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Judge Richard Cebull Cebull retired from the federal bench May 3, 2014 / James Woodcock, AP

HELENA. Mont. ?? A group of Indian petitioners has asked a federal judge in California to locate and preserve the investigative file centered on a Montana judge who sent hundreds of inappropriate e-mails from his federal courthouse chambers.

The court action is part of a larger effort to force the release of four years' worth of e-mails from former Chief Montana U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull's federal e-mail account.

According to a January report from the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States release, Cebull sent hundreds of e-mails "related to race, politics, religion, gender, sexual orientation and politically sensitive issues that were inappropriate for Judge Cebull to have sent from his federal e-mail account."

Cebull retired from the federal bench May 3, following a nine-month investigation launched after the Great Falls Tribune revealed he forwarded a racist e-mail from his courthouse chambers containing an offensive joke about President Barack Obama.

Four Directions, a South Dakota-based nonprofit organization that advocates on behalf of Indians in the electoral process, is the lead petitioner in the action filed Tuesday.

Four Directions Executive Director Oliver Semans said minorities have an interest in accessing the file because the judicial conduct committee revealed a significant number of the e-mails Cebull sent included "jokes or commentary disparaging African Americans, Native Americans, Latinos - especially illegal immigrants - and women, and a few were anti-gay."

The judicial conduct committee found no evidence of bias in Cebull's rulings from the bench, but Semans said the public should have the opportunity to verify that claim.

"The federal courts have refused to make these e-mails public or to initiate an independent and transparent review of every case decided by former Judge Cebull that involved minority, LGBT, or women plaintiffs and defendants," Semans said in a statement.

The Office of the Circuit Executive declined to comment on the matter.

The advocacy group Indian People's Action and Sara Plains Feather, a member of Montana's Crow Tribe and a former litigant before Cebull, are the other petitioners in the action filed Tuesday.

Their petition asked a federal judge to force the judicial conduct committee and the executive for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to locate the investigative file and preserve its contents.

Semans said Four Directions first encountered Cebull when the group sued the state of Montana for the right to set up satellite voting offices on remote Indian reservations. Cebull, the original judge presiding over that case, ruled against the Indian plaintiffs in 2013. Cebull's order was later reversed by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Cebull was already under investigation by the 9th Circuit for sending a racist e-mail at the time he accepted the Indian voting rights lawsuit.

Semans said Cebull, who knew he sent hundreds of e-mails showing "disdain and disrespect for ... Native Americans," had a duty to recuse himself from that case and didn't.

Adams also reports for the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Group seeks release of judge's inappropriate e-mails

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