A group of Montana lawyers says it is giving a lifetime achievement award to a state judge for his many years of service, despite the judge being censured last year for comments about a 14-year-old girl raped by her teacher.
The Yellowstone Area Bar Association on Friday issued a statement from its board of directors explaining its decision to honor former District Judge G. Todd Baugh of Billings.
Baugh was chosen for the award by the group's board of directors, said Jessica Fehr, president of the association.
The statement said Baugh's three decade career was worthy of recognition even though he made a "very public mistake" when he suggested the teen rape victim shared responsibility for the crime.
Baugh, 73, sparked widespread outrage in 2013 over comments suggesting that a 14-year-old girl shared some responsibility for her rape by a teacher. Baugh sentenced former teacher Stacey Rambold to just one month in prison in the case.
After prosecutors appealed, Rambold was re-sentenced in September and is serving 10 years in Montana State Prison. Rambold is appealing the sentence. The victim had killed herself before the case went to trial.
Baugh, who served almost 30 years as a state judge, stepped down last year after being censured by the Montana Supreme Court for his comments and suspended from the bench for 31 days.
He told The Associated Press on Thursday that he didn't know who nominated him for the achievement award. He also repeated his assertion that media reports about the rape case had not told the whole story.
"I'm not trying to say I didn't make any mistakes. If you go into all the mistakes that were made, it would give a better-balanced report," Baugh said.
Fehr said Baugh had been nominated for the award by members of the bar association, but she declined to say who that was or why he was chosen.
Marian Bradley, Northwest regional director for the National Organization for Women, said the award was inappropriate given Baugh's conduct on the bench. Regardless of his prior accomplishments, Bradley said the Rambold case cannot be overlooked.
"The last chapter in his career, he put himself out there and did not protect a young girl and did not protect a community," Bradley said. "Giving him a lifetime achievement award is going to send people into tailspins."
Despite the embarrassment Baugh brought on the Montana judiciary, at least some colleagues stuck by him.
In December, state District Judge Russell Fagg wrote in a Billings Gazette column that Baugh handled more than 30,000 cases in his career.
"He has made thousands of good calls, and a few bad calls, as have all of us," Fagg wrote. "Bottom line: Baugh is a wonderful person."