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HELENA, Mont. (AP) - An order from a panel of federal judges on the findings of a misconduct investigation into U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull is moot because the judge resigned, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Monday.

Cebull retired on May 3 after the 9th Circuit's Judicial Council completed an investigation into his conduct in forwarding a racist email involving President Barack Obama. Cebull, who was the Montana chief federal judge based in Billings, announced his resignation in a March 29 letter, two weeks after the Judicial Council issued a March 15 order in the investigation.

The panel has withheld releasing to the public the order and accompanying memorandum on the investigation. Cebull's resignation letter also has not been released.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski at first said there would be no statement until after Cebull's resignation. On May 3, Kozinski released another statement saying the council would review the matter on June 28.

Late Monday, after an Associated Press story on the delay in releasing the results of the investigation, the Judicial Council issued a new order saying its previous March 15 order is now moot.

"In light of Judge Cebull's May 3, 2013 retirement ... and the resulting change of circumstances, the Council will consider appropriate revisions to the Order and Memorandum at its next meeting, scheduled for June 28, 2013," the order read.

It is unclear whether the documents will be made public after the meeting. Court spokesman David Madden also has declined to say whether Cebull's resignation was directly related to the investigation.

Cebull himself and at least one other group requested the misconduct investigation after The Great Falls Tribune reported Cebull forwarded an email in February 2012 that included a joke about bestiality and Obama's mother. Cebull apologized to Obama after the contents of the email were published.

A special committee interviewed witnesses and pored through documents before submitting a report in December to the Judicial Council.


(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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