Montana Federal Judge: I Meant To Be Only A Closet Racist

Federal Judge Richard Cebull excuses his email containing a racist joke about President Obama, sent from his official email account, because, he says, it wasn’t intended to become public. Here’s David Dayen of FDL:

For his part, Cebull admitted to sending the email, but tried to explain it away by saying that he keeps his racism private, the way it oughta be:

The judge acknowledged that the content of the email was racist, but said he does not consider himself racist. He said the email was intended to be a private communication.

It was not intended by me in any way to become public,” Cebull said. “I apologize to anybody who is offended by it, and I can obviously understand why people would be offended.” […]

“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.”

I have said many, many things that are “anti-Obama.” A few of them may even have been tasteless. But I have never found it necessary, not even once, to forward a tacky, dirty, race-baiting joke about the president’s mother.

Does Judge Cebull have a right to send that joke using his taxpayer-funded email? I don’t know; I’m not a legal expert, and I’m inclined to be flexible about minimal incidental personal use of business or even government email.

But I do think that a federal judge should not be sending such an email at all. A judge should be a model of probity in all aspects of his or her public life, and that joke disqualifies Cebull as such.

Judge Cebull should resign, and congressional GOP senators should cooperate with Obama in allowing the president to select a replacement. It’s the least they could do. (That’s why I’m betting against their doing it.)

UPDATE: Judge Cebull has asked for a judicial review of his action, and either intends to apologize to Obama or has already done so. No matter. He should still resign. As one commenter somewhere (?) said, he must either resign, or recuse himself from every case involving an African American.

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  • NTodd Pritsky  On Thursday March 1, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    At least he didn’t go with the “lighten up, humorless libs” tack…

    • Steve  On Thursday March 1, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      But he did go with the “I’m sorry if I offended anyone” tack. Six of one…

  • NTodd Pritsky  On Friday March 2, 2012 at 12:04 am

    True dat.

    And now he’s asking for an investigation of himself!

  • jams o donnell (Shaun Downey)  On Friday March 2, 2012 at 9:36 am

    What an idiot

    • Steve  On Friday March 2, 2012 at 11:02 am

      Indeed, Shaun, an idiot… not even an imbecile or a moron, but a full-blown idiot.

  • upyernoz  On Friday March 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    not that there are many african-americans in montana, but he has given a basis for appeal to anyone who ever got an adverse decision from this guy who wasn’t white.

    if he doesn’t resign, there’s not much anyone can do about it. lifetime tenure protects judicial independence, but it also means that people like judge cebull are very difficult to remove. the only remedy is impeachment, but that’s pretty rare, forwarding an email joke doesn’t come close to the kinds of things that have triggered impeachment before (usually corruption), and, in any case, i doubt there is any appetite in congress to actually impeach the guy.

    • Steve  On Friday March 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm

      ‘noz, if the only one who can judge Judge Cebull is Judge Cebull, I’m pretty sure it ain’t gonna happen. If Antonin Scalia can forgive himself that decision in Bush v. Gore, there’s no reason to expect any other Republican-appointed judge to be sensitive to appearances… it’s just not how they’re built.

      Expense of retrials notwithstanding, I would be content with a flurry of appeals by African American or other minority convicts whom Cebull put away. That would be almost as ugly for Cebull as an impeachment, and no one in political office would have to vote on it to make it happen.

      You’re right about one thing: I’m pretty sure I’ve never met an African American from Montana, and I’ve met a number of people from Montana.

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