Racist Email Judge Apologizes To Obama

Chief Judge Richard Cebull

In the wake of the revelation that he sent a racist email suggesting that President Obama’s mother had sex with a dog, Montana federal judge Richard Cebull wrote a letter of apology to the president:

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 Ninth Circuit review this matter.

Honestly, I don’t know what else I can do. Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology.

Cebull deserves credit for handling the aftermath of this incident like an adult, and there is no reason to doubt that he is genuinely contrite. Nevertheless, no amount of mere remorse can erase the stain his actions have placed on the federal judiciary.

No matter how apologetic Cebull may feel, the fact remains that his job is to exercise judgment, and he showed abysmally poor judgment by sending this email in the first place. As the commentary to the Code of Conduct for U.S. Judges instructs “[a] judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and accept freely and willingly restrictions that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen”

Worse, the fact remains that Cebull didn’t just show terrible judgment, he showed terrible judgment by endorsing a joke that any reasonable person would have viewed as offensive and unacceptable. Cebull’s email suggested that having sex with a black man is akin to having sex with a dog. The fact that he was not immediately disturbed by this email raises very real questions about whether he can impartially apply the law in race discrimination cases.

As Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-TX) explained yesterday, “it would appropriate for Chief Judge Cebull to ponder whether his continued service as a federal judge has been irreparably compromised and that another career may be more appropriate for someone with his views and temperament.”