Helping Reduce Rape Culture: Two Legislative Ideas

Picture of a sign at the Window of Opportunity rally that says "End Rape Culture."

What we need to do to reduce/eliminate sexual assault, stalking, and harassment in our community.

I live close Penn State University where the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity’s online cyber bullying activities using Facebook to show explicit pictures of nude and/or inebriated women occurred. As a result of this action and the now ongoing investigations by both Penn State University and the State College Police, Erin Matson’s idea of reducing the legal age for alcohol consumption might be something that states might want to consider. I don’t know where I stand on this, but Erin does make a decent argument here.

Drinking age is a state, not a federal issue. So, if the drinking age were to be lowered, it would have to go through the state legislatures and be signed into law. Just like when the drinking age was raised back in the 1980’s.

To some extent, the same is true for any law that might be enacted to deal with online cyber-bullying and stalking, often known as revenge porn. If interstate commerce is involved in the bullying and stalking, federal law can and has been created (see here and here). If not, then this issue has to be dealt with at the state level.

States across the country have recently enacted or are considering bills to punish perpetrators of revenge porn and online cyber bullying or stalking. Here in Pennsylvania, legislators passed a “revenge porn” bill known as the “UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF INTIMATE IMAGE AND DAMAGES IN ACTIONS FOR UNLAWFUL DISSEMINATION OF INTIMATE IMAGE Act;” it became law on September 8, 2014. It however does not cover online bullying outside of dating or marriage relationships since the law restricts coverage to a victim who is a “current or former sexual or intimate partner.” This law makes the non-consensual dissemination of such images a misdemeanor offense.

I understand that the PA legislature may now revisit this bill to expand the law to cover such types of bullying activities outside of an intimate relationship as a result of the KDR incident. When they do, I would recommend that they expand the law to all forms of cyber bullying and stalking in addition to any non-consensual dissemination of such images. This would include severe harassment and bullying threats that place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.

This proposal would, I believe, help create a state-based law similar to federal law (18 U.S.C. 875 and 18 U.S.C. 2261a) that “ makes it a federal crime to transmit threats of bodily injury in interstate commerce and criminalizes the use of electronic communication to place a person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury.”

Finally, there will be a Congressional hearing on on-line cyber-bullying and stalking on April 15. This hearing is being set up by Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA) with the assistance of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. This hearing will focus on concerns about gender violence in all forms of social media. I’ll post a comment here once I find out where and at what time the hearing will be held.

Charlottesville NOW Publishes Statement to UVa on Sexual Assault on Campus

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Stop Violence Against Women NOW

Charlottesville NOW, this is a great letter to the administration at the University of Virginia on things they can done to reduce campus sexual assaults. Let’s see if UVA takes a strong stand or wiggles away from this issue, creating a climate of indifference towards violence against women. I’ll keep my fingers crossed that UVA takes the first path rather than the alternative, negative one.

Virginia NOW History

VA NOW is very proud to share this open letter to the administration at the University of Virginia concerning its policies and handling of sexual assault on campus.

A major focus of VA NOW’s advocacy work in 2015 will be on sexual assault, and sexual assault on campus — along with work on violence against women generally.

We are very happy to see Charlottesville NOW leading the way in their community and for the state. You can read a public record of UVa’s response to recent sexual assault allegations and the campus climate here: (click).

Background: In November 2014, Rolling Stone published “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” the story of Jackie and the wrongs done her. Later, RS published a partial retraction due to their lack of reporting and editorial diligence, and some uncertainties in Jackie’s report of her experience led to…

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College Students Create Nail Polish That Changes Colors When Exposed To Date Rape Drugs

This sounds interesting. Just one bit of additional information that doesn’t appear in this blog. According to the information on their donation page:
1. They are calling this product “Undercover Colors.”
2. This is a for-profit donation site. In other words, you can’t get a tax deduction for donating. But you do get the satisfaction of helping out should this product come to fruition.

Central Oregon Coast NOW

four college

Four male students at North Carolina State University are attempting to put an end to date rape with their own hands. More accurately, they’re ending it with the hands of their friends, girlfriends and female supporters.

The guys — Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tyler Confrey-Maloney and Tasso Von Windheim — have invented a nail polish called Undercover Colors that changes shades when touched by date rape drugs.

