rosie-the-riveter

Send Us to the Democratic National Convention

rosie-the-riveter

We Can Do It!

I am an advocate of women’s civil rights and open, transparent governance in the United States and have been selected as a Pennsylvania PLEO (Public Leader/Elected Official) delegate representing Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention.

As a civil rights activist and an advocate for government transparency and access, I will be looking for and advocating for the following in the platform (which I believe in general both Bernie and Hilary agree with):

  1. Universal health care;
  2. Full Reproductive justice including access to abortions and birth control;
  3. A call for a paper trail on all voter ballots so that we don’t lose voters;
  4. Better access to voting ( same-day voting, mail-in paper ballots, no photo id, etc)
  5. Ending Violence against women;
  6. Non-discrimination in general; and
  7. Living wages and a call for a livable minimum wage tied to something like the Consumer Price Index.

I am trying to raise a minimum of $1,850 through GoFundMe to help two, possibly three of my friends and family participate in the convention with me as much as possible.  This will help defray the costs of both delegates (me) and non-delegates (friends and family) to participate in the convention activities.

It is very expensive to travel to and attend this convention.  The hotel room and food while we are in Philadelphia will cost us $3250.00.  And that doesn’t include the cost of travel from California and Washington and one other state where my activist friends live and work.  When you donate you will help those who are not otherwise able to attend to see democracy at work.

The convention is scheduled for July 24-29, 2016. Your donations through my GoFundMe campaign before this time will help us attend.

We are grateful for any funds you are willing to provide.  Thank you so much in advance.  We all appreciate it.

For government transparency, democracy, and fair treatment of all!

And one more time… Here’s the GoFundMe link.  Please donate and share.  We’d really appreciate it.

Thanks for your support!

https://www.gofundme.com/going2DNCnPhilly

My 2015 annual blog report. Have a Happy New Year!

See the fireworks Civil Rights Advocacy created by blogging on WordPress.com. Check out my 2015 annual report.

Real quick summary for you:

Voting Rights button

Voting Rights

 

Map of where states stood on Medicaid Expansion as of Feb 5, 2015

Medicaid Expansion

 

Rosie the Rivater "We Can Do It!"

Feminism and Women’s Rights

 

Memorial to Helen Bechdel - picture and flowers

Memorials: This one was to Helen Bechdel

 

Picture of the stained glass windows in need of repair at St. Paul's AME church in Bellefonte, PA

Historic Preservation and Preserving Black History

 

NOW Keep Abortion Legal round

Reproductive Justice

 

Picture of a sign that says, "End Rape Culture"

End the Culture of Rape on Campuses

 

NOW "Stop Violence against Women" diamond sign

Stop Violence Against Women

 

Picture of a white pater onf cyberstalking and online threats created by the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women, NOW, and the Nationl Council of Women's Organizations

Cyber-stalking and Online Threats

 

Picture of fireworks associated with my 2015 blogging annual report

Fireworks for 2016. Happy New Year!

 

 

Thank you to all of my readers and have a very Happy, Peaceful, and Prosperous New Year

Source: See the #fireworks I created by blogging on #WordPressDotCom. My 2015 annual report.

Updates: PSU sanctions KDR & House Appropriations Committee calls for DOJ action on Cyber Bullying

Since March of this year, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One was a video created by some of the women who have been cyber-bullied reading a few of the online threats they have received so that the public can see what they are facing. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women. Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

Today, I have two updates.  One deals with Kappa Delta Rho (KDR), the Penn State University fraternity discussed in my first blog.  And the second one is the first outcome of a letter sent to the US House Appropriations Committee in March that was followed by Congressional briefing on Capital Hill in April.

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

Sign seen at a rally in State College PA on a need to end rape culture.

PSU Sanctions KDR for Harassment, Cyber-Bullying, and Other Issues

Penn State University announced yesterday that KDR has been suspended for at least three years. The administration reversed the student-led Inter-Fraternity  Council (IFC) decision not to revoke recognition of KDR; the “sanction” recommended by the IFC was only to provide “a comprehensive new member education program and participation in sexual assault and bystander intervention training.” 

Instead, the University posted a news article on their website yesterday that clearly sanctions KDR for their cyber-bullying and maltreatment of women.  Damon Sims, vice president for Student Affairs, notified the IFC about the 3-year sanction in a letter stating,

“We base this decision on the sum of misbehaviors exhibited by various members of Kappa Delta Rho. Not every member of the chapter was equally culpable for violation of the University’s expectations for recognized student organizations. Even so, the sum of the organizational misbehaviors is far more than the University can tolerate from a student organization that seeks its imprimatur.”

