The Crow Tribal Legislature is calling on Montana's congressional delegation to take steps to remove Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull from office for a racist email message that the judge forwarded to others.
In a resolution adopted at a special session March 14, the Legislature said the judge's emails "cast serious question as to his judicial objectivity and respect for racial minorities and persons of a different political persuasion, and accordingly, are not befitting the desired character of a judge in an American jurisdiction."
Crow Sen. Leroy Not Afraid, who introduced the resolution and represents the Valley of the Chiefs District at Lodge Grass, said Monday, "If we remain silent, then we accept the actions of Judge Cebull as being OK."
Not Afraid, who also is the Big Horn County justice of the peace, said he was speaking out as a senator and not as a justice of the peace.
Cebull has publicly apologized and has asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for a review of his actions in forwarding a racist and sexist email about President Barack Obama from his office computer to several friends last month.
A number of organizations and politicians have called on Cebull to resign, saying his conduct has violated codes of conduct. The Montana Human Rights Network and Common Cause, a nonpartisan political watchdog group, have filed formal complaints against the judge with the 9th Circuit.
"If Judge Cebull was going to resign, I believe he would have done it a long time ago," Not Afraid said.
Cebull's behavior, Not Afraid said, casts "a shadow of doubt" with members of the Crow Tribe that will go before him and raises legal questions of jurisdiction and venue regarding the Crow Nation as a government.
Most major crimes committed on the Crow Reservation and on most Indian reservations are heard in U.S. District Court.
The Legislature "affirms the American ideal and commitment to equal protection of the law and justice for all, especially as it pertains to the Crow Tribe and individual Crow tribal members who stand before a federal judge seeking justice," the resolution said.
The resolution asks Montana Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester, both Democrats, and Rep. Denny Rehberg, a Republican, to take steps to ensure that Congress impeaches and removes the judge. Federal district judges are appointed for life but can be removed from office by the impeachment process. Cebull was appointed to the bench in 2001 by President George W. Bush.
Not Afraid said the letters were sent to the Montana delegation last Friday and the Legislature has not yet received a response.