Image Is Everything

     Remember the old fortune cookie game?
     You read your fortune and then add the phrase “in bed.”
     Now try this variation: add the phrase “at a luxury resort on Maui” after the title of session names at the annual Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference.
     Try it. It’s lots of fun.
     The theme of this year’s conference is “Improving the Administration of Justice” – say it altogether now – at a luxury resort in Maui.
     I have nothing against luxury resorts in Maui. In fact, I’m rather in favor of them.
     I’m not in favor of grandstanding U. S. Senators nitpicking over tiny fractions of the national budget while cutting taxes for job-creators (who most likely spend lots of time at luxury resorts) and deficit spending.
     Still, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has a tiny public relations problem. It seems that a pair of those U. S. Senators who enjoy cutting costs that will make absolutely no real difference have questioned the concept of holding the circuit’s conference at a luxury resort in Maui.
     The lengthy reaction from the Ninth Circuit’s chief judge, Alex Kozinski, is in classic “she doth protest too much” mode. In his letter to Senators Charles Grassley and Jeff Sessions, we learn of the many vital opportunities for discussion and education to be had at a luxury resort in Maui.
     For that matter, the entire Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference website looks a tad defensive. The phrase “Government funds are not used for any recreational or sporting activities” appears on every page.
     If I were the chief judge of the Ninth Circuit – in some dystopian alternative universe – I would have responded to the good senators in a somewhat different manner.
     My response letter would have contained something along the lines of “Thank you for your interest in our conference, but we’re going anyway. By all means get back to us when you’ve given up all your perks and made a dent in the budget crisis.”
     It’s not as if any judges are going to be fired. And they’re certainly not getting voted out of office.
     And what’s the point of a lifetime appointment if you can’t spend time at luxury resorts?
     Now let’s take a quick timeout to play a few rounds of the game based on this year’s conference.
     Bankruptcy Judges Education Program at a luxury resort in Maui.
     Leaving Tracks: What We Convey When We Communicate Electronically at a luxury resort in Maui.
     Tracking and the Government: What Is the Government Learning About Us? Should We Be Concerned at a luxury resort in Maui?
     Demystifying Shared Services – Models for Success in the Ninth Circuit at a luxury resort in Maui.
     There are many more good ones, but I won’t spoil them for you.
     I have to admit, though, that this maybe looks a trifle bad in these harsh economic times. Maybe, just maybe, the circuit should consider some less controversial site for next year’s oh-so-vital conference.
     Like perhaps the chief judge’s basement.
     Or – and this is a really novel idea – a courthouse.
     ANOTHER IMAGE PROBLEM. I can’t let the week go by without noting the fabulous lawsuit filed on behalf of actor Ashton Kutcher’s production company against the California Department of Motor Vehicles.
     It seems that the DMV agreed to let Katalyst Media, the company that brought us “Punk’d,” film a reality series at DMV offices.
     Imagine the admiration and appreciation we’d all have for the DMV and its fine customer service after watching this program.
     I think all of us would have wanted to see this.
     Oddly, though, at least according to the lawsuit, the DMV changed its mind just six weeks after signing an agreement. A letter from the department’s deputy director “simply declared that DMV no longer considered the series to be in its ‘best interests.'”
     We wouldn’t want anyone to think ill of the DMV.
     NOTE TO ASHTON KUTCHER: The courts could use some money.

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