An appellate court announced Thursday that it will conduct a judicial misconduct review of Montana’s chief federal district judge for e-mailing what he acknowledged was a racist joke about President Obama.
Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull apologized in interviews with the Great Falls Tribune and Billings Gazette. “There’s no doubt it’s racist,” Cebull told the Gazette. “It wasn’t forwarded for that purpose. If anything, it was political.” He added that he is “not a fan” of Obama’s.
Cebull said he forwarded the e-mail to seven recipients, including his personal e-mail address. It was passed on to others, and eventually to the Tribune.
Common Cause filed a complaint Thursday against Cebull with the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Cebull also asked for a review by the appellate court, effectively filing a complaint against himself.
The appellate court’s judicial council will lead the investigation.
Cebull was nominated to the district bench by President George W. Bush in 2001 and has served as chief judge since 2008. Previously, he was a U.S. magistrate judge for the District of Montana, from 1998 to 2001. He said he has apologized to other judges for the e-mail.