Judge to retire after sending racist email

HELENA, Mont. — A Montana federal judge will retire following an investigation into an e-mail he forwarded that included a racist joke involving President Obama.

US District Judge Richard Cebull had previously said he would step down as chief circuit judge and take a reduced caseload, but he informed the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit that he now intends to retire May 3.

The court posted a statement by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski online 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 e-mail, but appellate court spokesman David Madden could not say whether Cebull resigned because of the order.

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‘‘The misconduct process is confidential,’’ Madden said Wednesday. “I am not privy to what the order said, nor do I know what Judge Cebull’s motivations were.’’

Cebull wrote a letter of apology to Obama and filed a complaint against himself after The Great Falls Tribune published the contents of the e-mail, which included a joke about bestiality and the president’s mother.

The Billings judge forwarded the e-mail from his chambers to six people on Feb. 20, 2012, the paper said.