Former Judge G. Todd Baugh. He was censured and suspended by the Montana Supreme Court in 2014 for blaming a 14-year old girl for the rape perpetrated on her by her high school teacher.
He blamed a 14-year-old for her rape. A young woman who died by suicide before the sentence was handed down. And then after blaming the victim, he gave the rapist a 30-day sentence in jail!
These actions occurred in Yellowstone County (Billings), Montana in August 2013. We and the nation were outraged at this victim-blaming, minimization of sexual assault exhibited by this member of the legal hierarchy. As a result, Montana NOW (National Organization for Women) and Pennsylvania NOW helped spearhead the call for the censure and suspension of Baugh along with the appropriate re-sentencing of the convicted rapist. We won – see here for a summary of what happened.
Then a couple of weeks ago we heard about a local bar association’s plan to give Baugh a lifetime achievement award! We are appalled at this disregard for both the victims of sexual assault in general and the appellate court decision in this particular case.
The Yellowstone Area Bar Association association in Montana is HONORING a judge who was literally suspended for letting a rapist off the hook–and blaming the 14-year-old-victim? It’s rape culture at its worst, and if enough of us speak out, we can stop it from happening.
Since we first heard of this plan, lawyers, local activists in Montana, NOW members around the country, over 33,000 UltraViolet members, and the general public asked the Yellowstone Area Bar Association to reverse its decision. And local and national news coverage has been growing (see here and here for samples of local and national news coverage). But despite the backlash, the bar association is sticking to its guns.
So in addition to signing the petitions started by NOW and by UltraViolet, it’s time for us to call the Yellowstone Area Bar Association and demand that Bar Association President Jessica Fehr reverse this despicable decision.
I did. Will you take one minute to call, too? Here’s the link from UltraViolet to make this call.
Let’s stop this terrible decision before it leaves the gate. And thanks for calling!
We were one of the complainants who filed a Judicial Conduct complaint against Baugh last fall. We were in court today to tell Baugh, the Supreme Court, and the country why we filed the complaint and what we thought of Baugh’s actions as a sitting judge who was supposed to fairly mete out justice for all.
Unfortunately Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW were not allowed to speak about our concerns before the Court. We had expected to deliver these comments publicly. Since we were unable to speak them, we sent our statement directly to Baugh. We have also let the press know that this statement is available on this blog.
We filed this complaint on behalf of men, women, and children in Montana as well as men, women, and children across the country. We believe that it is long past time for Montana’s authorities to protect the right-thinking citizens of and visitors to Montana from sexual predators rather than freeing those predators so that they can rape again.
We represent the more than 250,000 people around the world who called for your resignation or removal and the 350 sexual assault survivors who signed a letter calling for your removal. When we filed our complaint to the Judicial Standards Commission on September 24, we included copies of the petitioners’ names, the sexual assault survivor letter and copies of two news articles condemning your actions.
On Monday, August 26, 2013, you sentenced confessed child rapist Stacey Rambold to only 31 days in jail for that offense. You justified that slap-on-the-wrist sentence by commenting, incredibly, that the 14-year-old child victim – two years under the legal age of consent – was “as much in control” of the rape as her 49-year-old teacher because, according to you, she was “older than her chronological age.” You then attempted to justify this sentence by telling the press that this rape “was not a violent, forcible, beat-the-victim rape, like you see in the movies.”
Mr. Baugh, your victim-blaming, rape-trivializing, rapist-protecting comments and actions come less than a year after the United States Department of Justice was called in to address civil rights violations and rape victim-blaming by the University of Montana, Missoula County and Missoula City authorities over many years.
Our complaint raised three ethical issues that we believed you violated. The issues we raised were:
That you did NOT act at all times in a manner that promoted public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and that you did not avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety (Rule 1.2);
That you did NOTuphold and apply the law, nor did you perform all duties of your judicial office fairly and impartially (Rule 2.2); and
That you in the performance of your judicial duties, by your words as well as your conduct, showed manifest bias or prejudice against the victim based upon her race, sex, gender, age, and socioeconomic status (Rule 2.3).
The Judicial Standards Commission found that you violated the ethical issue of impropriety. The Montana Supreme Court in overturning your 31-day sentence of Rambold on April 30 essentially found that you violated the second ethical issue by failing to uphold and apply the law. And when the Montana Supreme Court overturned this sentence, they ordered this case to be reassigned to a new judge because your statement at trial evidenced bias against the victim. That essentially means you also violated our third complaint of showing bias against the victim – a young, Hispanic, lower-income girl.
