HELENA, Mont. -- A
former Montana judge who was investigated for forwarding a racist email
involving President Barack Obama sent hundreds of other inappropriate messages
from his federal email account, according to the findings of a judicial review
panel released Friday.
Former U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sent emails to
personal and professional contacts that showed disdain for blacks, Indians,
Hispanics, women, certain religious faiths, liberal political leaders, and some
emails contained inappropriate jokes about sexual orientation, the Judicial
Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found.
Many of the emails also related to pending issues that could
have come before Cebull's court, such as immigration, gun control, civil
rights, health care and environmental issues, the council found in its March
15, 2013, order.
The investigation looked at four years of Cebull's personal
correspondence sent from his official email account. Investigators also
reviewed his past cases and interviewed witnesses.
The investigation found no evidence of bias in Cebull's
rulings or sentences, and the witnesses generally regarded him as a "good
and honest trial lawyer, and an esteemed trial judge," according to the
The 9th Circuit council issued Cebull a public reprimand;
ordered no new cases be assigned to him for 180 days; ordered him to complete
training on judicial ethics, racial awareness and elimination of bias; and
ordered him to issue a second public apology that would acknowledge "the
breadth of his behavior."
The panel said impeachment was not warranted because Cebull
did not violate federal or state law, though two of the judges on the council
said they would have asked for his resignation.
But none of the sanctions took effect and the findings did
not become public until Friday on the order of a national judicial review
Cebull announced his resignation March 29, two weeks after
the judicial council issued its order.
After Cebull retired May 3, the 9th Circuit council vacated
its previous order and wrote a new one calling the complaints against Cebull
"moot" because of his retirement.
The panel also omitted details from the original unpublished
order about the other emails Cebull had sent.
That prompted Judge Theodore McKee, the chief judge of the
3rd U.S. Circuit, to file a petition with the national Judicial Conference's
Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability, asking the committee to review
the council's work and publish the original March 15 order.
Judge McKee argued that the 9th Circuit council's subsequent
rulings inappropriately concealed its original findings.
The 9th Circuit Council told the national review panel in
response that it sought only to disclose enough about the investigation to
ensure the public knows the matter was taken seriously, and it did not intend
to publish the original order.
The national committee ruled that Cebull's retirement only
affected the sanctions, but the factual findings and legal conclusions of the
investigation must still be published.
"The imperative of transparency of the complaint
process compels publication of orders finding judicial misconduct," the
national judicial panel wrote in its decision.
A phone number listed under Cebull's name was disconnected
Friday, and an after-hours phone call to the U.S. District Court in Billings
Cebull himself and 10 others requested the misconduct
investigation after The Great Falls Tribune reported Cebull forwarded an email
in February 2012 that included a joke about bestiality and Obama's mother.
Cebull apologized to Obama after the contents of the email were published.
He told the 9th Circuit panel that his "public shaming
has been a life-altering experience" and that he was "acutely aware
that each day in my court is the most important day in someone's life."
Cebull was nominated by former President George W. Bush and
received his commission in 2001. He served as chief judge of the District of
Montana from 2008 until 2013.