The University cited hazing, underage drinking, the sale drugs, and the “persistent” harassment of two women along with the “photographing [of] individuals in extremely compromising positions and posting these photos [online].” Click here to read the entire letter.

picture of the US Capital

View of the US Capital that Rep. Katherine Clark associated with her press release regarding the House Appropriations Committee call for DOJ action on cyber stalking on May 27, 2015.

House Appropriations Committee Calls Upon Department of Justice to “Intensify” Efforts to Combat Cyber-Stalking and Bullying.

Meanwhile, this afternoon, I received an email from Steve Thornton, Legislative Aide to Representative Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) regarding the cyber threat appropriations letter Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW, and National NOW all signed onto in March that went to the House Committee on Appropriations.

Here’s a copy of the letter that Representative Clark sent to the Appropriations Committee.

Cyber Abuse Dear Colleague (2)

And here’s what the Committee is requesting the US Department of Justice to do to address the issue of cyber stalking and cyber terrorism of women:

Enforcement of Federal cyber-stalking and threat crimes.—The Committee is aware of concerns regarding increased instances of severe harassment, stalking, and threats transmitted in interstate commerce in violation of Federal law. These targeted attacks against Internet users, particularly women, have resulted in the release of personal information, forced individuals to flee their homes, has had a chilling effect on free expression, and are limiting access to economic opportunity. The Committee strongly urges the Department to intensify its efforts to combat this destructive abuse and expects to see increased investigations and prosecutions of these crimes. (p.31 of the Committee on Appropriations report in explanation of the accompanying bill making appropriations for Commerce, Justice, Science, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2016).

In her press release, Representative Clark applauded the Committee’s action.  She stated,

“Too many women have had their lives upended by the severe threats and harassment they have received online, and they often feel they have nowhere to turn for help. These threats cause fear for personal safety, create a chilling effect on free speech, and have a negative economic impact for women conducting business online. That is why we [asked] the Department of Justice to enforce laws that are already on the books, and make these cases a priority.”

That’s Two for Two

Two successes within 24 hours of each other.  NICE!  Thanks PSU. Representative Clark, and all of the US Representatives, advocates, and organizations for your efforts to address these issues in an appropriate manner.

Video: Women Read Social Media Online Threats

For just about 2 months now, I have periodically blogged about online attacks on women who either use or are targeted through the use of social media. One dealt with the statistics associated with cyber-bullying. Another announced a Congressional briefing held on this issue on April 15. Another dealt with a proposed piece of legislation that might help reduce this form of violence. And the first one dealt with use of rape myths and social media by a fraternity at Penn State University to allegedly harass young college women.

Today I thought I’d share a video I stumbled across.  It’s called “Feminists Read Mean Tweets.” The text describing this video tells the story of why mic.com created this video last fall:

A Mic Video original: Jimmy Kimmel’s Angry Tweets is on to something. When it comes being trolled, many people on the Internet have it bad. But feminists in particular are often singled out for vitriol.

The lethal combination of being a woman and having an opinion about the patriarchy is a recipe for a troll cocktail.

This video shows how women who challenge the status quo are treated online on a daily basis. While many have tried to describe what it’s like to be the target of constant, horrible abuse online, sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.

As the last sentence says: “Sometimes it’s easier to just show, not tell.” So here’s the “show.”

Be forewarned: there is a lot of rude and nasty language as well as threats of violence directed at these women.

Now that you’ve seen the video, you might also want to read the background story on Mic.com.

NOW Public Censure Statement re: G. Todd Baugh

Today at 1:00 p.m. MDT, the Montana Supreme Court held G. Todd Baugh’s public censure hearing in Helena Montana. Here’s a video of the entire hearing, courtesy of the Billings Gazette.

 

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.

The following is our official statement:

Stop Violence Against Women NOW diamond

Stop Violence Against Women NOW

Mr. Baugh:

We are Marian Bradley and Joanne Tosti-Vasey, representing, respectively Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW, state chapters of the National Organization for Women. We are one of the eight sets of complainants that filed an ethics violation complaint against you, Mr. Baugh.  We believe you mishandled this rape case and as a result you impugned the judiciary.  Your statements blaming the victim and your failure to follow state law in sentencing Stacey Rambold were outrageous and unconscionable.

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 NOT uphold 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.

Montana! Again! More Victim Blaming

Stop Violence Against Women NOW diamond

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.

Seeking Justice for Cherise

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 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 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.

