South Dakota civil rights organization Four Directions continues to fight racism in the judicial system, This week, Four Directions petitioned the Federal Northern District Court of California to preserve the investigation file on Judge Richard Cebull. Judge Cebull heard and dismissed the Wandering Medicine voting rights lawsuit in 2012 while being investigated for improper use of his federal e-mail account. Shortly after Cebull's 2012 ruling against Montana's American Indian voter plaintiffs, racist e-mails from his account came to light. A federal judicial panel subsequently reported that Cebull sent hundreds of racist, sexist, and inflammatory e-mails. Cebull retired in May 2013. The Wandering Medicine case got a new hearing, and plaintiffs won a favorable if imperfect settlement.
Four Directions and fellow petitioners Indian Peoples Action from Montana think that a judge who harbors and promotes racism and bigotry probably shouldn't have been hearing cases affecting minority rights. To hold Judge Cebull accountable for any denials of justice that may have occurred at his bench, Four Directions and Indian Peoples Action want the federal court to make Cebull's e-mail trail available for public review:
Four Directions first ran into the troubling conduct of former Judge Cebull when he did not recuse himself (as he had a duty to do on a case revolving around race) from the Wandering Medicine vs McCulloch voting rights case in early October, 2012.
Cebull again and again during the Wandering Medicine hearing took the proceedings off the record in his attempt to intimidate the lawyers for the Wandering Medicine plaintiffs.
“It is simply time for the Committee on Judicial Conduct and Disability to make public these emails as well as the list of officers of the court and public officials who received these emails and did nothing,” said Semans. “Justice is best served when the public knows that the Court is not covering up the evidence of this deplorable judicial behavior” [Four Directions, press release, 2014.07.01].
It's not illegal to be a racist or a bigot, but it's not cool to put American Indians, homosexuals, and other litigants at a disadvantage by refusing to step aside and let fairer judges give their cases a twenty-first-century hearing. Four Directions is right: the public has a right to know the exact nature of Cebull's vile speech and determine for themselves if he was able to render justice effectively.