Home News Afro Briefs Originally published April 05, 2013

"Federal Judge Compared Blacks to Animals; Sets Retirement Date"

Statements “Calls into Question His Treatment of Women and People of Color”

by Zenitha Prince
Special to the AFRO

    U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull is seen in this undated file photo. Cebull, Montana’s chief federal judge, will retire following an investigation into an email he forwarded that included a racist joke involving President Barack Obama. Photo/Billings Gazette, John Warner (AP Photo)
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A federal judge in Montana who faced an investigation after forwarding an e-mail containing racist jokes about President Obama will retire next month.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull in February 2012 forwarded an e-mail from his chambers that compared African Americans to animals and implied that the president’s mother had engaged in bestiality.

After the electronic missive was obtained and published by The Great Falls Tribune, Cebull sent a letter of apology to President Obama.

“I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded,” Cebull wrote in the March 1, 2012 letter. "I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself.”

At the time, Cebull stepped down as chief circuit judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, took a reduced caseload and initiated an investigation into his actions.

"Honestly, I don't know what else I can do," Cebull wrote in the apology.

Cebull has decided to retire effective May 3, according to a statement posted by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on the court’s website April 2.

Cebull’s resignation letter, dated March 29, was submitted soon after the appellate court's Judicial Council issued a March 15 order on the investigation into Cebull’s actions.

Kozinski said the special committee probe had been “thorough and extensive.” Multiple witnesses, including Cebull, were questioned and “voluminous” documentation, including several e-mails, was reviewed. However, the contents of the order and memorandum resulting from the probe will remain confidential throughout the appeals process, which ends May 17, the chief judge said.

The Montana Human Rights Network was one of two groups that demanded an investigation and called for Cebull's resignation.

Kim Abbott, the network's co-director, told The Associated Press on April 3 she was pleased with Cebull’s imminent resignation but was wager to see the results of the investigation.

"The e-mail 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.

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