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Update on Judge Who Forwarded Racist Email

by Professor Will Huhn on March 2, 2012

in Uncategorized,Wilson Huhn

Roger Cebull, the Montana federal district court judge who forwarded a vile racist "joke" to his friends, has requested a review of his actions by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and is planning to formally apologize to President Obama.

Matt Volz and Matt Gouras of the Associated Press report that federal Judge Roger Cebull has initiated an appellate review of his actions for judicial misconduct and is planning to send President Obama a formal apology for forwarding an email message describing how the President's mother purportedly explained to her young son how he was drunkenly conceived and compared interracial sex to sex with a dog.

In particular, Volz and Gouras report that Cebull claims that he did not write the equally disturbing introduction to the joke, indicating that the writer had found this story "touching" and that he hoped that it would "touch the hearts" of his friends as it had his own.  The question then becomes did Cebull adopt that sentiment by forwarding the "joke."

Judge Cebull's "joke" is no different than Larry Flynt's offensive and outrageous cartoon about Rev. Jerry Falwell drunkenly having sex with his own mother.  The Supreme Court ruled that Flynt had a constitutional right to publish a parody about a public figure.  Just so, Judge Cebull had a constitutional right to say what he did about President Obama.  But no-one thinks that Larry Flynt should be a federal judge.

Cebull will now have an opportunity, as he should, to prove that he is not a racist.  Initiating the investigation and apologizing to the President are appropriate and commendable steps for the judge to take.

But how will he explain himself to all the American citizens who come before his court, and to all those whose lives are affected by the decisions he renders and has rendered?  He has shattered the trust that is essential to the administration of justice. That trust must be restored before Judge Cebull is permitted to perform his duties.


larry d. March 2, 2012 at 10:10 am

I don't see how the email compared interracial sex to sex with a dog, Professor. The joke was a twist on Obama's navel-gazing mopus, "Dreams from My Father," pointing out that the president's psychoses more closely match a mother-induced nightmare than some kind of idealistic yearning for his rabble rousing, abusive drunkard father. You seem to be projecting again with this dog sex thing. It's always hilarious how those who hear the dog whistles claim those who don't are the racists.

I know you feel magnanimous granting this federal judge the privilege of proving he's not a racist, but it reveals a fairly totalitarian mindset. In any case, no one trusts our justice system these days. There's just too many crackpot law professors, corrupt lawyer politicians, well-groomed ambulance chasers and other charlatans out there.

Tim Misny being the exception.

larry d. March 2, 2012 at 10:23 am

The race-hate trading has become a bore and the election hasn't even heated up, yet, but I've got a more interesting legal question that seems a lot more relevant to current realities:

Could Obama have "legally" assassinated Andrew Breitbart?

Of course the dark thought of such a crime has passed through many minds in the last day or two–it's an election year, Breitbart promised this past month to produce an incriminating video of Obama's college years, Breitbart's reported interview with Joe Arpaio yesterday afternoon, etc., etc.

I'm not implying it happened, but if it had, could it have been perfectly legal? Just as a matter of curiosity.

Obama certainly has been sowing the seeds–redefining "potential terrorist" as anyone who disagrees with his big government agenda, the assassination by executive order program, etc. What if it were revealed that Homeland Security did the deed, and Jay Carney said Breitbart was a security risk and it's all within the powers of the office? Would he be wrong, in a legal sense? Would democrats in congress dare to vote to impeach? Would liberal law professor bloggers raise any alarms?

It's interesting to ponder.

larry d. March 3, 2012 at 6:59 am


It's a tough one. Has Obama made it legal to assassinate folks who speak out against his policies, yet? I guess we'll know once we're sure it has happened.

grant marcus March 2, 2012 at 4:38 pm

I was shamed by the previous two comments on racism. These two people
were obviously white people who have never experienced 200+ years of bigotry,
slavery, lynching, civil and human rights violations, and in this day and age,
closet racism by professionals we depend on for judicial fairness and equity.
What Judge Richard Cebull did was not only wrong, it disgraces and violates the office he holds. His rulings in the future will always call into question his
bigotry and mysogeny. He needs to step down.
And for the previous two commenters, I suggest you read "Color Blindness"
by Tim Wise. He is white, and he speaks out against racism eloquently. And
he reminds us, "If white Americans won't speak out against racism, who will?"
Our history of racism is clear and white as snow, and we continue to put
that pure white blanket over it as if it were snow. We are snowed under by those tea-party racists cawing reverse racism. There are hundreds of
hate sites on the web. Our soldiers, who piss on the people they shoot, then
burn Korans have learned the power of racism from our country. Grouping any
people, black, brown, white, yellow, catholic, muslim, women, men, etc in a
way that expresses stereotypes and hatred is racism. This is what the judge
Let's hope he will finally do justice to his profession and resign.

larry d. March 2, 2012 at 5:18 pm

No one has never experienced 200 years of bigotry, except maybe Methuselah.

I only read books by black folk, but thanks for the tip. Reading the white man's propaganda has obviously turned you into a racist.

BigHappy March 2, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Is he racist? Maybe, maybe not. But here's the problems I have:

His job depends on his unbiased judgement. Judgement that is supposedly free of political or personal bias. He has proven by forwarding this email that he lacks, at least in this case, common sense. Further, he has admitted to his own self loathing of President Obama showing his inability to leave out a political bias. How exactly is he to be treated as a fair and impartial judge?

larry d. March 2, 2012 at 8:26 pm

It was pretty stupid to forward the email, no doubt. We've got scads of real stupid judges in this country.

He has not admitted that his loathing of Obama keeps him from looking at cases objectively, as far as I can tell. All judges have political biases.

Quidpro March 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

The judge, we must presume, is of above average intelligence and political acumen. Thus, even giving him every benefit of the doubt, at a minimum, he exhibited an alarming lack of judgment (a quality we expect in a judge) in forwarding the joke. What is to be done?

The Professor avers that the Judge should prove that he is not a racist. Proving the negative is notoriously difficult, as the Professor must know. And to whom is the proof to be offered? What proof could possibly satisfy Marcus who would apparently reject any evidence the Judge offered unless the Judge could also demonstrate that he had suffered over 200 years of "bigotry, slavery, lynching …."

As larry points out, all judges have political biases. At lease with this judge we know what they are. This may be the redeeming aspect of this kerfuffle. Why should we continmue the naive conceit that judges are above politics? Federal judges are appointed by partisan presidents to advance partisan goals.

Indeed, the Professor celebrates the politicization of judicial decisions when the results favor the political values he supports. Such as abortion, same-sex marriage, Obamacare etc. Consider Judge Vaughn Walker, who infamously "knew" the anti-homosexual motivations of the millions of California voters casting secret ballots when he struck down Proposition 8. Can anyone seriously doubt that Judge Walker is politically biased?

BigHappy March 3, 2012 at 8:21 pm

Sure they can. Just because the majority believes something doesn't make it just or legal in all cases. Slavery and segregation are good examples. In that case the judge applied equal rights / anti discrimination laws to prevent such actions from occurring. Popular vote for granting rights to a minority is quite simply asinine by definition alone.

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