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Recap of 9th Cir. Conference


First Circuit Conference Since 2019 Enlightens, Probes, Presents Special Guests

The first Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference in three years was held July 18-21 in Big Sky, Montana. The event brings together judges and lawyers from around the circuit to discuss current trends in litigation and court management and improve the administration of justice throughout the Ninth Circuit. The conference theme was “The Future of ‘Being Back’: Technology, Transparency and the Administration of Justice,” and special guests included the Honorable Elena Kagan, associate justice, United States Supreme Court and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

The conference opened with a greeting from Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Mary H. Murguia, and meetings began immediately afterward. Opening ceremonies were held in the afternoon, including presentation of the colors by the Native American Women Warriors, a group dedicated to surface recognition of women veterans, especially of Native American descent, and their contribution to the military. The group assists Native American women veterans with education, employment and counseling.

Chief Judge Murguia noted the Ninth Circuit’s tradition of excellent programs of interest to all conference attendees and that the conference aimed to “stimulate productive discussion for ways the Circuit can improve its administration of justice in light of lessons learned from having to weather the coronavirus pandemic.” The conference was assembled by Circuit Judge John B. Owens, conference chair, and District Judge Michael H. Simon, program chair. With two years to plan, programming was adjusted as new and timely topics emerged as others faded away.

Attended by 181 judges and 170 lawyers, the event included sessions on artificial intelligence in the law; ethics, conflicts and recusals; global internet takedown orders; virtual proceedings and cameras in the courtrooms; ethical and practical issues around sealed filings and social media and democracy.

On Wednesday, July 20, Director Wray spoke covering a range of topics of interest to judges and lawyers alike, including the ongoing threat to national security from cyberterrorism, the dangers of the dark web, the challenges of virtual currencies and encrypted data access. Director Wray noted the FBI has developed their own methods and tools to track and ameliorate these issues. He then answered a number of questions from the audience.

On the final day of the conference, Justice Kagan sat for a conversation with Chief Judge Mary H. Murguia, District Judge Michael H. Simon and Doreen Hartwell, chair of the Lawyer Representatives Coordinating Committee, addressing several topics, including how justices dealt with COVID-19 restrictions in order to continue their operations. One question she was asked concerned the current lack of public approval of the Supreme Court and what can be done to improve public confidence. Justice Kagan noted that was a tough question, but that overall, the answer is to act like a court.

She named three things that help a court maintain public trust: by adhering to precedent except when there is extraordinary justification for not doing so; by the consistent application of methodologies that constrain and discipline judges; and by deciding only the questions that are really before them and that need to be decided.


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