Federal Judge Admits He Sent Anti-Obama and Racist Email

Mar 1, 2012
8:56 AM

In 21st century America, the new racism is as follows:

  1. Share racist content.
  2. Admit it is racist.
  3. Then deny you are not a racist and it was just a misunderstanding.

The latest example is Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, who, according to a report by the Great Falls Tribune in Montana, admitted that he sent a "racially charged" email about President Obama from his courtroom chambers.

Judge Richard Cebull, Credit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Judge_Cebull2.JPG

As the newspaper reports:

The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email address on Feb. 20 at 3:42 p.m., reads: "A MOM'S MEMORY."

The forwarded text reads as follow:

"Normally I don't send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.

"A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?'" the email joke reads. "His mother replied, 'Don't even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'"

Cebull admitted Wednesday to sending the email to seven recipients, including his personal email address.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."

Cebull later added: "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. I didn't send it as racist, although that's what it is. I sent it out because it's anti-Obama."

Cebull's explanation is a bit strange in our opinion, since it speaks to the new racism of this country. It is more subtle and more coded. You have to dig deeper into it, unlike 50 years ago, when it was clearly more overt. The other issue here has to do with use of a federal email address. Cebull has every right to do anything he wants from his private accounts, but when government emails are used to share racist content about the President of the United States, well, that's a different issue.

At least Cebull was forthcoming, but we think that he should be removed from the bench. A federal judge is supposed to defend the Constitution and our federal laws, like civil rights laws. How can a judge like Cebull be impartial after this incident? We did a little online research about whether Cebull could indeed get impeached for this and as with any legal speak, it is complex. Here are just a few things we found:

Find Law

Judges –Article III, Sec. 1, specifically provides judges with ''good behavior'' tenure, but the Constitution nowhere expressly vests the power to remove upon bad behavior; it has been assumed that judges are made subject to the impeachment power through being labeled ''civil officers.'' 755  The records in the Convention make this a plausible though not necessary interpretation. 756 And, in fact, twelve of the fifteen impeachments reaching trial in the Senate have been directed at federal judges. 757 So settled apparently is the interpretation that the major arguments, scholarly and political, have concerned the question whether judges, as well as others, are subject to impeachment for conduct which does not constitute an indictable offense and the question whether impeachment is the exclusive removal device with regard to judges. 758 


Impeachment is a fundamental constitutional power belonging to Congress. This safeguard against corruption can be initiated against federal officeholders from the lowest cabinet member, all the way up to the president and the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Besides providing the authority for impeachment, the U.S. Constitution details the methods to be used. The two-stage process begins in the House of Representatives with a public inquiry into allegations. It culminates, if necessary, with a trial in the Senate. State constitutions model impeachment processes for state officials on this approach. At both the federal and state levels, impeachment is rare: From the passage of the Constitution to the mid-1990s, only 50 impeachment proceedings were initiated, and only a third of these went as far as a trial in the Senate. The reluctance of lawmakers to use this power is a measure of its gravity; it is generally only invoked by evidence of criminality or substantial abuse of power.