UPDATE: Three right-wing state legislators in Montana have come to Judge Richard Cebull's defense, with one even ridiculously thanking Cebull for exercising his "freedom of speech."
The judge's reckless and offensive email had nothing to do with free speech. A federal judge is free to hate the president and his policies, just as other Americans are. And he is free to privately tell his friends that, just as other Americans do. But Judge Cebull used his official government email address to make a statement that has now become very public.
It is important that Americans see their judges as neutral arbiters, not as political figures. Therefore, it is imperative that Judge Cebull resign.
If a football referee is known to have grossly insulted some of the teams, then acknowledges that he did so because he strongly dislikes them, would anyone want him refereeing a game they cared about? Would anyone trust his calls?
Good referees are constrained in what they can say about the teams whose games they oversee, not because they don't have freedom of speech, but because they accept voluntary constraints as part of their job description. With Judge Cebull, we are talking not about the integrity of a sports league, but rather the integrity of the American justice system.
Judge Cebull is unfit to judge. Speak out now. And then please help spread the word.
Thank you for all that you do.
From: Ben Betz, People For the American Way
Sent: Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Subject: Judge's Racist, Misogynist Email Targets Obama's Mom
"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. Is sent it out because it's anti-Obama." -- Judge Cebull
A Tea Party federal Judge was so blinded by his hate for President Obama that he used his official email to forward a disgusting "joke" attacking the president's deceased mother.
Judge Richard Cebull, the chief Federal District Court judge in Montana, admitted that sending the email to his personal contacts -- from his official email account on a government computer -- showed "terrible judgment" and that he was aware that the joke was racist, but that he did not send it because it was racist. He sent it because it was "anti-Obama." And, in his eyes, that made it okay.
Judge Cebull submitted himself for disciplinary review to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Montana, and wrote a seemingly sincere apology to the president in which he said, "Honestly, I don't know what else I can do." Well that's easy -- he can and should resign.
Last week, PFAW called for his resignation. This week, we were joined by editorial boards both in Montana and at the New York Times.
Judge Cebull's hatred for the president is so extreme that he forwarded on a very personal attack that he KNEW was racist and tasteless. He did it because it was, in his words, "anti-Obama." Welcome to the Tea Party Era.
The Far Right's hate rhetoric against this president has created an environment where even people who should know better consider racist, misogynist attacks ... even attacks on his deceased mother, fair game. Nothing is out of bounds if its purpose is to denigrate or hurt the president.
You've heard the term "snow blind" -- Judge Cebull was "hate blind." And that hate blindness surely led to his transgression. Regardless of what led to it, his action clearly shows a severe lack of judgment, potential bias, and a temperament unbecoming of a federal judge. He needs to step down now.
Thank you for standing up against Tea Party extremism and right-wing hate.
-- Ben Betz, Online Strategy Manager
P.S. Rep. John Conyers has now called for a congressional hearing "to consider the full ramifications of Judge Cebull's conduct on integrity of the federal judiciary," and to consider possible "further investigation or possible legislative action."
Congressional attention is certainly warranted and welcome, but Judge Cebull should take it upon himself to do the right thing and step down.