Artist credit: Nick Anderson
It is 2016, and here we go again – this time in the Face of a recent Federal Court decision and order – mandating that Indian Country be given the same access to the polls as whites. You may ask, “Hmm, why is this still happening in this day and age?” Well, I can answer that simply – because we still have bigoted & racist fuckstick Politicians and Judges in America. (Yes, I wrote fuckstick and my spell checker is so used to seeing it, “fuck”, attached to 368 other words, it no longer bothers to redline it). I digress.
Backing up to the 60’s for a second – I am able to remember stories from my grandparents and great aunts & uncles that take my history back to the late 1800’s. Big Sky Country has always had its racist roots – always. But, some of us in this great State, were raised to love, respect and appreciate all people. So, slowly things got better – SLOWLY
The History Summarized In Black & White (& Red)
Many hundreds of years ago, Whites came to this America and enslaved, killed, raped, disenfranchised and robbed the Reds, to allow Whites to steal the country – quick summary right?.
That was quick, now hundreds of years later as color emerges to the ongoing story….
In 2010, a great cat named Mark Wandering Medicine (a decorated veteran) and about 11 other devoted public servants for Indian Country, thought enough was enough and sued the State of Montana and many of it’s counties to stop it’s racist voting policies. The summary is here, written by epic reporter, John S. Adams.
The Federal suit was filed in 2012 and the Judge assigned to it was USDC Judge Richard F. Cebull, who was, as we all knew – a fairly mean spirited man (his nickname growing up was “Mean Dick”). Judge Cebull, while going through the years on the Federal Bench, hammered anyone who was a Native America in his Court. During the litigation, several allegations and reports of extortionate behavior in Chambers was alleged. In the end it was clear – Judge Cebull didn’t like the Wandering Medicine lawsuit, so he killed it.(Last Order from Cebull in re Wandering Medicine) The lawyers on the case – including the incredibly resourceful and tenacious Steven Sandven – appealed to the Ninth Circuit.
Here’s where is gets really good – while the Wandering Medicine appeal was being argued in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, John S. Adams outed Judge Cebull as a bigot. It turns out, referring to President Obama’s recently deceased Mother as having engaged in bestiality (and for 300 more reasons) was of course, not a good joke. Judge Cebull, as a sitting Federal Judge was forwarding and creating emails and sending them to his cronies (other Judges, US Attorneys, FBI Agents, States Attorneys etc).
Judge Cebull – from his Court Chambers, on his Court issued Computer, off of his Court issued email address wrote:
“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.”
Which was the header to, and included the following forward:
“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’ ” the e-mail joke reads. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’ “
Not surprising to anyone involved, or paying attention to Adams’ reporting on the matter, Judge Cebull was forced off the bench – or as he’ll defend – went into early retirement.
So to summarize – at pretty much the same time as the above was going on – Sandven won a reversal of Judge Cebull’s bad ruling. Sandven came back to Montana and armed himself with another veteran Civil Rights & Civil Justice champion – Alex Rate. With Cebull now out (at the time on “vacation”) the Wandering Medicine case was assigned to another Federal Judge (a close friend of Judge Cebull – as well as an email contact with Judge Cebull). It is widely alleged, that several strong arm “chambers” threats from the new Federal Judge to settle the matter and threats from local law enforcement -which included the arrest of one of the plaintiff’s family members – resulted in the de minimis settlement & conclusion included here.
Back to Cebull
Reporter Adams was still watching over the investigation into Judge Cebull and this came out:
A review of four years’ worth of emails from former Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull’s federal email account found “hundreds” of emails “related to race, politics, religion, gender, sexual orientation and politically sensitive issues that were inappropriate for Judge Cebull to have sent from his federal email account.”
The holder of the emails was The Ninth Circuit Court Executive in San Francisco. For months, even years, Adams (and I did too) requested access to the emails of Judge Cebull. Hitting a road block there, Adams and one of his colleague’s, Shane Castle teamed up with The California Civil Rights Law Firm of Lawrence Organ and filed suit to obtain the emails of/from/to Judge Cebull’s Court email address. Larry Organ, it should be noted, is as fine a person as I know. He had a great Litigation Director, Matt Stanford, who is now at UC Berkeley getting his JD. Larry’s Firm also includes the heavyweights of Kris Organ, Barb Figari, Julianne Schwarz, Nicole Moskowitz and too many other great support staff to mention here..
Larry was moved, and agreed – the emails needed to be uncovered, so after many procedural pleadings and motions to keep the defendants from deleting the emails, Larry and his great staff of lawyers, filed the Adams/Castle 1st Amendment Complaint here:Adams Complaint in YGR. The government lawyers are fighting tooth and nail to keep the emails secret. On motion practice, the Government moved to dismiss and we countered. A decision from the Court on that matter is still pending as of this writing.
Back to Wandering Medicine and the Importance of Equal Voting Rights
In January 2016, Blaine County in Montana is still refusing equal access to the polls for Native Americans. In short, our Indian brothers and sisters face, in one of many discriminating instances, a long ass drive of over 45 miles just to vote. The letter from President Azure of the Fort Belknap Tribe – to the State & County officials regarding this matter is here: FBIC to Blaine County 28Jan2016
Blaine County in Montana is about the size of Connecticut. It is twice the size of a combined Delaware and Rhode Island, and Blaine County has about 6,491 people living in this Big Sky county. Over one fifth of the population is Native Americans on the Fort Belknap Reservation.
Compare this ratio to the current fight over the voting rights being denied to those citizens in the 34 states requiring voters to show valid, state issued IDs just to cast a vote. AND – that politicians supporting these laws have agreed that these measures have affected polling results – generally helping out their own personal parties. Need I mention that these voting laws predominantly affect minority populations (understand the reference to the 1960s now?)
2016 and here we go again – racial/voter/civic equality is still under question.
Can we get some help here? Candidates? Activists? Anyone?
Mike Lair & Stephanie Daniel Lair operate Sysdisrupt.com and can be reached at Stephanie@sysdisrupt.com