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March 6, 2012

NY Times editorial calls for Chief Judge Cebull to resign over email incident

The New York Times has this new editorial, headlined "Judge Cebull’s Racist ‘Joke’," in which the paper's editorial board makes a direct recommendation as to what should happen with the brouhaha over racially charged emails forwarded by a federal judge in Montana. Here are excerpts from the editorial:

Richard Cebull, the chief Federal District Court judge in Montana, acknowledged last week that he had sent some of his friends an e-mail containing a joke based on sexual and racist slurs against President Obama. He apologized, directly to Mr. Obama, which is more than Mr. Limbaugh did to Ms. Fluke. But he did it in a way that only exacerbated doubts about his judicial temperament and whether he possesses the balance and impartiality essential for any federal judge.

To his credit, Judge Cebull, who was nominated to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2001, admitted that the joke was racist and that he displayed “very poor judgment.” But he also said he did not send the e-mail because it was racist but because it was “anti-Obama.”

His dislike of the president is so strong, apparently, he could not resist the urge to violate his ethical duty to avoid intemperate conduct that suggests racial and political bias and an appearance, at least, of impropriety. Although Judge Cebull did not intend for his e-mail to become public, his use of a government computer and an official e-mail account to spread the hateful message removes any claim that his action was purely private.

At Judge Cebull’s request, the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals will now consider whether and to what degree to discipline him. It has the power, if it chooses, to reprimand him and temporarily suspend him from hearing cases.

It should not be necessary for the appeals court to do that. Judge Cebull has forfeited the trust Americans need to have in the impartiality and judgment of members of the federal bench. He should resign.

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March 6, 2012 at 09:04 AM | Permalink


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If the court panel is made up of a majority of justices whom were appointed by Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, or Obama, then Cebull will be removed.

If the court panel is made up of a majority of justices whom were appointed by Nixon, Reagan, or either Bush, then Cebull will NOT be removed.

No brainer here.

NOTE: No current justice resides on the 9th circuit whom were appointed by Johnson or Ford.

Posted by: Eric Knight | Mar 6, 2012 2:22:44 PM

I'm not sure, but I don't think the ethics tribunal convened to review this matter will be comprised of a three-judge panel of 9th Circuit judges.

Posted by: Calif. Capital Defense Counsel | Mar 6, 2012 3:21:48 PM

He has disgraced his office and should resign.

Posted by: Dave from Texas | Mar 6, 2012 6:38:06 PM

As a former federal law clerk to two of the finest federal judges in the Country, I can attest to the fact that being a judge, let alone a federal judge, is one of the most difficult, lonely, jobs in the World. You are expected to be unbiased, non-discriminatory, erudite, intelligent and, above all else, impartial. You are expected to hold the office beyond reproach. Judge Cebull has sullied both the office and the United District Court in Montana. There is absolutely no excuse for the racism he so vividly demonstrated, which calls into question a judge’s impartiality and demeanor. There is no action short of impeachment which is called for in this instance. I am an attorney (licensed to practice for 25 years) and a businessperson, chairman of several technology and consumer product companies.

Posted by: David S | Mar 19, 2012 9:59:25 PM

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