You used three different rape myths to justify your actions. By doing so, you used a form of gender bias that destroyed the integrity of the judicial process and contravened Montana law. Rape myths are forms of gender bias that have no place in a justice system that strives to provide an impartial forum for all participants. As the Honorable Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said in 1994, “When people perceive gender bias in a legal system, whether they suffer from it or not, they lose respect for that system, as well as for the law.”
What did you do? You blamed the victim for the rape. You invoked the belief that this wasn’t “real” rape because it did not involve physical violence. And you invoked the myth of girl provocateur, also known as the Lolita Effect, to deny the power and control a teacher has over his student.
You relied on these rape myths to impose your sentence against Rambold. You trivialized the act of rape by stating that the crime was not a “forcible, beat-up rape.” By doing so you downplayed the fact that a teacher took advantage of and sexually assaulted a girl under his power and control. You blamed the victim by claiming she had control over the rape.
This young girl, Cherice Moralez, experienced such psychological and emotional damage that she ultimately died by suicide even before the case came to trial. Your statements about the victim being as much in control of the situation as Rambold and then giving a slap-on-the-wrist sentence to Rambold is insupportable as a matter of fact and law, given her age and vulnerability.
Children and adolescents are vulnerable to coercion and social pressure by adults and figures of power. Your use of these rape myths diminished and made invisible a young vulnerable girl. Your statements result in a chilling effect on other victims of sexual assault. It also places a chilling effect on the public and others within the judicial system. If we are unable to trust and rely on the justice system to properly weigh the relevant factors in addressing sexual assaults, we all lose confidence in the integrity of the judicial process.
We would have preferred that the Montana Judicial Standards Commission and the Montana Supreme Court had immediately removed you from the bench so that you could no longer impugn the integrity of the court and return the court in Yellowstone County to a full sense of fairness for women, children, and other victims of domestic and sexual violence. Instead they chose to give you a similar 31-day “sentence” that you gave to Stacey Rambold. In his case, it was 31 days in jail with one day suspended; in your case it’s 31 days without pay. We accept that decision. However we are concerned that as long as you remain seated on the bench that the public in Montana, around the country and throughout the world will continue to question the fairness and integrity of the judicial system in Montana.
We therefore suggest that not only do you fully accept today’s censure and the suspension, but that you also apologize for your actions to Cherice’s mother and all victims of sexual and domestic violence and that you immediately either step down or recuse yourself from all future cases handed to you. Enough is enough. Your actions in our opinion require these responses from you.
In August 2013, Yellowstone County (Billings), Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced ex-teacher Stacey Rambold to thirty days in jail for raping one of his 14-year-old students . Baugh had followed a recommendation from Rambold’s lawyer by giving Rambold a sentence of 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended and a one day credit for time served. Even worse, the judge showed gender and racial bias against Cherise Morales—the 14 year old, Hispanic girl who 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.”
Upon hearing about this incident, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, former PA NOW president and current member of the PA NOW Executive Committee contacted Montana NOW President Marian Bradley. After consulting with each other, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW decided to coordinate a state and national action to push back against this egregious behavior and use of rape myths.
We focused on both the unethical behavior of Judge Baugh and on working to overturn the illegal sentence handed down on Rambold.
The Ethics Complaint Against Judge Baugh
First, we focused on a petition to sanction Judge Baugh. The first step was to help get a groundswell of people calling for the Montana Judicial Standards Commission to review and sanction Judge Baugh for his behavior. Working with We are Ultraviolet and Fitzgibbon Media we gathered over 130,000 signatures calling for the state to sanction Judge Baugh. Meanwhile we contacted Legal Momentum (a national women’s advocacy organization that houses the National Judicial Education Program on Gender Bias in the Courts) and Pennsylvania’s Women’s Law Project to assist us in crafting our complaint.
Marian Bradley, President of Montana NOW delivering the NOW complaint to the MT Judicial Standards Commission on September 24, 2013.
Using these petition signatures, we publicly delivered our complaint on September 24, 2013 against Baugh urging the Montana Judicial Standards Commission and the Montana Supreme Court to
Remove Judge Baugh from the bench for his misconduct related to his handling of and speech about the rape case involving the sentencing of Stacey Rambold; and
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.
As a result of this complaint and several others, Judge Baugh acknowledged on December 7, 2013 that he violated one of the three ethics rules we alleged he had violated. He said that he had failed to “promote public confidence in the independence, integrity,and impartiality of the judiciary,” and did not “avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.” But he refused to acknowledge that he used racial and gender bias in handing down the sentence and as a result, did not uphold the law. So we submitted a response detailing the rape myths he used in creating the sentence and in not following the law with the minimum, mandatory two-year sentence.