They aim to protect their loved ones and women who may not have anyone present to watch out for them, according to Undercover Colors’ Facebook page.

It reads,

In the U.S., 18% of women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime. That’s almost one out of every five women in our country. We may not know who they are, but these women are not faceless. They are our daughters, they are our girlfriends, and they are our friends.

The varnish is an…

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Censure and Suspension of Judge Baugh

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Stop Violence Against Women NOW

The Montana Supreme Court has just handed down their decision on the ethics complaints filed against Judge G. Todd Baugh in his mishandling of the rape case against Stacey Rambold. This is the case where Judge Baugh sentenced ex-teacher Stacey Rambold to thirty days in jail for raping one of his 14-year-old students.

In explaining this slap-on-the-wrist sentence, Baugh used several rape myths that showed gender and racial bias against Cherise Morales—the 14 year old, Hispanic girl whom Rambold raped. During the sentencing hearing, Baugh stated that the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and that she was “older than her chronological age.” There were a total of eight verified complaints submitted to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission as a result of Judge Baugh’s actions; one of these complaints was filed by Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW (see our complaint here and blog summarizing our complaint here).

On April 30, the Montana Supreme Court vacated Rambold’s minimal sentence, largely based on the amicus brief we filed with the court. They remanded the Rambold case back to Yellowstone County District Court. Yesterday they denied Rambold’s request to reconsider. The new sentence will be imposed by the District Court by the end of this month.

Meanwhile, the Court has now followed up on their intent to censure Judge Baugh. Their intent to censure was originally announced in the April 30 decision in the Rambold case. In that opinion, the Court said of Baugh’s behavior:

In the present case, Judge Baugh’s statements reflected an improper basis for his decision and cast serious doubt on the appearance of justice. The idea that C.M. could have “control” of the situation is directly at odds with the law, which holds that a youth is incapable of consent and, therefore, lacks any control over the situation whatsoever. That statement also disregards the serious power disparity that exists between an adult teacher and his minor pupil. In addition, there is no basis in the law for the court’s distinction between the victim’s “chronological age” and the court’s perception of her maturity. Judge Baugh’s comments have given rise to several complaints before the Judicial Standards Commission, which has recommended disciplinary action by this Court. Those complaints will be addressed in a separate proceeding.

In their 4-1 decision today censuring Baugh, the Court indicated that Judge Baugh violated the “Promoting Confidence in the Judiciary” canon.

Here’s a copy of the full decision. Judicial Standards Commission v Judge G Todd Baugh decision 6-4-2014

And here’s an excerpt from that decision:

Violation of Rule 1.2: Promoting public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary and avoiding impropriety or the appearance of impropriety

Baugh’s comments in open court in this case disregarded longstanding Montana law that a person under the age of 16 is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. His assertion that the victim was “older than her chronological age” is inconsistent with Montana law categorizing child victims of sexual offenses based on their chronological age     alone, rather than on subjective perceptions of physical maturity and situational control. In addition, Judge Baugh’s later attempt to retract his sentence and rationale was inconsistent with Montana law. Finally, Judge Baugh made additional inappropriate public statements attempting to justify his actions. Through his unlawful sentence, inappropriate rationale, and subsequent public comments, Judge Baugh has eroded public confidence in the judiciary and created an appearance of impropriety, therefore violating the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct….

There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them [emphasis added].

Censure and Suspension

The Court has given Judge Baugh until June 19 to respond to their proposed suspension since he only agreed to public censure on violating this rule. If he does not withdraw his consent to discipline by that date, he will be required to appear before the Montana Supreme Court at 9:30 am on Monday July 1, 2014 for the delivery of public censure by the Court. Then on December 1, 2014, he will be given a 31-day suspension without pay from the bench, thus losing the last month’s pay of his salary before he retires. If he does withdraw his consent for censure, the case will be returned to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission for a formal proceeding.

I suspect that Judge Baugh will accept the censure and suspension. Rumor has it that Judge Baugh is considering stepping down from the bench on July 1 due to the general belief that he cannot fairly rule from the bench because of the public censure. If true, the only effect of the 31-day suspension will be a loss of one month’s salary based on his earlier announcement that he would retire from the bench on December 31.

