gracious hosts.  It has truly been a pleasure to be here and we all look forward to returning to the great state of Hawaii, which we are proud to have as part of the Ninth Circuit."

Judge Kozinski made his remarks in a statement issued to the news website HawaiiReporter.com



Conference Takes Up Influence of Race on Sentencing



Judge Ruben Castillo top, commended the Conference for taking up the race issue.  Bryan Stevenson, center, spoke eloquently of the need for change in sentencing.  Judges and lawyers filled the ballroom for the presentation.

Kaanapali, Maui - Race continues to have a significant influence on the criminal punishment dispensed by federal courts. A panel of current and former judges and noted academics speaking to the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference Wednesday presented dramatic evidence that African Americans and Hispanics are much more likely to be incarcerated and for substantially longer times than whites and others.

"Black male defendants receive longer sentences than whites," said U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo of Chicago, quoting from a 2010 report from the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which found blacks received sentences nearly 5 percent longer than whites.

Judge Castillo, who served on the commission for 11 years, said he was perplexed and dismayed when the finding drew little attention from the press and public.

"I am not aware of any other circuit that has taken up this issue in a plenary session," Judge Castillo said in commending the Conference organizers.

The U.S. prison population is far greater than any other nation in the world. As of 2010, there were about 1.5 million inmates in state and federal prisons. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, the rate of incarceration for blacks is more than six times higher than whites, while Hispanics are the fastest growing percentage of prison populations.

Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, focused some of his comments on the cumulative and inter-generational impacts of incarceration on family and socioeconomic status. Studies have found that among black men born between 1975 and 1979, 27 percent would be imprisoned for some period of time.

Also sitting on the panel were Sonya Starr, an associate professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and the Hon. Nancy Gertner, a retired federal judge from Boston who now teaches sentencing law at Harvard Law School.

In a later session Wednesday, judges and lawyers turned their attention to legal ethics and how their clients' perceptions are often shaped by how the bench and bar are portrayed in movies or on television. The session, moderated by Nancy Rapoport, interim dean of the William S. Boyd School of Law and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, included use of video clips from the television series, "The Good Wife."

View Slide Presentation 



Experts Discuss Erosion of Privacy in the Internet Age


Associate Professor Paul Ohm sat on a panel focused on e-commerce issues.  A second panel considers government use of data gathering for law enforcement purposes.

Kaanapali, Maui - Privacy experts addressing the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference Tuesday said neither Congress nor the federal courts may be able to control commercial use of the wealth of personal data now found on the Internet.

"It's an arms race between those who would invade (your privacy) and those would defend it," said Paul Ohm, an associate professor of law and telecommunications at the University of Colorado Law School.

"Those who would invade have been doing it a long time and those who would protect are much less organized. We may not be able to ‘un-ring' the bell of future privacy invasion," Ohm said.

Ohm sat on a panel discussing e-Commerce and how companies glean information from the online interaction. He was joined by Prof. Edward W. Felten, director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University; Nicole Wong, former vice president and deputy general counsel for Google; and Joel R. Reidenberg, founding director of the Fordham Center on Law and Information Technology, who moderated the 90-minute presentation.

Companies are now engaged in gathering massive amounts of personal data. This "big data" can be analyzed and inferences drawn, enabling companies to target consumers for certain products. The technology is growing more and more powerful, to the point of identifying individuals by the cadences of their keystrokes or the list of fonts stored on a computer, speakers said.

The panel also took up the concept of "the right to be forgotten," in which individuals can demand that companies remove them from their databases. Recalling her time at Google, Wong said the most common complaint people have about privacy is the information returned about them by search engines. She suggested that allowing people to remove unflattering personal information would pose other problems.

"It is a very dangerous place to be when you have the ability to zap whatever you want on the Internet," she said.

Ohm said a "more palatable" approach might be to allow minors the opportunity to remove their online identities so that the minor mistakes of youth do not follow them into adulthood.

Later in the program, another panel tackled issues related to law enforcement surveillance, including monitoring Internet use and gathering location information and other data from smart phones and other electronic devices. Participating were Marcia Hoffman, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation; Prof. Orin S. Kerr and Prof. Jeffrey Rosen of George Washington University School of Law; and Prof. Mariano-Florentino Cuellar of Stanford Law School.



Justice Kennedy Stands By Circuit Conference

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy addresses the opening session of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference.  Judge Laura S. Taylor, chair of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference, and attorney Jerome I. Braun were in the audience.

Kaanapali, Maui - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy stood by the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference Monday, saying that the gathering here of the federal bench and bar from the western states was "a prudent and a proper exercise of the judicial function."

"I am immensely proud to be here with you," Justice Kennedy said during his remarks to the opening session of the Conference, drawing appreciative applause from an audience of several hundred judges, lawyers, academia, court staff and guests.

The justice stressed the importance of the Conference in providing continuing legal education for judges and facilitating governance of the Circuit.

"It is a characteristic of the American people that in every profession and every calling, they pride themselves on continuing education," he said, later adding that judges, lawyers and law professors all know that "when we enter each stage of our profession, that's not when learning ends, that's when learning begins."

In his visits to other countries, Justice Kennedy said he found the bench, bar and academia isolated from one another. Their inability to work together to solve problems threatens the rule of law, he said, recalling the words of a woman lawyer in one eastern European nation.

"She said, 'There are two tragedies in my country. One is that the rule of law is slipping away. The other is that almost everyone seems to know it, but no one seems to care,' " he said. "We do care about the rule of law in this country and that is why you are here."

Justice Kennedy also remarked upon the need for courts to consider new ways to handle growing caseloads; the impact of arbitration on court trials; and whether law school curriculums meet student needs. He concluded with criticism of the partisan battles over judicial nominees.

"There is a difference between political function and partisan function. In the current climate, highly qualified practitioners of the law simply do not want to subject themselves to that process," he said.

The Conference is authorized by law "for the purpose of considering the business of the courts and advising means of improving the administration of justice with the circuit." 28 U.S.C. Sect. 333. The Ninth Circuit has held a conference annually since 1944, although it recently rescheduled its 2013 gathering to 2014 in Monterey, California.

Justice Kennedy is the "circuit justice" assigned to the Ninth Circuit and formerly served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Read a transcript of Justice Kennedy's full remarks.



Supreme Court Review Draws Big Crowd  

Kathleen Sullivan's Supreme Court review drew a packed house.  Attorney Bruce Sokler noted how many aspects of the health care reform act remain unresolved.

Kaanapali, Maui - Judges and lawyers filled the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency this morning for a review of major U.S. Supreme Court decisions by former Stanford Law School dean Kathleen M. Sullivan.

Sullivan spoke for 90 minutes, discussing cases involving federalism and the separation of powers, free speech under the First Amendment, and criminal law and procedure. Major cases reviewed included the challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010; the Arizona immigration law; and the Stolen Valor Act.  Sullivan received a standing ovation from the more than 500 conferees present.

Also Monday morning, a panel of hospital utilization experts analyzed the implications of the high court's health care ruling for assembled bankruptcy judges and others interested in what many consider the court's most important decision. The panel included medical care consultants Dawn Gideon and Margaret E. Guerin-Calvert, and attorney Bruce D. Stokler.

The sessions were add-on programs to the Conference, which officially opens this afternoon with remarks by Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.




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