The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

Volokh Conspiracy

The Ninth Circuit's Activist Midwinter Meeting

The liberal-dominated federal court of appeals lets its partisan and ideological freak flags fly.


A friend passed along the schedule for the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals official 2019 mid-winter meeting. Among other things, the meeting includes both a keynote speech and a breakout session featuring the ACLU's deputy legal director, a session run by transgender activists, and a panel featuring a discussion of hate speech, offensive speech and "triggering" speech. The range of academic perspectives featured at the conference ranges from the very liberal Robert Post to the very liberal Erwin Chemerinsky. The keynote address is about Confederate monuments, a hot issue on the activist left but literally rather far afield for the West Coast-based Ninth Circuit. There's even a panel on Russian cyberattacks on U.S. government institutions. Given the context of the Mueller investigation, it's hard to see this entirely as a response to concern about potential targeting of the judiciary.

None of these panels would be particularly noteworthy as one panel among a host of ideologically neutral or balanced panels more directly related to the Ninth Circuit's work. But altogether the agenda reads more like the agenda of an activist organization than a federal judicial institution.

The Ninth Circuit has the right to run its meetings however it chooses, I doubt that federal judges are prone to be swayed by presentations at their meetings, and I wouldn't see a problem if this was the agenda of a private organization that invited judges to attend such a conference. Moreover, it was probably only a handful of Ninth Circuit judges who had a role in planning this event in cooperation with the Federal Judicial Center. But as VC readers are undoubtedly aware, President Trump has engaged in a series of unseemly and generally unwarranted attacks on the partisan neutrality of the judiciary. This is a poor time for the Ninth Circuit to be giving his ilk ammunition.

UPDATE: Compare and contrast the Tenth Circuit's most recent conference.