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.