The Montana Judicial Standards Commission has found that District
Judge G. Todd Baugh committed judicial misconduct when he imposed
the light sentence last August against former Billings high school
teacher Stacey Rambold, 54.
The panel said in a complaint filed with the state Supreme Court
that Baugh undermined public confidence in the judiciary, created an
appearance of impropriety and "justified the unlawful sentence by
blaming the child victim," according to papers from the commission.
Commission attorney Malin Stearns Johnson, who wrote the document,
said the judge's conduct warranted disciplinary action but she did
not say in the complaint if she was seeking a reprimand or Baugh's
Under its rules, the commission has the option of holding its own
hearing and making its own decision, or the case can be turned over
to the justices on the state Supreme Court with the commission's
recommendation for reprimand.
Baugh, who has said he would not run for re-election when his term
expires at the end of the year, could not immediately be reached for
comment on Tuesday. He has until later this month to respond to the
allegations, according to commission rules.
He ignited a firestorm of criticism last year when he ordered
Rambold to be incarcerated for just 30 days for the 2007 rape of his
student, Cherice Moralez, who killed herself in 2010.
In remarks that intensified an ensuing outcry from women's groups,
Baugh commented during the sentencing hearing that the teenager
seemed older than her years and was "probably as much in control of
the situation" as her instructor.
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Johnson said the judicial panel received hundreds of complaints
about Baugh after his remarks and the sentence he imposed on Rambold — technically 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended and
credit given for one day served.
"Through his overly lenient and unlawful sentence, inappropriate
rationale, and subsequent public comments, Judge Baugh has eroded
public confidence in the judiciary and created an appearance of
impropriety," Johnson said in the legal filing.
The Montana chapter of the National Organization for Women, which
lodged a complaint against Baugh with the judicial panel, will
continue its campaign to have the judge removed from the bench, said
president Marian Bradley.
"This is a huge victory," she said of the panel's legal filing. "But
we want everyone to know we are still fighting for justice for
Cherice and for all victims of sexual assault."
The commission has filed seven formal complaints with the Montana
Supreme Court against judges since 1991, documents show.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho;
editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Cynthia Osterman)
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