Federal judge Richard Cebull: Hey, my e-mail might’ve been racist, but I’m not

Warning: If you’re ever a plaintiff in a racial discrimination claim, and you see that the, umm, Honorable Richard Cebull is presiding over your case, you might want to ask for a different judge.

As reported by Yahoo! News (here):

A senior US judge has apologized after sending an email containing a racist joke about President Barack Obama that equated African Americans with dogs, a newspaper reported.

Richard Cebull, chief US district judge in the state of Montana, said he sent the email to a small group of friends because he is opposed to Obama. He acknowledged it was racist, but denied being racist himself.

…Cebull, who was nominated by former president George W. Bush and has served as chief judge for the District of Montana since 2008, sent the message from his court email address on February 20, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

The judge admitted that he sent the email to six “old buddies,” the paper reported.

More seriously

Beyond the incredulity of his explanation, there are serious judicial implications about his worldview.

First, he should not be presiding over any discrimination claims, period. In fact, he should not be allowed to preside over any proceeding that includes African-American parties, lawyers, or witnesses.

Second, all past cases involving the judge that included African American parties, lawyers, or witnesses must be reexamined for evidence of judicial bias.

Wrapped in the flag

If you go to this article in the Billings Gazette, you’ll see a photo of Judge Cebull presiding over his courtroom, with an American flag draped over the bench. I guess he’s just an old fashioned patriot.

As far as I’m concerned, he should do the patriotic thing and resign his position.


Update 3/4/12 — Amanda Bronstad reports for the National Law Journal (here):

Richard Cebull, chief judge of the U.S. District Court in Montana, has initiated a disciplinary investigation into his own behavior after acknowledging he sent a racist e-mail to friends and family about President Obama.

Bronstad further reports on a growing number of public interest and civil rights groups calling for Cebull’s resignation or removal from the bench.

7 responses

  1. David, He should not resign. He should be impeached. Otherwise he will get his pension that you and I pay for. Yah, I know, probably would get it even if impeached! When I read about his “Horrors” (I would never refer to that despicable judge as his “Honor”) I was shocked. I am in my 70s and little shocks me. Rich

  2. It’s almost beyond comprehension how one person could have so little self-awareness. . .the fact that he’s a judge is beyond scary.

    When I served as an AmeriCorp Paralegal for Legal Aid, I worked solely on domestic violence cases. One of our clients took the witness stand in a hearing regarding her restraining order against her husband. She had a broken nose and was wearing a long-sleeved sweater to cover a knife wound – both suffered at the hands of her husband.

    The judge rolled his eyes while our client described why she needed to keep her restraining order in place. He then interrupted her and “Let me see this alleged knife wound.” Pulling up her sleeve, our client revealed a horrible-looking 4-5 inch long gash in her forearm.

    The judge again rolled his eyes and then shook his head: “It doesn’t look very deep.”

    The judge then went on to berate our client how she should focus on being a good wife and mother. Finally, he turned to the husband: “Don’t use the ‘b’ word.”

    And, that was that.

    Thanks, David.

  3. The problem with this….

    “Warning: If you’re ever a plaintiff in a racial discrimination claim, and you see that the, umm, Honorable Richard Cebull is presiding over your case, you might want to ask for a different judge.”

    ….solution, especially for people of diversity in the U.S. is the same as it has been for over 500 years.

    Consider this actually of life for the millions of them;

    Contemporary raco-terrorism has always been calculated to be hidden. Yet, the victims of same have always been put in the position of proving it’s existence to very ones that created, dedicated, initiated, perpetuated, instigated, legalized and institutionalized it.

    More succinctly, it has always been like proving beelzebub is evil to satan.

    Thus, the level of frustration at striving for equal economic, political and social justice.

    So, “…ask for a different judge”, far more often than not, only the face of the judge changes not the intent of heart and mind. Anyone who has ever bought into the lying hypocrisy of “freedom and JUSTICE for all” is living in the severest denial.

    Judge Cebull is not living in a vacuum. The judge Cebulls’ are the norm across the U.S. not the exception. If you don’t believe that’s true, wake up in the morning as a person of diversity with a court date before a middle aged white male in a black robe….

  4. All those in favor of crucifying Judge Cebull need to do the honorable thing and post every bad word thought and deed publically so that the world can judge you too. Is a judge not a human being that makes mistakes?

    • Heidi, I don’t believe in crucifying anyone, but I do think that when a judge demonstrates bias directly implicating his ability to be impartial in cases and rulings that might involve African American individuals before his court, it is relevant.

      What he said wasn’t a “mistake.” It was an honest reflection of his worldview.

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