And as a final food for thought… this 31-day suspension / “sentence” seems to me to be very similar to the 31-day sentence imposed by Judge Baugh on Stacey Rambold for raping a 14-year old. Did the Court have this in mind when they decided on the length of the suspension? Is this Tit for Tat for his use of rape myths? Who knows?

Montana! Again! More Victim Blaming

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Stop Violence Against Women NOW

In several earlier blogs, I’ve written about the minimal sentence given to convicted rapist Stacey Rambold. This sentence was overturned by the Montana Supreme Court at the end of April. The case was remanded back to Yellowstone County District Court to a new judge for resentencing for a minimum of two years. At the end of last week, Rambold’s attorney, Jay Lansing, appealed the decision calling for a rehearing in the case. And what was his argument? “It was her fault.” In other words, more victim-blaming.

Attorney Jay Lansing is appealing the MT Supreme Court’s decision to re-sentence Stacey Rambold for raping Cherise Morales, a 14 year old student he taught at the high school. She later died from suicide.

Lansing said in the appeal filed with the Court on May 14:

In the Opinion in this case … the Court held that Judge Baugh’s statements reflected an improper basis for his sentencing decision. Specifically, the Court stated that consideration of any control that C.M. could have had of the situation is directly at odds with the law which holds that a youth is incapable of consent and therefore lacks any control over the situation; and that there was no basis in the law for the District Court’s distinction between C.M.’s chronological age and the District Court’s perception of her maturity.

Mr. Rambold interprets this ruling by the Court to mean that a sentencing court may not consider the victim’s role in the offense, the victim’s level of participation in the offense, or the victim’s actual consent in determining a reasonable sentence for a defendant.

Mr. Rambold contends that such a decision is in direct conflict with [previous decisions] where the Court stated the established rule that a sentencing court may consider any relevant information relating to the nature and circumstances of the crime, the defendant’s character, background, history, and mental and physical condition, and any other information that the court considers to have probative force.

Lansing then goes on to say that his argument “is not ‘victim blaming.’”

I completely disagree with this. Lansing, just like Judge Baugh, minimizes the rape of C.M. He says that Cherise knew her teacher and accepted his advances, and that this isn’t as “bad” as stranger rape. He suggests that the court should consider a victim’s “role, level of participation, or consent” [emphasis added]- in a crime against the victim. This truly flies in the face of the law and absolutely is victim blaming. To compound this upside down view of the law, he then goes on to present two hypothetical situations — one  between a 19 year old and his 14 year old “girlfriend” and a second one dealing with stranger rape.

Lansing then concludes that Rambold and Cherise share the blame for the rape. He seems to say that the circumstances surrounding this rape of a minor to her teacher’s advances isn’t all that bad and therefore no change in the original sentence should be made.

He states:

One point that must be clearly stated and emphasized is that there is a distinction between consideration of C.M.’s role and participation as a defense to the charge and consideration of C.M.’s role and participation in determining a reasonable and appropriate sentence. … C.M.’s role, level of participation, and consent are relevant information relating to the nature and circumstances of the offense and are to be considered in fashioning a reasonable sentence.

In justifying his victim blaming, Lansing uses this truly twisted argument that is nothing but victim blaming. Yes, a court may consider relevant evidence for purposes of determining guilt or sentencing. But then to say that the blame is shared and therefore the rape is, in some sense justifiable, is outrageous and appalling.

Judge Baugh’s original victim-blaming comments were bad enough. Just like Baugh, Lansing uses similar rape myths in his argument to the Court. He first blames the victim (while denying this in the same breath). Then he goes on with his hypothetical relationship and stranger rape examples to imply that this rape was non-violent—thus using the myth of the Nonviolent Rapist and Implied Consent to justify the minimal sentence given to Rambold last summer. Rambold’s lawyer’s attempt to use these myths to somehow justify both the rape and the minimal sentence originally handed down are, IMHO, stupendously horrendous.

In this case, both Judge Baugh and Attorney Lansing use outdated, victim-blaming myths about women and sexual assault in order to justify both their actions and the actions of the defendant. They both represent parts of the legal justice system. If they are representative of the Montana judicial system, our judicial system is failing our communities.

