Richard F. Cebull

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Richard F. Cebull
Judge Cebull2.JPG
Senior Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana
In office
March 18, 2013 – May 3, 2013
Chief Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana
In office
Preceded byDonald W. Molloy
Succeeded byDana L. Christensen
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana
In office
July 25, 2001 – March 18, 2013
Appointed byGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byJack D. Shanstrom
Succeeded bySusan P. Watters
Magistrate Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana
In office
Personal details
Born1944 (age 75–76)
Billings, Montana
EducationMontana State University (B.S.)
University of Montana School of Law (J.D.)

Richard Frank Cebull (born 1944) is a former United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Billings, Montana, and raised in Roundup, Montana,[1] Cebull received his Bachelor of Science from Montana State University (1966) and his Juris Doctor from the University of Montana Law School (1969). He was in private practice in Montana (1969–97) and a Trial Judge of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Court (1970–72).

Federal judicial service[edit]

Cebull served as a United States Magistrate Judge for the District of Montana from 1998 to 2001. On May 17, 2001, Cebull was nominated by President George W. Bush to a seat on the United States District Court for the District of Montana vacated by Jack D. Shanstrom. Cebull was confirmed by the United States Senate on July 20, 2001, and received his commission on July 25, 2001. He became chief judge in 2008.

In a 2002 case brought by natural beef producers, the Charter family, against the United States Department of Agriculture, Cebull upheld the constitutionality of the Beef Promotion and Research Act of 1985, a government-mandated commodity checkoff program for the United States beef industry.[2] The Charter family objected to being forced to pay into the fund, thus associated against their will with political and economic positions taken by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the primary checkoff contractor.[3] Cebull ruled that "The federal government created and controls the beef checkoff program. … Because the government may utilize private speakers to disseminate content-oriented speech, the [Beef] Act does not violate the rights of free speech or association."[4] The ruling was vacated and remanded by the Ninth Circuit in 2005.[5]

In 2004, Cebull granted the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund and the United Stockgrowers of America an injunction against imports of Canadian cattle over concerns of a potential bovine spongiform encephalopathy outbreak. After rulings from the United States Department of Agriculture and protests from the Canadian government, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed Cebull's injunction in July 2005.[6]

Judicial misconduct and resignation[edit]

On February 20, 2012, Cebull used his official courthouse email address to forward to seven friends an email containing a racially charged[7][8][9] joke about President Barack Obama. In the joke, "A little boy said to his mother; 'Mommy, how come I'm black and you're white?' His mother replied, 'Don't even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you're lucky you don't bark!'" Cebull said he "didn't send it as racist," but rather "sent it out because it's anti-Obama."[9] On March 1, 2012, Cebull initiated a misconduct complaint against himself with the Ninth Circuit[10] and sent a letter of apology to Obama and his family.[11] The Crow Tribal Legislature and a New York Times editorial called for his resignation or impeachment.[12][13]

On October 4, 2012, United States Courts spokeswoman Karen Redmond said Cebull would take senior status March 18, 2013. Cebull took reduced caseload but still drew a salary and kept a staff.[14] On April 3, 2013, it was announced that Judge Cebull would retire, concluding the misconduct investigation begun by his own self-report.[15] He fully retired on May 3, 2013.[16] An investigation by the Judicial Council of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revealed that Cebull had sent hundreds of "racist, sexist and politically inflammatory" e-mail messages over four years.[17]


  1. ^ "Court Announcement" (PDF). United States District Court, District of Montana. 29 March 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 May 2013. He was born in Billings and raised in Roundup, Montana.
  2. ^ Kaiser, Harry Mason (2005). Economics of commodity promotion programs: lessons from California. Peter Lang, ISBN 978-0-8204-7271-3
  3. ^ Bohrer, Becky (November 2, 2002). Checkoff program ruled constitutional for Montana beef. Associated Press
  4. ^ Charter v. USDA, 230 F.Supp.2d 1121 (D.Mont. 2002)
  5. ^ Charter v. USDA, 412 F.3d 1017 (9th Cir. 2005)
  6. ^ Price-Smith, Andrew T. (2009). Contagion and chaos: disease, ecology, and national security in the era of globalization. MIT Press, ISBN 978-0-262-66203-1
  7. ^ "Federal judge says he sent racist Obama email". Associated Press. 1 March 2012. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  8. ^ "Chief U.S. District Judge sends racially charged email about president". Great Falls Tribune. February 29, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Chief U.S. District Judge sends racially charged email about president". The Lowdown. 29 February 2012. Retrieved 10 April 2012.
  10. ^ Circuit Statement Regarding Montana Judge
  11. ^ "Letter to President Barack Obama" (PDF). Ninth Circuit. March 1, 2012. Retrieved March 2, 2012.
  12. ^ Johnson, Clair (19 March 2012). "Crow Legislature calls for Judge Cebull's removal". Billings Gazette. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  13. ^ Editorial staff (March 5, 2012). Judge Cebull’s Racist ‘Joke.’ New York Times
  14. ^ Johnson, Clair (4 October 2012). "Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull to take senior status; Cebull under investigation for alleged misconduct". Billings Gazette. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  15. ^ Johnson, Clair (3 April 2013). "Cebull set to retire May 3 as misconduct investigation concludes". Billings Gazette. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  16. ^ Reilly, Ryan J. (3 April 2013). "Richard Cebull, Federal Judge Who Sent Racist Obama Email, Retires". Huffington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  17. ^ Egelko, Bob (January 20, 2014). "Judge Richard Cebull sent hundreds of racist e-mails, panel says". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 22 January 2014.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Jack D. Shanstrom
Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Montana
Succeeded by
Susan P. Watters