"A federal judge in Montana who used official court email to circulate a racist joke about President Barack Obama has acknowledged the indiscretion and initiated a misconduct complaint against himself, court officials said on Thursday.
The scandal prompted government ethics watchdog group Common Cause and the Montana Human Rights Network to call on Thursday for the resignation of the Billings-based judge, Richard Cebull, the chief judge for the U.S. judicial district in Montana.
The email in question came to public light when it was published on Wednesday by the Great Falls Tribune, which received a copy forwarded to the newspaper by someone else in the chain of the email's distribution.
The subject line of the two-paragraph email, sent from Cebull's courthouse email account on February 20 to various friends and acquaintances, according to the newspaper, reads: "A MOM'S MEMORY."
The text starts out saying, "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. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine."
The joke that followed included a lewd reference to Obama's biracial parentage.
Under the U.S. Constitution, federal judges are appointed for life and can be removed only through congressional impeachment, a process that has rarely resulted in a judge's dismissal.
He has publicly admitted sending the email. He told the Great Falls Tribune in an interview published on Wednesday, "I apologize to anybody who is offended by it, and I can obviously understand why people would be offended."
It was a rather good joke:
"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!'"