Gender bias in the courts is unacceptable. Whether that is in Montana, where this case is occurring; in Pennsylvania where I live and where the Gerry Sandusky child sexual assaults happened; or anywhere else in the country.

In Montana NOW’s and Pennsylvania NOW’s original complaint to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission, we asked that the Court implement a mandatory educational program for the judiciary. We stated in that complaint that we want the Montana Supreme Court to:

Implement a mandatory judicial education program for the judiciary on the fair adjudication of sexual assault cases to help the Montana justice system develop techniques to minimize victim re-traumatization while safeguarding the rights of the defendant. – See more at: http://www.legalmomentum.org/national-judicial-education-program#sthash.hxAEGz8p.dpuf.

I believe that this proposed mandatory educational program should be extended to all of the participants within the legal justice system – judges, lawyers, law enforcement and anyone else within the system that could impact the treatment of victims and survivors of sexual assault. Then and only then will we start addressing this problem of victim blaming. Let’s stop it now.

Sample Letter Opposing Sick Leave Preemption Bill

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Help Stop ALEC

Yesterday afternoon, the Pennsylvania House Labor and Industry Committee forwarded a sick leave preemption bill — HB 1960 — to the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representative without amendment.  I have previously written about this ALEC-initiated bill and a similar one on this blog.

The vote on the amendments and on referral of the bill “as committed” was completely along party lines.  All 15 Republicans voted to limit local control and disallow exceptions to the bill for pregnant women and victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking; all 10 Democrats voted for the amendments and against the bill.

Now the bill goes to the full floor for debate.  In Pennsylvania, bills can be amended from the floor ONLY on “Second Consideration.”  And that is expected as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, January 29.

Every legislator—Republican and Democrat—needs to know our concerns about this type of  bill.

So in an effort to assist my readers on contacting their representatives about a preemption bill such as this one, I decided to post my letter to Representative Kerry Benninghoff (R-171, Centre & Mifflin Counties) on this blog. FYI, he is a conservative Republican, but is not a member of ALEC.

If you live in Pennsylvania, now is the time for you to write a similar letter OR call your state Representative(click here to find your Representative).

This bill is also being “shopped” around the country by ALEC. So… if you live elsewhere in the country, keep this in mind, as a sick leave preemption bill is likely to show up in your state.

Hi Kerry,

I’m writing to strongly urge that you oppose and vote NO on  HB 1960 when it comes up for second consideration as well as on final consideration.  Voting and debate on several amendments is expected on the House floor tomorrow, January 29 under the rules for Second Consideration.

I want you to vote NO on HB 1960 because:

  1. Laws that preempt local decision-making strip cities and counties of their right to adopt policies that will benefit their communities, in violation of core conservative and democratic principles;
  2. It represents attempts by national businesses to circumvent policy at its most basic level; and
  3. Local innovation is the lifeblood of progress. Preemption efforts, driven by special interests, should not stand in the way of local innovation or self-rule. Bills like this represent an ominous attempt to remove power from locally elected officials and make the voters mere bystanders in the democratic processes that define the character of their communities.

I’m particularly concerned about its effect on victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking.  This proposed law will threaten the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who need this form of leave to receive critical services to protect their and their families’ lives – like medical treatment, counseling, and dealing with all court and law enforcement related business.  If local communities can’t make laws that allow victims who work for employers with less than 50 employees, you will be potentially sending these victims back into the hands of their violent perpetrators because they will be unable to financially stand on their own two feet.

Even if preemption bills seem to have a narrow focus, passage of this type of legislation could result in preemption of a wide range of local ordinances in municipalities throughout the state. These include efforts to expand protections for those who have experienced domestic violence, laws prohibiting wage theft, consumer protection initiatives, and many more.

Based on all of these concerns, I am therefore also requesting that you vote for any amendment that makes this bill less onerous.  I understand that several such amendments will be offered, including ones that

  • Allow municipalities to have paid or unpaid leave programs with respect to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
  • Allow municipalities to have paid or unpaid leave programs with respect to maternity leave.
  • That grandfather in any existing local ordinance.

Please vote for all of these life-protecting amendments.  And when the bill comes up for a final vote, VOTE NO!  on HB 1960.

Please let me know what you will do regarding this bill. Thank you.

Underhanded Attempt to Pass a Paid/Unpaid ALEC Sick Leave Preemption Bill?

