Cebull Resignation/Impeachment Petitions Update

When I first looked at the internets regarding public discontent regarding Richard Cebull’s lack of professional judgment, (Cebull Petitions Pepper The Internet- And They Should) there were 5 petitions circulating in the informational ether.

Now, the number is up. On alone there are 10.

Will anything happen? Will the complaint by the Montana GOP (against Senators Baucus and Tester for filing an investigation request with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics to take a look) get any traction? Will the story just fade away?


Not as long as I have a computer and internet access….

Op Ed: Judge Cebull’s Email “Irreparably Damaged Ability, Impartiality of Federal Court”

A piece in today’s Missoulian by 6 UM Law School professors  gives us an excellent reason to keep up the calls for his resignation and/or dismissal: the irreparable damage to impartiality. Excerpt:

Racism and sexism work in pernicious ways. Although there are still open racists and sexists everywhere, thanks to the civil and women’s rights movements much of what we now see resides in more subtle institutional arrangements and private, informal interactions that define our daily existence. Racism and sexism lurk in systemic processes, in implicit understandings, in gestures and jokes. Hidden from the light of public scorn, they thrive in structural formalities, personal relationships and private interactions.

Every once in a while, we catch a rare glimpse of these manifestations. U.S. Chief District Judge Richard Cebull’s e-mail and equivocations provided the latest example. Sent an admittedly racist and misogynistic email, Cebull chose to promote it to others. And when caught having forwarded the disturbing message, Cebull tried to distinguish the email’s content from his intent and his act from his character, demonstrating a profound misunderstanding of racism and sexism.

I know that I certainly would not feel comfortable having him decide a case involving me- or anyone I know for that matter. I would probably be able to make a case- as would anyone who has spoken out against him- for recusal. I would feel suspicion and mistrust- and fear. Not the feelings a Federal Judge should engender….


We acknowledge Cebull’s contributions to our profession. We also hear his contrition and recognize that we have all made mistakes. But his is not a simple lapse in judgment or momentary moral failing. As a federal district judge – the chief judge of Montana – the consequences of his actions are that racial and ethnic minorities, women and even people with whom he disagrees politically now have clear reason to question his ability to be fair and impartial when they appear in his court. The cynical may even try to exploit his revealed biases.

Cebull has irreparably compromised his ability to promote the independence, integrity and impartiality of the United States District Court in Montana.

Agreed. I just hope we can do something about it.

Cebull Resignation Petitions Pepper The Internet- And They Should

Photo from The Missoulian

So far, I’ve found five petitions circulating the internet asking Federal Judge Richard Cebull to resign for his poor judgment in circulating a racially charged email about Barack Obama, his mother- and a bestiality party. Three on alone. I signed them all.

Why am I still harping on this? Well, to quote The Boston Globe,

Should a single joke, even a deeply, shockingly insensitive one, doom an entire career? Even if it’s merely forwarded on a computer, rather than spoken aloud? A good answer is: only if biases expressed in the joke are reflected in a broader assessment of the joke-teller. That’s why Congress should investigate Chief US District Judge Richard Cebull of Montana, who admitted to passing along a joke whose punchline suggested President Obama was fathered by a dog. Criminal defendants, victims, and litigants need to know that they are being viewed fairly, as individuals, when they come before this judge.

And to buttress, The New York Times:

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.

And finally, to quote reader Sara Walsh in The Great Falls Tribune’s comment thread on the story,

Cebull doesn’t get many opportunities to show his racism in Montana, which is 89.4 percent Caucasian, with only 0.4 percent of the non-Caucasians being black. But when you ridicule someone for who they are based on their lineage, which they have no control over, rather than for their actions, that’s racism/discrimination.

That’s why.

Just in case you haven’t had a chance to sign these petitions- and lest the fire die down- I thought I’d list them all here for your convenience.

You’re welcome.

The Call For Cebull To Step Down Gets Louder- Petition Edition

Thanks to the folks at the Montana Human Rights Network, there’s now a petition. From The Great Falls Tribune:

Seal of the United States Court of Appeals for...

Image via Wikipedia

Travis McAdam, executive director of the Montana Human Rights Network, said citizens from throughout Montana and across the country are flooding the organization’s phone lines and email inbox with angry calls for Cebull to be removed from his post as the state’s top federal judge.

“People are really angry and motivated and wanting to do something,” McAdam said Thursday.

The Montana Human Rights Network and other groups are now circulating online petitions calling for Cebull to resign.

“On February 20, the chief federal judge in Montana, Richard Cebull, forwarded an email to six individuals that included racist and misogynistic content. The content of this email dehumanizes people of color and women. People of color and women appearing before Judge Cebull will have valid concerns about his ability to treat them fairly,” the network petition reads in part.

“From the time story broke online (Wednesday) to this morning we had gotten dozens of emails through our website, and phone calls from people who are really wanting some way to register their real displeasure with the email the judge sent around and also really talking about ‘how can we lend our names to something to try to get the judge to resign?’” McAdams said.

The network also plans to file a formal ethics complaint with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The MHRN petition is here. 


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