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Montana Federal Judge Reports Himself for Ethics Review After Admitting He Sent a Racist Email

Posted Mar 2, 2012 7:27 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The chief judge of the federal court in Montana has initiated an ethics complaint against himself after admitting that he sent a racist email about President Obama to a half dozen friends.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull reported his conduct (PDF) to the Judicial Council of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday and waived confidentiality. He also sent a letter of apology (PDF) to President Obama. The National Law Journal and the Associated Press have stories.

The Great Falls Tribune was the first to report on the Feb. 20 email. It reads: "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!' "

Cebull acknowledged to newspaper reporters that the email he sent from his office computer was racist, but said he himself is not racist. His purpose in forwarding the email was political, he said.

In Cebull’s letter to Obama, he writes, “I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded. I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself. I can assure you that such action on my part will never happen again. I have requested that the Judicial Council of the 9th Circuit review this matter. Honestly, I don't know what else I can do. Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology.”

Several groups are calling for Cebull’s resignation, including Common Cause and the Montana Human Rights Network, according to the NLJ and AP. Common Cause identified two potential ethics violations: Canon 2, which says judges should avoid the appearance of impropriety, and Canon 5, which says judges should refrain from political activity.

Hat tip to How Appealing.

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