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Help Stop ALEC

In December, I posted a blog about some Pennsylvania legislators’ connections to ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Among those legislators is Representative Seth Grove of York County, PA.  In that blog, I focused on his paid and unpaid sick-leave preemption bill that would prohibit any local control over paid or unpaid leave of any type.  His bill – HB 1807 – ran into a lot of opposition after a party-line vote in the House Labor and Industry Committee in mid-December.  This bill has been placed on – and pulled off – of the floor calendar after 14 other Representatives offered at least 24 amendments for floor debate.

So on January 16, 2014, Representative Grove introduced a “new” version of his bill – HB 1960 – in what looks to me like an effort to avoid any changes to his original legislation.  And this bill was introduced without, as far as I can tell from the General Assembly website, any circulation of a “Co-Sponsorship Memo.” I have been reviewing legislation on this website for years.  This is the first time I have ever seen a bill introduced since co-sponsorship memos started being posted that has not included such a memo.  HB 1807 had one; HB 1960 does not.

Differences in the Two Preemption Bills

Upon reading both bills, there appears to be little if no difference at all.  Except for the addition of one new cosponsor (Rep. Fred Keller (R-85, Snyder & Union Counties)), the style of wording to prohibit paid or unpaid sick leave ordinances at the local level is the only change I can see. The result is exactly the same. The original bill – HB 1807 – creates the preemption with a one paragraph “Mandate prohibition.” The new bill – HB 1960 – creates the preemption by changing the prohibition wording to three paragraphs within two subsections titled “General Rule” and “Inconsistent mandate.”  Both bills prohibit any local jurisdictions to pass ordinances that

“mandate requiring an employer to provide an employee or class of employees with vacation or other forms of leave from employment, paid or unpaid, that is not required by Federal or State law.”

Both bills grandfather any currently enacted ordinance but prohibit all future local paid or unpaid sick leave legislation.

So by adding one new cosponsor and reorganizing the way the bill is presented without circulating a co-sponsorship memo allows Representative Grove and his cohorts a “do-over” chance to ram this bill through the House without the current “baggage” of 24+ amendments.

Is there some subterfuge going on here? Is Representative Grove trying to get this ALEC-initiated bill passed under the radar?

If so, this under-the-radar effort doesn’t appear to be working.  Both progressive members of the legislature as well as members of the Coalition of Healthy Families and Healthy Workplaces have found out about this bill and are starting to push back.

Status of Bills

Due to the high number of amendments on HB 1807, the leadership of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has apparently decided not to bring forth the bill for floor debate.  So the new bill will be a start-over.  And eleven days after its introduction (January 16, 2014), HB 1960 will be heard AND voted on in the House Labor and Industry Committee (scheduled for Monday January 27, 2014).

This bill has no more leadership backing than original. That’s a good thing.  This means that there is not likely to be a GOP caucus push to have all Republicans vote for this bill.

All legislators – Democratic and Republican — can therefore either vote their conscience OR their constituents’ views without fear of repercussion from leadership.

What You Can Do

As of right now, the focus will be to attempt a majority no vote in the House Labor and Industry Committee.  So if you personally know OR are a constituent of a member of this Committee, please contact her/him by Monday morning at 11 am EST.  Tell this legislator that you are a voter and that you want her/him to vote NO on HB 1960 because:

  1. It violates of core conservative and democratic principles,
  2. It represents attempts by national businesses to circumvent policy at its most basic level, and
  3. It will threaten the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who need this form of leave to receive critical services to protect their and their families lives

For more talking points on this preemption bill, click here.

Here’s a list of the targeted members of the House Labor and Industry Committee. Each link will take you to the legislator’s personal legislative web page where you can find full contact information – addresses, phone numbers, faxes, and email.  And for some of the legislators, you will also have links to either their Facebook and/or Twitter accounts so you can contact them that way as well.

Officers

Scavello, Mario M.

Chair

Keller, William F.

Democratic Chair

Majority

Minority

Thanks for taking time to help stop this bill and to stop this underhanded attempt to ram through a proposed law that threatens, among others, the lives of victims and survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking who need time off from work to create a safety plan or obtain needed services and protections.

