U. S. Judge Richard Cebull would serve the nation, the federal bench and the interests of justice if he would resign promptly.
Cebull, Montana's chief federal judge, used a federal computer system in his Billings office to send an email mocking President Barack Obama and his mother to six friends.
By any standards, it was a racist diatribe.
The text of the message: 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."
The email is racist and offensive. We would be appalled hearing such a story from a drunkard at last call in a sleazy bar.
But Cebull is a federal judge, and his job is to protect the rights of all people and to maintain the highest judicial standards so the public will have faith in the judicial system.
He failed miserably, and his reputation as a judge is irreparable.
The judge sent the message out to six buddies, but fortunately, the email fell into the right hands — a reporter who quickly filed a news story on the despicable email.
Cebull acknowledged that the email was racist, but he said he sent it because he dislikes Obama and his policies, not because he is a racist.
The email did not mention Obama's policies — though even that would have violated the canons of judicial ethics. Judges are to remain neutral on any case that could conceivably come before them.
Cebull's total lack of common sense in this case could affect his standing on thousands of cases that might come before him.
How would any African-American plaintiff or defendant feel appearing before Cebull?
Would any Native American feel confident in the American system of justice appearing before such a bigoted judge?
Would the public have any confidence in a decision handed down by Cebull in a case involving Obama or any of his policies? Remember, federal cases on topics ranging from medical marijuana to national monuments to campaign financing may come before the federal bench in Montana.
Every decision Cebull would make on these cases or any other case would be brought into question.
The entire federal judiciary has suffered a blow because of the judge's indiscretions. The public's perceptions of the court system have suffered.
Cebull can do nothing to restore the public confidence in the court system, but he can lessen the damage.
Federal judges serve for life. Any teacher, doctor, public official or reporter who engaged in such activities would get booted out the door with no delay.
But we're stuck with Cebull unless he is impeached by the House of Representative and removed from office by the U. S. Senate. That is a lengthy, cumbersome, rarely used process.
Such a drawn-out drama would further diminish the public's respect for the federal judiciary.
Cebull can do a massive favor to the public, to African-Americans and other minorities, and to his hard-working, honest colleagues on the bench.
He can end this sordid affair now by simply stepping down.