G. Todd Baugh

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G. Todd Baugh
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Current Court Information:
Montana 13th Judicial District Court
Title:   Judge
Service:
Active:   1984-2014
Past position:   Attorney in private practice
Past term:   1967-1984
Personal History
Born:   10/21/1941
Undergraduate:   Rice University, 1964
Law School:   University of Texas, 1967

G. Todd Baugh is a judge for the 13th District Court in Montana. He was elected to a new seat in 1984 and ran unopposed for re-election in 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008. He plans to retire at the end of his current term, in December 2014.[1][2] Baugh stated that his decision to retire has nothing to do with his controversial sentence of Stacey Rambold (see story below).[3][4]

Education

Baugh received his B.A. degree in economics from Rice University in 1964 and his law degree (LL.B.) from the University of Texas at Austin in 1967. He was admitted to the bar in 1967.[5][6]

Career

Baugh spent seventeen years as an attorney in general practice before his election to the district court in 1984.[6]

Notable cases

Teacher sentenced to 30 days in jail for rape of a student


Judge Baugh issued a controversial ruling on August 26, 2013, sentencing former high-school teacher, Stacey Dean Rambold to 30 days in jail for the rape of student Cherice Moralez.

Rambold was charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent in 2008. At the time of their relationship, Rambold was 49 and Moralez was 14. However, while the case was still pending, Moralez committed suicide, just prior to her 17th birthday. This put the case on hold and an agreement to dismiss the charges was made if Rambold met certain conditions, including the completion of a treatment program for sex offenders. Rambold did, however, admit to one of the rape charges.

The case resurfaced at the end of last year, after Rambold was terminated from the treatment program. He was kicked out after breaking a number of rules, including unsupervised visits with minors (even though they were his family members) and failing to inform his counselors about his sexual relations.

Chief Deputy County Attorney Rod Souza asked for a sentence of 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended. Instead, Judge Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, with all but 31 days suspended. One of those days of jail time was credited back to Rambold for time already served.

Judge Baugh has stated that he thought Moralez was "as much in control of the situation" as Rambold and that she seemed "older than her chronological age."[7][8] He defended his ruling, explaining:

Obviously, a 14-year-old can't consent. I think that people have in mind that this was some violent, forcible, horrible rape...It was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn't this forcible beat-up rape.[9][10]
He went on to explain that Moralez's death made the case more complicated than it seemed on the surface.[9]

Re-sentencing shot down by supreme court

On September 3, 2013, amidst national uproar, Judge Baugh said that he'd made a mistake in his sentencing of Stacey Rambold. He explained that he had misread state law, which would have made his 20-year jail sentence, with all but 30 days suspended, illegal. A new sentencing hearing was scheduled for September 6.[11]

Prosecutors asked the Montana Supreme Court to overturn Baugh's sentence.[12] Less than one hour before the second sentencing hearing was to start, on September 6, the supreme court ruled that Baugh could not modify the decision he had already handed down. This stopped the rehearing. The court's ruling explained:

We conclude that the stated intent of the District Court to alter the initially imposed oral sentence in today’s scheduled hearing is unlawful...We take no position on the legality of the imposed sentence and will address the parties’ arguments in that regard on appeal.[13][10]

State supreme court overturns sentence

Judge Baugh's sentence of Rambold was overturned by the Montana Supreme Court on April 30, 2014. Justice Michael E. Wheat wrote in the opinion: "The district court lacked authority to suspend all but 31 days of Rambold's sentence."[14]

The court pointed out that the state's law requires a minimum sentence of four years in prison for anyone guilty of raping a victim under the age of 16. Also, no more than two years of that sentence may be suspended. Judge Baugh sentenced Rambold to 15 years with all but 31 days suspended. The case was sent to a new judge for re-sentencing.[14]

Rambold resentenced to 10 years in prison

Rambold was resentenced by Judge Randal I. Spaulding on September 26, 2014, after Baugh's sentence was overturned by the state supreme court. Spaulding suspended five years of Rambold's 15-year term for a total of 10 years in prison--significantly greater than his colleague's initial sentence of 31 days.[15]

In the news

Baugh censured for remarks

According to the Associated Press, Baugh admitted his comments during a sentencing hearing regarding 14-year old rape victim Cherice Moralez (see case above) violated judicial ethics rules in the state. However, he asserted the proper punishment for his misconduct was censure, not removal from the bench. Baugh noted the Montana Judicial Nominating Commission will recommend to the Montana Supreme Court that he be censured for his comment. Baugh went on to say,

I can understand the appearance of impropriety, but I wasn't trying to blame the victim. . .[16][10]

Baugh allegedly stated in a letter to the Judicial Standards Commission that he believed the sentence for Rambold was "fair".

Supreme court censure

The Montana Supreme Court censured Judge Baugh on June 4, 2014, and suspended him without pay for his last month in office. The 31-day suspension began on December 1, 2014. The court surpassed the request of the Judicial Standards Commission that Baugh be publicly censured by adding the suspension.

The discipline primarily focused around Baugh's comment that the rape victim was "older than her chronological age." The opinion, penned by Chief Justice Mike McGrath, stated:

Judge 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. He has caused Montana citizens, as well as others, to question the fairness of our justice system and whether prejudice or bias affected the outcome of the Rambold case. There is no place in the Montana judiciary for perpetuating the stereotype that women and girls are responsible for sexual crimes committed against them.[10]

—Chief Justice Mike McGrath, Montana Supreme Court[17]

Justice Laurie McKinnon was the lone dissenter. She was in favor of adopting the commission's recommendation of censure without suspension because she felt that the harsher sentence was given due to "public outcry" rather than being grounded in rules or analysis.[17][18]

Baugh appeared before the court on July 22, 2014, to be publicly reprimanded.[19]

See also

External links

References

  1. Billings Gazette, "Judges stand for election, but rarely against any one," February 9, 2008
  2. 13th District Court
  3. Associated Press, "Montana Judge Criticized in Rape Case to Retire," January 7, 2013
  4. KXLH Channel 9, "Judge Baugh will retire at end of 2014," January 7, 2013
  5. Martindale.com, Judge Profile: G. Todd Baugh
  6. 6.0 6.1 Montana Supreme Court: 1995 Annual Report Scroll to p.10
  7. Billings Gazette, "Former Senior High teacher gets 30 days for rape of student," August 26, 2013
  8. New York Daily News, "Montana judge sentences ex-teacher to 30 days for sex with teen who committed suicide," August 27, 2013
  9. 9.0 9.1 USA Today, "Judge defends 30-day sentence for teacher who raped girl," August 28, 2013
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  11. NBC - U.S. News, "Embattled Montana judge orders new sentencing for teacher convicted of sex with student," September 3, 2013
  12. Reuters, "Montana appeals 30-day rape sentence for former teacher," September 4, 2013
  13. Los Angeles Times, "Montana Supreme Court blocks judge's bid to resentence rapist," September 6, 2013
  14. 14.0 14.1 Reuters, "Montana top court overturns teacher's one-month rape sentence," April 30, 2014
  15. USA Today, "Ex-teacher resentenced to prison for raping teen," September 26, 2014
  16. ABA Journal, "Judge admits violating ethics with remarks about 14-year-old rape victim, but argues against removal," December 4, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 KRTV, "Supreme Court Opinion: Inquiry concerning complaint of the Judicial Standards Commission," June 4, 2014
  18. Billings Gazette, "Supreme Court orders suspension, public censure for Judge Baugh," June 4, 2014
  19. Ravalli Republic, "Montana Supreme Court reprimands judge for rape comments," July 23, 2014
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