HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s chief federal judge will retire following an investigation into an email he forwarded that included a racist joke involving President Barack Obama.

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull had previously announced he would step down as chief circuit judge and take a reduced caseload, but he informed the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that he now intends to fully retire May 3.

The appellate court posted a statement by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski on its website Tuesday announcing Cebull had submitted the retirement letter.

The March 29 letter comes after the appellate court’s Judicial Council issued a March 15 order on the investigation into the February 2012 email.

The council’s order will remain confidential during an appeal period, the statement said.

A Cebull aide directed calls for comment to Clerk of Court Tyler Gilman, who said Wednesday that Cebull would not have any comment other than the court’s statement.

He declined to release the resignation letter or describe what it said.

Appellate Court spokesman David Madden did not return a call.

Cebull wrote a letter of apology to Obama and filed a complaint against himself after The Great Falls Tribune published the contents of the email, which included a joke about bestiality and the president’s mother.

The Billings judge forwarded the email from his chambers to six other people on Feb. 20, the newspaper reported.

Two other groups also demanded an investigation, with one, the Montana Human Rights Network, starting an online petition calling for Cebull’s resignation.

Kim Abbott, the network’s co-director, said Wednesday she was pleased with the announcement but hopes to see the results of the investigation.

“The email really called into question his ability to treat women and people of color fairly, so we’re happy Montanans will get to appear before a different judge,” Abbott said.

The complaints were referred to a special committee appointed by the appellate court to investigate whether Cebull’s email constituted misconduct.

Kozinski’s statement said the committee submitted a report to the Judicial Council in December after “a thorough and extensive investigation” that included interviews with witnesses and Cebull and going over related documents. The council issued its order based on that report.

The statement says the Judicial Council will not comment further until Cebull’s retirement is effective.

Cebull previously said he would take senior status March 18, which would have allowed another judge to be appointed while he continued working with a reduced caseload.

U.S. Sen. Max Baucus then formed a committee to replace Cebull and another judge taking senior status, with Baucus recently recommending that Obama appoint state District Judge Susan Watters of Billings to take Cebull’s spot on the bench.

The new chief federal judge, U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, plans to meet with other judges to discuss how to handle the Cebull’s cases, Gilman said.

Cebull was a Billings attorney for nearly 30 years before becoming a U.S. magistrate in Great Falls in 1998.

He became a district judge in 2001 and has served as chief judge of the District of Montana since 2008.

Cebull’s notable cases include his block of reopening of the U.S. border to cattle in 2005, two years after the U.S. banned Canadian cattle and beef products over fears of mad-cow disease. The 9th Circuit overturned that decision.

Cebull also presided over a lawsuit filed by landowners against Exxon Mobil Corp. over the cleanup following last year’s pipeline spill of 1,500 gallons into the Yellowstone River.

(Photo: AP)

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7 thoughts on “Judge to Retire After Sending Racist Obama Email

  1. Victoria Stith on said:

    It’s disrespectful toward the President a beastiality commment, but beastiality and his mother. The President’s mother died many years ago and if I’m correct she died of cancer. I agree with DDavis this person gets to retire with full benefits that is so wrong. That’s why other countries disrespect the USA because of people like this “judge”.

  2. DDavis on said:

    What I find disappointing is that he will retire with FULL salary and benefits. The people of the state will still be supporting him. I would feel better if he was fired and had to stand in the unemployment lines like the majority of African Americans today.

  3. Deborah Jones on said:

    Wow Pressident Obama contiues to have haters coming out of the woodwork
    And it just proves that ingnorance is rampant
    However no matter how many masses of haters that the president might have it still doesnt change the fact that he is the Comander and Chief of this Country so my advice to all of the ney sayers is to
    suck it up

  4. And his kind loves to point out that it’s more minorities incarcerated for crimes than non-minorities. Really? Do you really think minorities can get a fair judgement with people like him? And trust and believe there are many like him. However, we don’t need to help them by making bad choices either.

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