The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Judge admits "bad judgment"

So we're supposed to have confidence this guy will make better judgments when it comes to stuff like when the feds violate our rights?

Federal judge in Montana says he sent racist Obama email

HELENA, Mont. — Montana's chief federal judge said Wednesday that he forwarded an email that contained a joke involving bestiality and President Barack Obama's mother, but he did so because he dislikes the president and not because he's racist.

Judge Richard Cebull, of Billings, forwarded the email from his chambers to six other people on Feb. 20, The Great Falls Tribune reported.

Cebull told the newspaper that his brother sent him the email, which he forwarded to six "old buddies" and acquaintances. He prefaced the email with the message: "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 judge apologized and acknowledged that the content of the email was racist but said he does not consider himself racist, the newspaper reported. He said he has treated all people in his courtroom fairly and he has not heard any complaints otherwise.

"The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan," Cebull said. "I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. I sent it out because it's anti-Obama."

Cebull did not immediately return a call from The Associated Press on Wednesday afternoon.

Cebull was nominated by former President George W. Bush and received his commission in 2001. He has served as chief judge of the District of Montana since 2008.

Travis McAdam, executive director for the Montana Human Rights Network, said the email's content was unbecoming of a federal judge.

"It's one thing if the judge is not a fan of President Barack Obama, but you would think someone in his position would articulate that in a way that criticizes his policy decisions or his position on issues," McAdam said. "We have a hard time believing that a legitimate criticism of the president involves distributing a joke that basically compares African Americans with animals."

A recipient of the email forwarded it to another person, who then forwarded it until it eventually reached the inbox of a Great Falls Tribune reporter. Cebull said he was surprised the people he sent the email to would pass it along with his name still on it.

"This is a private thing that was, to say the least, very poor judgment on my part," Cebull said. "I did not forward it because of the racist nature of it. Although it is racist, I'm not that way, never have been."

Update: National Public Radio has published the text of the email.

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. 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!"


Wayne Gilbert said...

Your first sentence makes a very important point. A judge like this is very disruptive to efficient judical administration and therefore expensive to taxpayers. I am sure that many if not most if not all attorneys would not suffer this judge to preside over a case involving a non-white litigant. Many lawyers will wonder whether to submit any case at all to such a meathead. What this means is, assuming that motions to recuse will be examined with a modicum of integrity, the judge will be limited in the number and type of cases that he will be permitted to hear. This translates to expense because other judges and their staffs will have to be brought in with accompanying expenses for travel, food and lodging while schedules are disrupted and other collateral consequences come into play. The guy, or someone above him, ought to realize he's not fit to be a judge.

Bob Newland said...

He was appointed by Dubya. That makes him suspect right out of the box. (The friend of my enemy is my enemy?)

He's getting paid about $170,000 a year and making decisions that put people in prison who shouldn't be there, but he's not bright enough to understand that if he sends six emails with inflammatory content that at least one of those emails will be forwarded to someone he doesn't want to see it. Christ almighty!

Black robe fever.

Bob Newland said...

By the way, I believe him when he says he's not "racist." He is just stone fucking stupid.

Wayne Gilbert said...

Right Bob--in fact in his mind the whole thing is the fault of those people who forwarded the email. His honor words:
"Cebull said he was surprised the people he sent the email to would pass it along with his name still on it."

Wayne Gilbert said...

The federal court system has procedures to make a complaint. Concerns can be filed with the US District Courts at misconduct.html.

Wayne Gilbert said...

correct link:


larry kurtz said...

More, much more.
This latest episode likely makes Montana a solidly blue state.

Wayne Gilbert said...

In 1976 Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz was forced to resign for telling a racist joke. In 1987 the Dodgers fired Al Campanis for suggesting that African Americans might not be smart enough to manage. Two years ago Don Imus was fired for a racist joke. Why is Judge Cebull still working? I know, I tenure.

D.E. Bishop said...

I followed the Montana Cowgirl link and read it.

That he is a judge, and is really only upset that someone forwarded the message so that he got caught . . .

. . . I just don’t have anything adequate to say to that.

Outrageous? Shameful?
Nope, those words aren’t adequate, but they are the best I can do right now.

larry kurtz said...

Shit hitting fan.

chad sechsington said...

here's a good rule of thumb to live by: if a statement has to be qualified by "i'm not racist but...", then the presenter will be seen as a racist.

make no mistake, his only regret was that he was caught.

incidentally, here is the offending email in question if one is curious

larry kurtz said...

Breaking. Note release from Dennybriated Rehberg's office, charged with impeachment of federal judge.

larry kurtz said...


this guy is going to take the MTGOP down with him.

larry kurtz said...


Bob Newland said...

According to a Google search, a federal district judge earns $174000 per year.

Given that a judge, as opposed to, say, a lawyer, has no work-related expenses, that is a pretty neat sum in Montana.

Cebull will most likely go through an agonizing round of apologies and promises, tears and anger, and may very well resign in the end.

But the man I would argue is the Most Powerful Man in Montana (at least in terms of commanding deference from all who contact him in his line of work) is not likely to give up without a rather embarrassing fight.

Oh! Would that some of Judge Battey's off-the-cuff comments be made public. That piece of shit is a blight on the whole system.

we the people said...

Impeachment is the proper course of action if he's too obtuse to resign.