U.S. Courts spokeswoman Karen Redmond said Thursday U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull of Billings will take senior status March 18.
That means he'll vacate his position as chief judge for the state and allow the president to appoint a replacement. Cebull will take a reduced caseload but will still draw a salary and can keep a staff.
Redmond says she can't comment on whether the move is related to the email that Cebull has acknowledged forwarding to a half-dozen people Feb. 20. The judge didn't return a call seeking comment.
Cebull asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in March to review his conduct after he was criticized for the email that included a joke about bestiality and Obama's mother.