Billings Judge G. Todd Baugh was censured for controversial comments and an illegal sentence he handed down, in a teacher's rape case.
Censure is a public declaration by the Montana Supreme Court that Baugh is guilty of misconduct.
The controversy started late last summer when Baugh sentenced Stacey Dean Rambold, a former Billings teacher, to 30 days in jail for raping a student. During sentencing, the judge said the teen was "probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant" and that she "appeared older than her chronological age."
The 14-year-old victim committed suicide while the case was pending trial.
Everything happened very quickly in the courtroom. The public censure of Baugh took just five minutes and the justices handed down a 31-day suspension along with the public censure.
"We have received your comments and we have taken them into consideration," began Chief Justice Mike McGrath.
McGrath addressed Baugh at the start of the hearing, shortly after Baugh approached the podium for censure. Justices acknowledged Baugh's apology, but said his actions and words undermined the Montana judiciary.
"We have determined that, through your inappropriate comments, you have eroded public confidence of the judiciary and created an appearance of impropriety in violation of the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct," said McGrath.
Baugh wasn't given an opportunity to speak after McGrath's censure, and refused to make a statement as he left.
"I have worked with victims' rights advocates for a long time and I thought his comments were outrageous," said former Montana Now president Marian Bradley, regarding Baugh's controversial comments during Rambold's trial.
Groups like Montana Now rallied and filed complaints with the Montana Judicial Standards Commission, sparking the investigation into Baugh's sentencing of Rambold.
"It is a good start, and it is probably the best we could hope for," said Bradley.
A new sentencing date has been set for Rambold. He will face district Judge Randal Spaulding of Roundup on September 26.
The Montana Supreme Court vacated the previous sentence in April, saying it was illegal. The mandatory minimum is two years.