Women’s Groups File Amicus Brief in Montana v. Rambold

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Stop Violence Against Women NOW

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:

  1. Blaming the Victim
  2. The Myth of the Nonviolent Rapist and Implied Consent
  3. 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.

Montana Amici Curiae Brief final 12-12-13.pdf

Montana and Pennsylvania NOW Respond to Judge G. Todd Baugh

On September 24, 2013, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW submitted a complaint about Judge G. Todd Baugh to the Montana Judicial Standards Commission.  In my capacity as a member of the Executive Committee of Pennsylvania NOW, I worked with Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW, to craft the original Complaint. You can read a summary of and public delivery of this complaint to the Commission here.

Marian Bradley standing next to the boxes of signed petitions calling for the removal of Judge G. Todd Baugh from the bench.

Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW speaking at the delivery of the NOW complaint to the MT Judicial Commission.

Judge Baugh responded to our complaint on November 13, 2013.  The Commission sent us a copy of his response on November 19, 2013.  They gave us twenty days to review and advise the Commission on the factual accuracy of Judge Baugh’s response.    Our response was faxed to the Commission on Saturday morning, December 7, 2013.

In our initial Complaint, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW alleged that Judge G. Todd Baugh violated the following three Ethics Rules:

  • Rule 1.2 says, “promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and shall avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.”
  • Rule 2.2 says, shall uphold and apply the law, and shall perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.”
  • Rule 2.3 says, “shall not, in the performance of judicial duties, by words or conduct manifest bias or prejudice, or engage in harassment, including but not limited to bias, prejudice, or harassment based upon race, sex, gender, …socioeconomic status, …”

In his response to our Complaint (and in the press), Judge Baugh acknowledges that he violated Rule 1.2 but denies any violation of Rule 2.2 or 2.3.  We believe he is in error and continues to violate these two rules in addition to Rule 1.2. Judge Baugh claims in his response to our Complaint that he did not violate either Rule 2.2 or 2.3 because he “read” the materials presented to him. He then goes on to say, “Some phrases [of what I read] stuck in my mind, but it was inappropriate to repeat them.”

We reviewed his complaint and saw additional comments of continued disregard for the performance of his duties and bias in sexual assault cases. For example as just mentioned, Judge Baugh says that he now won’t repeat whatever it was that “stuck in his mind” but was “inappropriate” to repeat.  This along with many other statements during and after the sentencing trial, in the press, and in his response all point to error in his refusal to acknowledge his violation of all three ethics rules.

Our response directly supports our initial Complaint of the violation of Rules 1.2, 2.2, and 2.3 based upon Judge Baugh’s response. We added additional comments about this particular case. In addition, we included supporting information as to what other judges throughout the country have said in relation to adjudicating and sentencing in sexual assault cases in general.  We believe that this supporting commentary from fellow judges backs up our concerns about the mishandling of this case.

The following is a copy of the Response that we filed on Saturday

// FINAL PDF- Response to Baugh Complaint Response December 7_ 2013

We believe that Judge Baugh violated all three rules (1.2, 2.2, and 2.3).  He agrees with us that he violated Rule 1.2 in that he failed to promote public confidence and failed to avoid impropriety in his statement and minimal sentencing of Rambold.

We disagree completely in his refusal to acknowledge the violation of Rules 2.2 and 2.3.  He did NOT uphold and apply the law relating to the sexual assault of a minor.  He did not perform his duties fairly and impartially.  His words, his conduct throughout this case and in the media, and his response to our Complaint continue to show bias or prejudice based upon race, sex, gender, and socioeconomic status.

Judge Baugh’s statements and behavior need more than a letter of censure which he claims he was told by a member of the panel in October  that he would get.  Judge Baugh listened to the recommendations of the Defendant and not to the law.  Again, with his Response to our Complaint, Judge Baugh continues to show that he has no regard for the law in the area of sexual assaults of minors and thus believes that censure is the correct remedy for violating “only” one rule – Rule 1.2.  He takes no responsibility whatsoever for violating Rules 2.2 and 2.3.

Hopefully the Judicial Standards Commission will do the morally and legally right thing, find that he violated all three rules, and remove Judge G. Todd Bench from the bench. And if the case is remanded back to the local court by the Supreme Court for resentencing, we hope that this case will be given to another judge.

