The IR’s editorial, Think Twice Before Hitting Send (March 6), rightly acknowledges that Richard Cebull, chief U.S. district court judge for Montana, gave our state and the U.S. justice system “a black eye” when he forwarded a racist and obscene email about President Obama and his mother to six friends, using his government computer to do so. While the IR editorial board calls Cebull’s actions a “big mistake,” and urges better judgment by all using the Internet, we believe a much stronger stance is warranted, given the egregious nature of the judge’s conduct. Judge Cebull should resign from the bench and we call on him to do so immediately.
Calls for Cebull’s resignation have already come from, among others, Common Cause, the Federal Bar Association, the Montana Human Rights Network and the New York Times. We think our neighbors at the Havre Daily News put it best in a March 2 editorial calling for Judge Cebull to step down immediately over this “sordid affair.” The Havre paper points out that the email message circulated by Judge Cebull was a racist diatribe which one would be appalled hearing from “a drunkard at last call in a sleazy bar,” let alone from a sitting federal judge sworn to protect the rights of all people.
According to news reports, Judge Cebull has admitted that the email he sent is racist but explains he sent it, not because he is a racist, but because he doesn’t like the president. His actions — and his explanation — call into question his ability to be impartial in cases which may come before him involving minorities, women or the current administration. In addition, his continuing presence on the bench undermines efforts of countless parents and educators in our community to teach our youth about the consequences of irresponsible Internet use. Our schools are cautioning children that coveted scholarships or even admission to certain colleges may be jeopardized by inappropriate email messages or Facebook postings, yet Judge Cebull is still presiding over a federal courtroom. To quote again from the Havre Daily News, “any teacher, doctor, public official or reporter who engaged in such activities would get booted out the door with no delay.” But as a federal judge, Cebull serves for life unless impeached.
If Judge Cebull is half the man his defenders say he is, he will step down immediately.
Co-signed by Rev. Tyler Amundson; Betsy Baur; Joan and Don Bishop; Terry Chute and Jane Kollmeyer; Ed Thomson; Terry Cohea; Tim Coulter; Mamie Flinn and Neil Kurtz; Judy Hart; Sarah Jaeger; Susan Miles and Wilbur Rehmann; Taffy Miller; Rev. Marianne Niesen; Samantha Sanchez; Yvonne Seng; Janet Tatz; Duane Wright; and Heidi Youmans.