Court Withholds Judicial Probe Results for Review

By Beacon Staff

HELENA — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is withholding the results of a misconduct probe into former U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull pending a review of his resignation.

He retired on May 3 after the 9th Circuit’s Judicial Council completed an investigation into Cebull’s conduct in forwarding a racist email involving President Barack Obama. Cebull, who was the Montana chief federal judge based in Billings, announced his resignation in a March 29 letter, about two weeks after the Judicial Council issued an order in the investigation.

The council’s order and its findings have not been publicly released, nor has Cebull’s resignation letter.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said in April the Judicial Council would have no statement on the investigation until Cebull’s retirement was effective.

Now the public will have to wait longer for that information from the council.

On the day of Cebull’s retirement, court officials posted another statement from Kozinski on the 9th Circuit’s website, saying the council’s order was to remain confidential until an appeal period ended on May 17. But the judge’s resignation and retirement appears to have changed that.

“The Judicial Council now finds it necessary to review the procedural status and will consider the matter at its next regular meeting,” which is set for June 28, Kozinski’s May 3 statement says.

Court spokesman David Madden declined to elaborate on the statement or say whether the documents would be made public after the meeting. He also has declined to say whether Cebull’s resignation was directly related to the investigation.

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.

A special committee interviewed witnesses and pored through documents before submitting a report in December to the Judicial Council. The council issued its order and memorandum on March 15.

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