The Limits of Judicial Speech - U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull and Virgin Islands Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall
Thursday, April 4, 2013
"U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull, the former chief judge in Montana who filed a complaint against himself last year after acknowledging that he sent a racist email about President Obama, has announced plans to retire by May 3.
"Cebull's move came after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit's Judicial Council issued its final order on March 15 regarding discipline against him. According to a formal statement by Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, the order will remain sealed pending the appeal process."
"Cebull sent the email to family and friends in February of last year from his work computer with the subject line "A Mom's Memory." The text said: "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!""
"By filing a complaint against himself on March 1 of last year, Cebull initiated the Judicial Council's investigation into whether his actions constituted misconduct under the Judicial Conduct and Disability Act. He faced potential discipline ranging from a public reprimand to impeachment. The Judicial Council also could have dismissed the complaint or declined to recommend discipline, opting instead for admonishment or a public apology."
Full article follows below...
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Per The Legal Intelligencer:
"Without clear direction from the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has decided that judicial opinions enjoy First Amendment protections of free speech.
"'The First Amendment prevents the government from criminally punishing a sitting judge's speech about one of his pending cases unless it poses a clear and present danger to the administration of justice,' wrote Third Circuit Judge D. Brooks Smith on behalf of the three-judge panel in In re Kendall. Also on the panel were Judge D. Michael Fisher and Senior Judge Jane R. Roth.
"The Third Circuit reversed the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, which had held Virgin Islands Superior Court Judge Leon Kendall, now retired, in criminal contempt for an opinion he issued in a contentious case over which he was presiding involving the death of a police officer.
"The initial finding of contempt against Kendall was an outgrowth of a dispute about a plea bargain in the underlying case that spun into bitterness between Kendall and the prosecutor after Kendall tried to enforce the plea bargain.
"The prosecutor filed a writ of mandamus with the Supreme Court of the Virgin Islands, which reversed Kendall's orders to enforce the plea agreement and remanded the case to him.
"Kendall later issued a 31-page opinion that included a denunciation of the Supreme Court's decision to grant the writ of mandamus — saying, among other things, that the Supreme Court's reasoning lacked merit and made no sense — and recused himself from presiding over the rest of the case because he had become dubious of the prosecutor and no longer believed him, according to the Third Circuit's opinion.
"'The Virgin Islands Supreme Court did not take Kendall's recalcitrance lying down,' Smith said."
Full article follows below...