Critics: Montana Judge Deserves More Than Censure

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – A Montana judge’s acknowledgement that he mishandled a teacher-student rape case was rejected as insufficient by women’s advocates, who on Monday pressed for a state ethics panel to focus on alleged bias against the victim.

District Judge G. Todd Baugh told The Associated Press in an interview last week that he deserves to be censured for saying the 14-year-old victim appeared “older than her chronological age.”

Representatives of the Montana and Pennsylvania chapters of the National Organization for Women said in a weekend filing with the state Judicial Standards Commission that Baugh’s actions showed prejudice against the young, Hispanic victim.

The groups want him removed from the bench.

The victim killed herself before the case went to trial, and Baugh later sentenced former Billings High School teacher Stacey Rambold to a 15-year prison term with all but one month suspended for sexual intercourse without consent.

“Rather than looking at the power and control a teacher has over his student, (the judge) blamed the victim — a clear bias in his treatment of this case,” the advocacy groups wrote.

The Judicial Standards Commission is scheduled to convene Tuesday in Helena for its quarterly meeting.

It’s unclear if the formal complaints filed against Baugh by Montana NOW, Pennsylvania NOW and other groups will be discussed. The proceedings are closed to the public because of confidentiality rules, said Shelly Nash, executive secretary for the five-member panel chaired by District Judge Ed McLean of Missoula.

Baugh attempted to alter the one-month sentence he handed down in August after it drew a public backlash. He contends that he mistakenly relied on arguments from Rambold’s attorney, who said a month behind bars was appropriate given the defendant’s good behavior in the wake of the allegations.

The state Supreme Court said the judge could not simply lengthen Rambold’s sentence because the matter already had been appealed by prosecutors. That appeal is pending.