Posted: 3:22 p.m. Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fourth Circuit judges hold official conference at Greenbrier

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Fourth Circuit judges hold official conference at Greenbrier photo
Fourth Circuit judges hold official conference at Greenbrier

By Scott MacFarlane

WASHINGTON, D.C. —

Federal judges in the Fourth Circuit -- which includes North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia and Maryland -- staged an official conference at the famous Greenbrier Resort, four hours west of Washington, D.C., this past weekend.

They're using the resort instead of a government building in D.C. or the conference room of a chain hotel. Taxpayers paid for the rooms, which are $270 a night for judges and federal court staff.

"All kinds of posh amenities, everything a federal judge would want to be pampered with, are available there," said Pete Sepp with National Taxpayers Union.

A court spokesperson said taxpayers only footed the bill for travel, not for the entertainment on site which includes horseback riding, indoor and outdoor tennis and a famed candy shop.

About 150 federal judges attended. An Eyewitness News review found many federal court dockets nearly empty because so many judges were at the resort. There were precious few behind the bench Friday.

There was business done at the Greenbrier, including a Saturday speech from the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Many federal court circuits have staged conferences too, including the Ninth Circuit, which last year used tax money to send judges to a conference in Maui.

In the Eighth Circuit conference in the Midwest, Eyewitness News found judges were given access to an event called the College Basketball Experience including a slam dunk competition.

Taxpayers funded the travel.

A spokeswoman for the Fourth Circuit said they made a change in 2003 that instead of annual conference, they're staged every two years to save money.

Taxpayers picked up the tab for transportation needed to get judges to the resort. A spokeswoman for the Greenbrier said it's "within driving distance for virtually all participants, so the travel costs are minimal."

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