US judge says sorry to Obama over racist joke

LOS ANGELES - A senior US judge has written to President Barack Obama apologizing for a racist joke he sent in an email, and has also initiated a judicial complaint procedure against himself.

Richard Cebull, chief US district judge in Montana, said earlier this week that he sent the email to a small group of friends because he is opposed to Obama. He acknowledged it was racist, but denied being racist himself.

After an uproar following his admission – made to a local newspaper which obtained a copy of the email – Cebull wrote personally to Obama on Thursday, according to the US Ninth Circuit court, of which Cebull is part.

“Dear Mr. President, I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded. I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself,” he said in the letter, a copy of which was posted online.

“I can assure you that such action on my part will never happen again. I have requested that the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit review this matter. Honestly, I don’t know what else I can do.

“Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology.”

The offensive joke, forwarded by Cebull to six “old buddies” from his official court email address on February 20, compared African Americans to dogs.

It was preceded by the comment: “Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this.”

Cebull, who was nominated by former president George W. Bush and has served as chief judge for the District of Montana since 2008, had already apologized to “anybody who is offended by it.”

“The only reason I can explain it to you is I am not a fan of our president, but this goes beyond not being a fan,” he said, quoted by Great Falls Tribune newspaper.

“I didn’t send it as racist, although that’s what it is. I sent it out because it’s anti-Obama,” he said.

In a letter to Ninth Circuit Court chief judge Alex Kozinski, also published online, Cebull requested that he “conduct an inquiry as to whether recent activity of mine constitutes misconduct.”

A statement by the Ninth Circuit said: “Chief District Judge Cebull has publicly acknowledged that he has acted inappropriately.”

“Chief Judge Kozinski has informed the Judicial Council of the Ninth Circuit of the complaint. The Judicial Council is expected to act expeditiously in investigating and resolving this matter.”