Federal judge in Montana criticized over racist Obama joke

March 2, 2012

(Reuters) – A federal judge in Montana who acknowledges using official court email to circulate a racist joke about President Barack Obama has apologized and initiated a process to bring a misconduct complaint against himself, court officials said on Thursday.

The government ethics watchdog group Common Cause and the Montana Human Rights Network called for the resignation of the Billings-based judge, Richard Cebull, the chief judge for the U.S. judicial district in Montana, because of his indiscretion.

The email in question came to public light when it was published on Wednesday by the Great Falls Tribune, which received a copy forwarded to the newspaper by someone else in the chain of the email’s distribution.

The subject line of the two-paragraph email, sent from Cebull’s courthouse email account on February 20 to various friends and acquaintances, according to the newspaper, reads: “A MOM’S MEMORY.”

The text says: “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.”

The joke that followed included a lewd reference to Obama’s biracial parentage.

Cebull was nominated to the federal bench in 2001 by then-President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate later that year.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which includes Montana, addressed the controversy in a statement.

“Chief District Judge Cebull has publicly acknowledged that he has acted inappropriately,” the statement said. “By letter to Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit, Judge Cebull has initiated the process by which a complaint of judicial misconduct will be brought against him.”

The Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit is expected “to act expeditiously in investigating and resolving this matter,” it said.

To read more, visit: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/03/02/us-judge-obama-montana-idUSTRE82100720120302

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