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Judge sent hundreds of bigoted emails

HELENA, Mont. — A former Montana judge who was being investigated for forwarding a racist email involving President Barack Obama sent hundreds of other inappropriate messages from his federal email account, according to the findings of a judicial review panel released Friday.

Former U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sent emails to personal and professional contacts that showed disdain for blacks, Indians, Hispanics, women, certain religious faiths and some with inappropriate jokes about sexual orientation, the Judicial Council of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found.

A large number of emails also related to pending issues that could have come before Cebull’s court, such as immigration, gun control, civil rights, health care and environmental issues, the council found in its March 2013 order.

The council issued Cebull a public reprimand, ordered no new cases be assigned to him for 180 days, ordered him to complete training on judicial ethics, racial awareness and elimination of bias and ordered him to issue a second public apology that would acknowledge “the breadth of his behavior.”

None of those orders took effect and the findings did not become public until Friday. Cebull, who was the Montana chief federal judge based in Billings, announced his resignation on March 29, two weeks after the judicial council issued its order.

After Cebull retired May 3, the council vacated its previous order and wrote a new one calling the complaints against Cebull “moot” because of his retirement.

The 9th Circuit panel also rewrote the order to omit details about the findings of the other emails Cebull had sent.

The changes prompted one federal judge to accuse the council of concealing Cebull’s misconduct and petition a national judicial council to review the proceedings.

The Judicial Conference of the United States took up the review and ordered the documents to be released for the first time Friday.

“The imperative of transparency of the complaint process compels publication of orders finding judicial misconduct,” the national judicial panel wrote in its decision.

A phone number listed under Cebull’s name was disconnected Friday, and an after-hours phone call to the U.S. District Court in Billings went unanswered.

Cebull, himself, and at least one other group requested the misconduct investigation after The Great Falls Tribune reported Cebull forwarded an email in February 2012 that included a joke about bestiality and Obama’s mother. Cebull apologized to Obama after the contents of the email were published.

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