In August 2013, Judge G. Todd Baugh issued a 30-day jail term for one guilty plea by Stacey Rambold for one count of sexual intercourse without consent against a 14-year old minor. NOW, UltraViolet, and people around the world expressed outrage at this judge’s use of rape myths to minimize the assault and create a sentence that was way below the mandatory minimum for such an offense. Following the initial outrage, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW filed a joint complaint with the Montana Judicial Standards Commission about Judge Baugh’s violation of the state’s judicial Rules of Conduct. Then last weekend, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW responded to Judge Baugh’s refusal to acknowledge bias and prejudice in his sentencing of Rambold.
Meanwhile the Montana Attorney General’s Office (AG) filed an appeal with the Montana Supreme Court on December 6 to remand the case back to the Yellowstone County District Court for sentencing that would follow the state law’s mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines. They are asking for minimally at least a four-year sentence.
After finding out about the AG’s intent to appeal the original jail term, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW looked into the possibility of filing an amicus brief to the court to support the appeal. We contacted two members of our network of women’s legal advocacy organizations—The Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum—to see if there was any interest in pursuing this amicus. They were interested and helped put us in contact with Legal Voice and the Sexual Violence Law Center. Both of these organizations are based in Seattle, Washington and serve women in Montana. As a result, all five organizations agreed to take on this amicus; Attorney Vanessa Soriano Power and other members of the law firm Stoel Rives LLP took the lead in writing our brief. Thank you all for assisting and working with us on this brief. We couldn’t have done it without your legal expertise and caring about this miscarriage of justice.
The amicus brief we filed focuses on rape myths and their inappropriate impact in adjudicating and sentencing in sexual-assault cases. We are asking the court to take the effect of these types of myths into account when making their decision in this case and, upon remand, to assign the case to a new judge for sentencing.
We state in this brief that rape myths are a form of gender bias that destroys the integrity of the judicial process and contravenes Montana law. The three myths we focus on are:
- Blaming the Victim
- The Myth of the Nonviolent Rapist and Implied Consent
- The Lolita Effect and Power Dynamics in Sexual Assaults
After presenting the background on these myths, we then link them to what we believe happened in this case based on the statements made by Judge Baugh and his minimal sentencing of Rambold. We show that the District Court’s erroneous reliance on these rape myths pose a threat to sexual assault survivors’ confidence in the judicial system. We then request that the Supreme Court use their supervisory authority to not only remand the case back to the District Court, but also to assign a new judge for the new sentencing.
Here’s the full brief for your perusal. It was sent via overnight mail on December 12, 2013 to all parties involved in this case for delivery by noon MST today, Friday, December 13, 2013.