9th Circuit Judicial Conference – Almost Surreal Experience

I attended the annual 9th Circuit Judicial Conference last week in Big Sky Montana.  The conference consists of all of the federal judges in the 9th Circuit and a bunch of Lawyer Representatives, of which I am one (for one more year at least).  The conference consists of a number of programs, legal meetings and dinners.  Afternoons taking a nap since there is not much to do there and evenings in the sports bar visiting judges and lawyers from all over.

Two of the programs were directed specifically to bankruptcy matters.   It was almost surreal that nearly every bankruptcy judge I ever heard of was all in the same room.  The discussion was lively too.  The panelists would be talking about something and some judge would stand up to comment and then another judge would stand up and respond.  “Here’s how I do such and such.”

Mostly discussion from “30,000 feet.”  The big picture.  We have too many pro per filings.  How do we fix that?  The legal process has become too expensive.  How do we fix that?  Lots of ideas but a refreshing understanding that the pro per problem is largely because attorneys are not allowed to try to collect fees post chapter 7 petition.  And because many districts do not allow attorneys to “unbundle” the fees.  How do we fix that?  There were discussions about equitable mootness and when an order is final for appeal purposes.  One judge pointed out that she has been putting “interlocutory” in her orders.  A 9th Circuit judge responded that that is very helpful and they appreciate that.  He said they wonder from time to time what the judge entering the order thought they were doing.

Justice Anthony Kennedy spoke again this year.  He is such a fun and philosophical guy.  One of the interviewers asked him for some thoughts about Antonin Scalia.  Kennedy said that he and Nino sat next to each other in their conference meetings for 28 years and essentially loved each other.  He told Nino before he left on his trip that he better start keeping better care of himself.  Scalia told him that this would be his last long trip.  He choked up a little saying that that was their last conversation.

The theme of the conference was “access to Justice.”  There were other programs taught by professors with studies of this and that.  I have lots of notes and will write in more detail of some of the things I learned and took away from the conference.

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