Urge Senate to Pass Military Justice Improvement Act

I received an email today from the National NOW Action Center regarding Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-NY) Military Justice Improvement Act.  I pulled the text of the email and then rearranged and edited it to provide you with information about the bill and what you can do.  The bill is expected to soon come up for a vote in the US Senate, possibly as soon as this coming week.

Background

The Military Justice Improvement Act (S. 967), if passed into law, would establish an independent, objective and unbiased military justice system to better respond to the epidemic of sexual assault in the U.S. military.

Military leaders have been claiming since 1992 that there will be “zero tolerance” of sexual assault, yet there were 26,000 incidents of sexual assault and unwanted sexual touching that were reported in FY 2012.  It is clear that the current system of military “justice” does not work and must be changed.

Our major allies, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Israel along with many other nations, years ago moved disposition of sexual assault crimes out of the chain of command to be handled independently by trained prosecutors. The U.S. should do the same.

Take Action

Your email message and your call – yes, please call your senators – could make the critical difference.  It is likely to be a close vote and senators need to hear from the grassroots that we demand justice for survivors.  It is a broken system that will remain broken unless Congress requires a fundamental reform of the process.

Please make that call today: tell them you want an independent, objective and unbiased military justice system that deals promptly and effectively with all reports of sexual crimes.

This link will take you to NOW’s action alert page where you can enter your zip code.  The website will then list your two Senators, their address, phone number and fax number. It also gives you a formulated email.  So there are five ways you can contact your Senator. I’m listing them from 1 to 5 with 1 being what I believe would have the most impact in a timely fashion:

  1. Call your Senators.
  2. Craft your own letter and fax it to both Senators
  3. Use the formulated email, personalize it on the website and submit it; It will be forwarded to both of your Senator’s in-boxes. Your email will have more clout if you personalize it with your own words.
  4. Just fill out the email address info and submit without making any changes to the email letter.
  5. Craft your own letter and mail it through the US Postal Service.  Although this has a lot of clout, it is very slow due to the high level of mail security used for Congress.  So it may or may not get there in time for your Senators and their staff to read before the vote.

Following each Senator’s name is their DC phone number in case you want to call without going to the NOW website.  When you do call, be sure to give the person answering the phone your name, address, and that you want your Senator to vote yes on S. 967, the Military Justice Improvement Act.  Then tell them why you support this bill.

Who’s on Board, Leaning, or Unknown

According to NOW the following are the Senators who have already signed on and/or are the most likely to vote for the bill.  If your Senator(s) are not listed here, they may be are harder sell for a “yes” vote, but it’s still worth a try.  The Senators listed below still need to hear from you so that they stay on the right side (“YES”) of the vote on S. 769.  Some are sponsors, some are leaning yes, and the rest on this list are unknown (sitting on the fence), but could be persuaded if they hear from constituents.

Before most of the names, you will see either a + (plus sign), an * (asterisk), or a # (pound sign).  These are keys to how they voted on S.967 in committee and on their votes on the 2013 Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).   A plus sign means they are members of the Senate Armed Services Committee and they voted for S.967 when it was in committee.  An asterisk means that they both sponsored and voted for the 2013 version of VAWA. A pound sign means they didn’t sponsor, but did vote for the 2013 version of VAWA.

And here’s the target list.

Primary Targets

Note: All phone numbers are in Area Code 202. The letters and numbers immediately after the state identification but before the phone numbers refers to their office address (building and room number) in DC:

  • SD =Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510;
  • SH = Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510; and
  • SR = Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510.

Most likely Yes on Sponsorship/Support: (33)

