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For the first time ever, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court will hold its annual judicial conference in Montana beginning Sunday at Big Sky Resort near Bozeman.

Most of the 300 judges in the huge circuit and many lawyers who practice in federal courts in the Western United States have registered for the conference July 15-18. Two members of the U.S. Supreme Court are scheduled to attend. Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Stephen G. Breyer will participate in “Conversation with the Justices" set for the final day of the event.

“Every circuit, by law, must have a meeting every year," said Lou Aleksich Jr., U.S. clerk of court for the District of Montana. “Its purpose is to set policy for the circuit and decide on standardized procedures throughout the circuit."

Aleksich said conference participants usually number between 500 and 600 with an equal number of family members accompanying them. Every judge, magistrate, lawyer representative to the circuit and clerk of court in the circuit is encouraged to attend, he said. Meetings are not open to the general public.

The 9th Circuit includes Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. It is the largest circuit in the country and includes 15 judicial districts. The annual conference is organized by the Office of the Circuit Executive in San Francisco.

Special guests include the Hon. Fern M. Smith, director of the Federal Judicial Center; the Hon. Ruth V. McGregor, an associate justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; and U.S. Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh.

Conference speakers include Clay S. Jenkins, a humanities scholar from the University of Nevada. He is renowned for first-person interpretations of historical figures. He will present a portrait of Meriwether Lewis. The program also includes a session entitled “The Supreme Court in Fact and Fiction," featuring Brad Meltzer and Richard North Patterson, authors of several best-selling books of fiction about the court.

The U.S. Marshals Service will provide security for the conference.

Lorna Thackeray can be reached 657-1314 or at lthackeray@billingsgazette.com

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