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The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, the federal judiciary’s bureaucracy, has never been known to turn on a dime. But it did last week, after the Community Rights Counsel criticized the office for “slow-walking” efforts by the Judicial Conference to make the funding of judges’ participation in privately funded seminars more transparent. Within hours, the administrative office confessed that its procedure thus far “does not appear to be consistent with the Conference’s policy.” It said information about host organizations will soon be online before judges take trips. The Community Rights Counsel, a nonprofit public-interest law firm in the District, also targeted George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center, describing it as an “ExxonMobil-funded junketing organization” that gives judges a corporate slant on punitive damages and other issues. Center director Francis Buckley responded that ExxonMobil’s donations are small, and at center programs, “we don’t talk about hot-button issues.” Doug Kendall, founder and executive director of the Community Rights Counsel, says punitive damages have been a curriculum item at seminars, and ExxonMobil donated $215,000 to the Law & Economics Center from 1998 to 2005. “That money pays for a lot of judicial junkets,” Kendall says.
Tony Mauro can be contacted at [email protected].

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