Meanwhile, on December 6, 2013, the Montana Attorney General’s office filed an appeal before the Montana Supreme Court. They are asking the court 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, at minimum, a four-year sentence.
NOW once again weighed in. Knowing that it is possible for advocacy groups to file “friend of the court” amicus curiae briefs, 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 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 six organizations agreed to file an amicus.Attorney Vanessa Soriano Power and other members of the law firm Stoel Rives LLP took the lead in writing our brief and petitioning the Court to add our brief to their review of this case.
Montana’s Supreme Court rarely accepts amicus briefs, but did in this case. 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 of Stacey Rambold to a new judge for appropriate and legal re-sentencing.
What’s Happening Now?
Both cases were sent to the Montana Supreme Court for review. We heard on April 25 (the 10th anniversary of the March for Women’s Lives in Washington DC that brought out over one million people) that the decisions on what type of sanctioning Judge Baugh will receive and whether or not Stacey Rambold will be re-sentenced is pending.
This morning, the Montana Supreme Court handed down their decision in the Montana v. Rambold case (copy of the opinion can be seen here). The Court listened to the arguments presented by both the Attorney General’s office and by NOW. They overturned (“vacated”) the 30-day sentence and remanded the case back to the Yellowstone County Courts for re-sentencing in line with the minimum mandatory sentencing guidelines. In addition, they have ordered the county to assign the case to another judge for Rambold’s re-sentencing.
The last two paragraphs of the opinion indicate that the Court heavily relied on our amicus in ordering the remand:
¶21 On remand for resentencing, we further instruct the court to reassign the case to a different judge to impose sentence. We have considered several factors to decide whether a new judge should be assigned to resentence a defendant in a particular case, among them; whether the original judge would reasonably be expected to have substantial difficulty in putting out of his or her mind previously-expressed views determined to be erroneous, whether reassignment is advisable to preserve the appearance of justice, and whether reassignment would entail waste and duplication out of proportion to any gain in preserving the appearance of fairness. Coleman v. Risley, 203 Mont. 237, 249, 663 P.2d 1154 (1983) 10 (citations omitted). In State v. Smith, 261 Mont. 419, 445-46, 863 P.2d 1000, 1016-17 (1993), we remanded for resentencing to a new judge when the judge’s statement at trial evidenced bias against the defendant. Even where bias did not require reassignment to a new judge, we have reassigned where media coverage and public outrage “have snowballed to create an appearance of impropriety.” Washington v. Montana Mining Properties, 243 Mont. 509, 516, 795 P.2d 460, 464 (1990).
¶22 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. Under these circumstances, we conclude that reassignment to a new judge is necessary to preserve the appearance of fairness and justice in this matter.
Meanwhile the sanctions against Judge Baugh are still pending. This was confirmed in this morning’s opinion announced by the Montana Supreme Court: 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.
We feel strongly that our work on this case shows our commitment to looking out for the women, children and families of our states and our nation. This behavior by our teachers and our judiciary should not and will not be tolerated. Our vigilance will continue.
— blog written by Joanne Tosti-Vasey and Marian Bradley
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.
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.
So, please explain how we are being “indifferent” towards violence against women. There are laws against violent attacks on any human being – women included. Are these laws being ignored in cases where a woman is the victim?
I think not.
What we see here is another group who wishes to reap the benefits of victim status whether the facts bear them out or not. Beware of those who believe that they deserve special treatment – especially when that special treatment comes at the expense of others.
His question deserves a response. Which I gave him within LinkedIn. Since there are many others how might have a similar question but aren’t on LinkedIn, I’m commenting here as well.
A climate of indifference is a climate where attacks against others – sexual assault, acquaintance or domestic violence, sexual harassment, and stalking– are ignored, covered up, or made light of. And in some instances, the climate of indifference is perpetuated when the alleged perpetrator is treated more lightly than someone else who may have committed the assault simply because of his status or affiliation.
Yes there are laws in place. Yet, until all victims are treated fairly and in a timely fashion, I will continue to call out people and communities for creating a climate of indifference that allows this to continue. All people need to live in safe communities and homes.
Ending this climate of indifference wherever it occurs is a start towards caring for our loved ones. PASS VAWA NOW!
Progressive commentary from Gainesville, Florida, once called the Berkeley of the South. Potano was the chief of and the only known name of the Native American tribe inhabiting the area around what is now Gainesville at the time the Europeans arrived.
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