Thanks to this week's big news in the Smithkline Beecham case, where the Ninth Circuit held that gays are protected by a heightened form of scrutiny, a full report of retired Judge Richard Cebull's misconduct, which was released on the eve of the holiday weekend, got swept under the rug.
We missed out on misconduct? Say it ain't so. Lets take a closer look, shall we?
Judge Cebull's Email Scandal
Last year, we covered Judge Cebull's retirement in the wake of an email scandal. The former Chief District Judge for the District of Montana, Cebull had forwarded an inappropriate (to put it mildly) email about President Barack Obama that he admitted was racist, though he explained that it was only out of personal animosity towards the president.
Cebull requested a judicial inquiry into his own conduct and got one. Before the report was released, however, he retired, and the Ninth Circuit kept the report under wraps.
On Friday, the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability of the Judicial Conference of the United States (they really need a shorter name) ordered that the Ninth Circuit's report be made public, and now, for the first time, we know exactly why Judge Cebull retired.
(The committee also, by the way, illuminated a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge's travel reimbursement scandal, which forced him to resign as well.)
Hundreds of Inappropriate Emails
The Ninth Circuit's investigators found hundreds of inappropriate emails, including some that disparaged liberal politicians, some that were racist, some that were homophobic, and some that practiced faith-based prejudice. He ran the gamut of political incorrectness in his inbox, apparently.
The Billings Gazette notes that 10 other complaints against Cebull were, without explanation, not investigated and argues that the Ninth Circuit's cover-up is a "breach of judicial ethics and public trust."
Did the Ninth Circuit Act Unethically?
This does have a fishy look to it, doesn't it? One of their own gets accused of misconduct. He retires, so they hold back the disciplinary report that would have embarrassed him.
Plus, the report was incomplete and didn't investigate 10 other complaints against the judge.
Reasonable minds could differ on how far the Ninth should have gone with this. After all, once he retired, the issue really is moot, isn't it? Why keep digging, other then for the sake of embarrassing an already embarrassed judge.
Then again, looking fishy and the appearance of favoritism is exactly the issue, isn't it? What's that judicial conduct phrase that the judges themselves are supposed to abide by -- avoiding the "appearance of impropriety"?
- Bloggers, Even Corrupt Ones, Get Same Protections as Journalists (FindLaw's U.S. Ninth Circuit Blog)
- Letter Besmirching Kozinski Asks: Can a Chief Judge Be a Litigant? (FindLaw's U.S. Ninth Circuit Blog)
- Reader Asks: Is It Ethical For Judges to Tweet? (FindLaw's Strategist)