Then Baugh, in an effort to avoid the sanctions he could see coming, announced in January that he would not be seeking reelection in 2014. A couple of weeks after this announcement, the Montana Judicial Standards Commission announced that they were sending a recommendation to the Montana Supreme Court to use their oversight powers to sanction Judge Baugh.

The Amicus Brief

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

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!

When Men Murder Women: The Violence Policy Center 2013 Report

Picture of Joanne Tosti-Vasey standing with sign that says "I AM Ending Violence"

Joanne Tosti-Vasey “Refusing to be Silent” and calling for an end to gender-based violence

The following is a guest blog originally published here by Jerin Arifa, with an acknowledgement to Patricia Reuss for staying on top of this issue and sending the report to us.

Jerin serves with me on the board of directors for the National Organization for Women (NOW) and chairs NOW’s Young Feminist Task Force.

Patricia is the “godmother” of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), having worked very closely with now Vice-President Joe Biden when he authored the original VAWA back in 1994.  She describes herself as “a longtime women’s rights activist pretending to be retired and currently serving as a policy adviser to NOW and the National Task Force [to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women].”

Earlier this year, Pat wrote a guest blog for me on the Violence Against Women Act. It focused on a watered-down version of VAWA introduced by Republican legislators that fortunately failed and was replaced by a strong re-authorization bill signed into law by President Obama on Women’s Equality Day last March. Thank you Pat for all you do for women’s lives.

Here’s Jerin’s guest blog:

The Violence Policy Center has released their annual report, When Men Murder Women, in advance of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The study reports the statistics for females murdered by males, and includes a list of the top ten states with the highest homicide rates.

Some key findings:

  1. For homicides in which the victim to offender relationship could be identified, 94 percent of female victims were murdered by someone they knew. Compared to a man, a woman is far more likely to be killed by her spouse, an intimate acquaintance, or a family member than by a stranger.
  2. For homicides in which the weapon used could be identified, 51 percent of female victims were shot and killed with guns. Of these, 73 percent were killed with handguns.
  3. The number of females shot and killed by their husband or intimate acquaintance was more than five times higher than the total number murdered by male strangers using all weapons combined in single victim/single offender incidents
  4. For homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 87 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony, such as rape or robbery.
  5. Of these, 60 percent involved arguments between the victim and the offender.
  6. For homicides in which the age of the victim was reported, 8 percent were less than 18 years old and 10 percent were 65 years of age or older. The average age was 39 years old.
  7. Owning a gun doesn’t protect women. Females living with a gun in the home were nearly three times more likely to be murdered than females with no gun in the home.
  8. A gun in the home is a key factor in the escalation of nonfatal spousal abuse to homicide. In one study, firearm-associated family and intimate assaults were 12 times more likely to result in death than non-firearm associated assaults between family and intimates.
  9. Women who were murdered were more likely, not less likely, to have purchased a handgun in the three years prior to their deaths, again invalidating the idea that a handgun has a protective effect against homicide.
  10. While firearms are at times used by private citizens to kill criminals, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the most common scenarios of lethal gun use in America in 2010, the most recent final data available, are suicide (19,392), homicide (11,078), or fatal unintentional injury (606).
  11. South Carolina was followed by Alaska and Oklahoma as the states with the highest homicide rates for women.

Montana’s Judge Baugh Must Go!

Are you upset about Billings (Yellowstone County), Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh’s alleged misuse of his judicial powers in a rape case in Billings, Montana?  Here’s something you can do about it.

A petition has been started on the Ultraviolet website regarding Judge G. Todd Baugh.  In part, it says,

Earlier this week, Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh gave a teacher who raped his 14-year-old student a 30-day jail sentence. Even worse, the judge said the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and that she was “older than her chronological age.” THIS is rape culture at its worst.

And here’s an additional piece of information: this young girl committed suicide in 2010 after the 2007 series of rapes perpetrated by Stacey Rambold.

There are several petitions out on this issue. One goes directly to Judge Baugh. A second one goes to the Montana Secretary of State. This one goes to the Montana Supreme Court and the Montana Judicial Standards Commission.

The one going to the Department of State is inappropriately targeted. Oversight for the judicial system in not held within the Department of State. That’s because of our constitutional requirement that we keep separate the duties and responsibilities of the executive and judicial branches of government.

These two judicial-branch entities in Montana have oversight on judicial affairs and the conduct of the judiciary.  So this site is the CORRECT place to go if you want to sign a petition calling on the removal of MT’s Judge Baugh.

Once again, you want to let Montana know that Judge Baugh must go, click here to sign. Thanks!