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Four Directions Asks Court to Preserve Judge Cebull’s Bigoted E-mails for Review

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.


  1. mike from iowa 2014.07.05

    As has been stated before,these judges were appointed due to their ideology,first and foremost. Courts were stacked with ideologues when dumbass dubya had a complicit congress to okay these choices.

  2. Bill Dithmer 2014.07.05

    I have been following the Cebull problem since Ips original thread. I have yet to see where he was proven to misuse his robe. He sure could have been a homophob, and a racist, but there have never been any direct links to his mishandling cases.

    Sure the verdicts might not have been to the liking of everyone involved, but does that rise to the level that would allow Four Directions to go on a fishing expedition?

    If Four Directions, is looking to reopen cases, they will need more then emails to do that, they need to prove that the judge has used his pridjudice in his court rulings. If they cant do that without the fishing expedition, their case will never fly.

    Like Cory said, theres no law against being a racist or a homophob.

    The Blindman

  3. bret healy 2014.07.05


    Stay tuned - if you have been following since the publication of the initial email, surely you know that the "review" conducted interviewed attorneys in Montana and they unsurprisingly said Cebull's racism did not affect his judicial decisions. Now, do you suppose that attorneys that practice in a court would actually do anything to call out a sitting federal judge?

    If you believe that, I will sell you some beachfront property in Pukwana, SD.

    The only solution if the Court has nothing to hide is to release all the emails - and the officers of the court, court staff, and public officials that sent to or received from Cebull his racist, misogynist, and anti-gay emails.

  4. Bill Dithmer 2014.07.05

    Bret except for one thing, he's no longer a sitting judge, is he?

    Wishful thinking doesn't go very far in a court of law, you can be as right as can be and still have a decision go the other way. So far nobody has shown that the Judge broke the law. So far others are either reluctant to step forward, or there isnt a good enough reason in their mind to do so.

    Either way the going will be all up hill for Four Directions.

    The Blindman

  5. larry kurtz 2014.07.05

    "The judges in charge of discipline in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals apparently did everything possible to hide the investigation findings from the public and never called Cebull to account publicly. Complainants weren’t told whether their complaints were being investigated, and most were not."

    Read more:

  6. Roger Cornelius 2014.07.05

    Not only should Cebull's emails be made public, every decision he made as a judge should be under judicial review.

    Obviously there is something to hide by protecting his emails, what is it?

  7. bret healy 2014.07.05


    He was a sitting judge when the investigation happened. It is no doubt a tough battle Four Directions is undertaking as the Court tried to keep even the investigation report concealed.


    Great catch on the Billings Gazette editorial - it draws an interesting contrast.

  8. larry kurtz 2014.07.05

    Roger: the current Democratic governor was likely on Cebull's distribution list as well as Donald Molloy and Jeffrey Sherwood. Somebody finally had enough.

  9. larry kurtz 2014.07.05

    Sherlock, my error.

  10. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.07.05

    I have to disagree with my hero.

    Blindman, I don't see that absolute proof is possible unless that lousy Cebull admits it. But I think a reasonable person could say that if Cebull feels so much dislike/hatred/disgust for certain groups who come before him, odds are very good that affected his judgment. That's why the option of recusal exists.

    Therefore, every decision he made that affected anyone other than another straight white man, needs to be reviewed. Yes, that may be a big load, but justice is not optional, especially in the face of such blatant bigotry.

    The fact that it will be difficult for everyone involved does not mean that the effort should not be made. What could be more American than that?!

  11. Douglas Wiken 2014.07.07

    Should all e-mails from and to Tribal chairmen and judges, etc be made public?

Comments are closed.