Pitfalls in Judges Judging Judges (Not)
Richard Cebull, the chief federal district court judge in Montana, went into damage control mode recently after newspaper reporters in his state discovered a racist and sexist email Cebull had sent to six close friends insinuating that President Obama’s mother had had sex with a dog.
Cebull, seeking to short-circuit the scandal he ignited, quickly requested that his peers on the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit (that includes Montana) investigate him to determine if he engaged in any inappropriate and/or unethical conduct.
Cebull’s request for a judicial council investigation raises the rarely examined issue of the practice of judges judging themselves on misconduct related matters.
Cebull had compounded his initial offense of sending the racist email by defending that email, telling reporters he considered the odious content anti-Obama not racist.
Federal law bars federal judges from engaging in both partisan and bigoted activity – twin requirements breached by Cebull’s action.
Cebull told his email receiving buddies that he hoped the content touched their hearts like “it did mine” – a lame attempt to spin the ugly content as a harmless joke.
So, what was the content Cebull considered touching enough to send to friends who forwarded that content to others?
“A little boy said to his mother, ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’ 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, days after requesting peer review, then sent an apology letter to President Obama, in which he said he accepted “full responsibility” for his egregious act and promised the President that it “will never happen again.”
In that letter, after informing Obama of his request for Judicial Council review, Cebull curiously stated that he “honestly [didn’t] know what else to do” – apparently blind to the obvious reality that honor to his oath of office to uphold the Constitution and to administer justice fairly requires his resignation.
If a judge (federal or state) can’t see the glaringly offensive racism and sexism in passing along content calling President Obama’s African father a dog and his mother someone who would have sex with a dog needs to resign because that jurist lacks a capacity essential for judging: recognizing wrong.
Many parties will never again see Cebull as possessing the capacity to preside in his courtroom in an impartial, non-biased/non-partisan manner required of judges.
When U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts issued his latest annual report on the judiciary, suspiciously at 6PM on Saturday December 31, 2011 – New Year’s Eve--Roberts expressed complete confidence in the integrity of judges, including his Supreme Court colleagues.