Daily Mail (London), April 3, 2013
A Montana federal judge who sent a racist email about President Obama and his deceased mother from his work email last year says he will now retire only days after an investigation was ordered.
U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull had previously announced he would step down as chief circuit judge and take a reduced caseload after the shocking email was produced but now says he intends to fully retire on May 3.
In February of 2012 Cebull forwarded an email from his chambers that contained a joke comparing interracial relationships to bestiality. Cebull argued at the time that he not racist, only anti-Obama
The appellate court posted a statement by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on its website on Tuesday announcing Cebull had submitted the retirement letter on March 29 but refrained from providing a reason.
The letter comes after the appellate court’s Judicial Council issued a March 15 order on the investigation into his email, but appellate court spokesman David Madden could not say whether Cebull resigned because of it.
‘The misconduct process is confidential. I am not privy to what the order said nor do I know what Judge Cebull’s motivations were,’ Madden said in an email on Wednesday.
The council’s order will remain confidential during an appeal period, which concludes May 17, Madden said. The council will make an announcement after Cebull’s retirement takes effect, he said, but added that he was unable to answer when the order or the letter will be released to the public.
A Cebull aide directed calls for comment to Clerk of Court Tyler Gilman, who said on Wednesday that Cebull would not have any comment other than the court’s statement.
He declined to release the resignation letter or describe what it said.
Cebull wrote a letter of apology to Obama and filed a complaint against himself after The Great Falls Tribune published the contents of the email, which included a joke about bestiality and the president’s mother.
The judge said the e-mail, which he admits is racist, doesn’t reflect how he treats black people in his courtroom. However, calls for his resignation immediately began pouring in.
The Billings judge forwarded the email from his chambers to six other people on Feb. 20, 2012, the newspaper reported.
The text of the e-mail, with the subject line ‘A MOM’S MEMORY’ reads: ‘Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.
‘A little boy said to his mother; “Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white? His mother replied, “Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!”‘
Two other groups also demanded an investigation, with one, the Montana Human Rights Network, starting an online petition calling for Cebull’s resignation.
Kim Abbott, the network’s co-director, said on Wednesday she was pleased with the announcement but hopes to see the results of the investigation.
‘The email really called into question his ability to treat women and people of color fairly, so we’re happy Montanans will get to appear before a different judge,’ Abbott said.
The complaints were referred to a special committee appointed by the appellate court to investigate whether Cebull’s email constituted misconduct.
Kozinski’s statement said the committee submitted a report to the Judicial Council in December after ‘a thorough and extensive investigation’ that included interviews with witnesses and Cebull and going over related documents. The council issued its order based on that report.
The statement says the Judicial Council will not comment further until Cebull’s retirement is effective.
Cebull stepped down as Montana’s chief federal judge and took senior status March 18, which allowed another judge to be appointed while he continued working with a reduced caseload.
U.S. Sen. Max Baucus then formed a committee to replace Cebull and another judge taking senior status, with Baucus recently recommending that Obama appoint state District Judge Susan Watters of Billings to take Cebull’s spot on the bench.
The new chief federal judge, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, plans to meet with other judges to discuss how to handle the Cebull’s cases, Gilman said.
Cebull was a Billings attorney for nearly 30 years before becoming a U.S. magistrate in Great Falls in 1998.
He became a district judge in 2001 and has served as chief judge of the District of Montana since 2008.
Cebull’s notable cases include his block of reopening of the U.S. border to cattle in 2005, two years after the U.S. banned Canadian cattle and beef products over fears of mad-cow disease. The 9th Circuit overturned that decision.
Cebull also presided over a lawsuit filed by landowners against Exxon Mobil Corp. over the cleanup following last year’s pipeline spill of 1,500 gallons into the Yellowstone River.