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.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/7-10/14)
25 photos Launch gallery
1. Nite | to the tune of @cnn 😞
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2. Got so much work to do but I just wanna stay in bed and binge watch #Gameofthrones and start the new season of #OnceUponATime. I know I can't be the only one. Right? Ha 💤🦁🍂 #saturday
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3. Mommy's weekend turn up ❤️👶🏾💕🍼 Wouldn't trade it for nothing. #TeamNoSleep lol #HesMyBiggestBlessing ✨
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4. One of them oh shit mont we made it feelings … this shit still be unreal 💯💪🏾 @remyboymonty1738
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7. They want to kick you when you down, but kick it when you up
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8. Got my advance copy of #Mafia3 at @gamestop. Get yours via link in the bio #Mafia3 #Ad
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9. This is some of the cast and our diverse team of writers in the writer's room creating funny sh*t for @nbcmarlon what a fun room! Lots of jokes, great stories and having a great time doing what we love... making people laugh and feel something. Look out for our show next year @nbcmarlon we bringing sitcoms back to NBC
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10. #HappySunday☀️Thank you @4everbrandy101 💛💡💛
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11. Happy to be back in Central Falls, RI breaking ground for the One Stop Health Center and hosting a local community event with #Vaseline.
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12. Thank you all in advance 💋💋💋 #Repost @urbansvintage・・・#TarajiPHenson's memoir #AroundTheWayGirl will be available everywhere TODAY October 11th! Will you be purchasing a copy? #UrbansVintage
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13. Moms got my back
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14. @galore dinner party glo ✨ thanks to @styledbygiigii
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15. 🌹#ThisIsWhatTheTruthFeelsLikeTOUR #forevereve
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16. Yes, all those videos I've been posting have led to this: the introduction of skincare to @TYRABeauty! This is the rundown on the new line:Years of research and beauty tips I live by led me to produce the most effective and delightful skincare out there. I'm all about taking really good care of my skin, so I can look like I'm aging in #TyraYears and go filter free on Instagram when I feel like it! Now, it's your turn. ✨My Mama always told me not to wash my face with just my hands. "Tyra, girl, you're just moving the dirt around!" And I've listened. First up is The Clean Machine.... ...a 3-in-1 foaming face wash that cleanses, removes makeup and purified your skin. It has patented technology - a attached Turbo Cleansing Tool - to give you that deep clean that makes your skin feel super fresh. Wanna know more? Yeah, baby. Click that link in my bio.
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17. On set of #beingmaryjane like... ❤️😬💃🏾
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18. #carouselofhope@yvetteshelton100@makeupbylatrice @thestacetheface@marialuciahohan24
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19. I refuse to let a little cold stop me from my daily routines to greatness. #onlythestrongsurvive #warriors
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20. Big things begin with big THINKING... #BusinessEthics #SetLife 🎥
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21. Goodnight - here's a song
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22. Words can't explain the feeling that I have right now.....God is good. look momma I made it. #Harts #Blessed #WhatNow #comedicrockstarshit #4DaysAway
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23. I tried to get a better video with out the nasty bib but she started getting mad at me..lol! Big cuz @the_queen_caitlin trying to show her what to do. #MamasToots #HeirBear👑💜
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24. Gorgeous Serena joined Beyoncé in Formation last night on stage in New Jersey!!!
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