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March 2012


How to Become a Bounty Hunter

Column: Criminal Justice Prof Would Sign Petition to Pressure Fed Judge to Resign Over Racist Joke

Marvin Zalman is a professor in the Criminal Justice Department at Wayne State University. He teaches classes on constitutional criminal procedure, criminal justice policy and wrongful convictions. He was commenting on a column about a  racist joke that Chief Judge Richard Cebull circulated via email.

Prof Marvin Zalman

By Marvin Zalman

I too was outraged by the racist remarks of Judge Richard Cebull.

As one who respects judicial independence and appreciates the ways in which our justice system is, in its own peculiar way, political, I would oppose any move to impeach the judge, although I believe that Circuit sanctioning is possible.

I find your comment, however, to be one that I could agree with. Namely, I’d sign a petition asking/calling for the judge to resign depending on the language of such a petition and the organization calling for his resignation.

Federal judges have to be given the widest latitude for diverse opinions and views, and in my view should never be subjected to impeachment threats (other than for bribery or other real crimes) no matter how odious their views.

On the other hand, there are lines that are so bright they should never be crossed and when this happens public pressure to resign is appropriate.

I’m not so naive as to think that calls for resignation would not be manipulated by political operatives, but that is a long way from members of Congress (from those who voted to impeach Justice Chase to Tom DeLay) trying to impose their particular ideology on the courts.


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