  1. #ALEXANDER, Lamar (R-TN) SD-455  224-4944
  2. BARRASSO, John (R-WY) SD-307 224-6441
  3. BAUCUS, Max (D-MT) SH-511 224-2651
  4. BOOZMAN, John (R-AR) SH-320 224-4843
  5. BROWN, Sherrod (D-OH) SH-713 224-2315
  6. #BURR, Richard (R-NC) SR-217 224-3154
  7. CHIESA, Jeff (R-NJ) SR-C1 224-3224
  8. #COATS, Daniel (R-IN) SR-493 224-5623
  9. COBURN, Tom (R-OK) SR-172 224-5754
  10. CORNYN, John (R-TX) SH-517 224-2934
  11. *CRAPO, Mike (R-ID) SD-239 224-6142
  12. DURBIN, Richard J. (D-IL) SH-711  224-2152
  13. ENZI, Michael B. (R-WY) SR-379A  224-3424
  14. HATCH, Orrin G. (R-UT) SH-104  224-5251
  15. *HELLER, Dean (R-NV) SH-324  224-6244
  16. #ISAKSON, Johnny (R-GA) SR-131  224-3643
  17. JOHNSON, Ron (R-WI) SH-328  224-5323
  18. LANDRIEU, Mary L. (D-LA) SH-703  224-5824
  19. LEE, Mike (R-UT) SH-316  224-5444
  20. McCONNELL, Mitch (R-KY) SR-317  224-2541
  21. *MORAN, Jerry (R-KS) SR-361A  224-6521
  22. MURRAY, Patty (D-WA) SR-154  224-2621
  23. MURPHY, Christopher (D-CT) SH-303  224-4041
  24. #PORTMAN, Rob (R-OH) SR-448 4-3353
  25. REID, Harry (D-NV) SH-522  224-3542
  26. RISCH, James E. (R-ID) SR-48 3 224-2752
  27. ROBERTS, Pat (R-KS) SH-109  224-4774 –s
  28. RUBIO, Marco (R-FL) SR-284  224-3041
  29. #SHELBY, Richard C. (R-AL) SR-304 224-5744
  30. TESTER, Jon (D-MT) SH-706  224-2644
  31. #TOOMEY, Patrick J. (R-PA) SR-248 224-4254
  32. WARNER, Mark R. (D-VA) SR-475  224-2023
  33. WHITEHOUSE, Sheldon (D-RI) SH-530  224-2921

Voted for Gillibrand in Armed Services Committee (3)

  1. +DONNELLY, Joe (D-IN) SH-720 224-4814
  2. +HAGAN, Kay R. (D-NC) SD-521  224-6342
  3. +UDALL, Mark (D-CO) SH-730  224-5941

Secondary Targets: Armed Services  committee members who voted NO on S.967 in committee but could/should change their mind and support (3)

  1. KAINE, Tim (D-VA) SR-388  224-4024
  2. KING, Jr., Angus S. (I-ME) SD-359 224-5344
  3. MANCHIN III, Joe (D-WV) SH-306 224-3954

Additional Targets for Support

Democrats not on the bill who voted for VAWA (note: All Dems voted for 2013 VAWA) (6)

  1. KLOBUCHAR, Amy (D-MN) SH-302 224-3244
  2. LEVIN, Carl (D-MI) SR-269  224-6221
  3. McCASKILL, Claire (D-MO) SH-506 224-6154
  4. NELSON, Bill (D-FL) SH-716  224-5274
  5. REED, Jack (D-RI) SH-728 224-4642
  6. STABENOW, Debbie (D-MI) SH-133 224-4822

Republicans who sponsored and/or voter for VAWA 2013 (9):

  1. *AYOTTE, Kelly (R-NH) SR-144  224-3324
  2. #CHAMBLISS, Saxby (R-GA) SR-416  224-3521
  3. #COCHRAN, Thad (R-MS) SD-113  224-5054
  4. #CORKER, Bob (R-TN) SD-425  224-3344
  5. #FISCHER, Deb (R-NE) SR-383 224-6551
  6. #FLAKE, Jeff (R-AZ) SR-368 22 4-4521
  7. #HOEVEN, John (R-ND) SR-338 224-2551
  8. #McCAIN, John (R-AZ) SR-241 224-2235
  9. #WICKER, Roger F. (R-MS) SD-555  224-6253

Unknown (6)

  1.  BLUNT, Roy (R-MO) SR-260  224-5721
  2. GRAHAM, Lindsey (R-SC) SR-290 224-5972
  3. INHOFE, James M. (R-OK) SR-205 224-4721
  4. SCOTT, Tim (R-SC) SR-167 224-6121
  5. SESSIONS, Jeff (R-AL) SR-326 224-4124
  6. THUNE, John (R-SD) SD-511 224-2321

Good luck with your calls, faxes, letters, and emails.  If you hear something concrete from your Senators as to how they might vote, please come back and let us know in the comment section of this blog.  Thanks!