In the Matter of Hon. G. Todd Baugh , 2014 MT 149 ( 2014 )


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  •                                                                                        June 4 2014
    
    
                       IN THE SUPREME COURT OF THE STATE OF MONTANA
                                          No. PR 14-0078
                                           
    2014 MT 149
                                         ______________
    
    INQUIRY CONCERNING COMPLAINT OF                        )
    JUDICIAL STANDARDS COMMISSION OF                       )
    THE STATE OF MONTANA,                                  )
                                                           )
         Complainant,                                      )      OPINION
                                                           )        and
           v.                                              )       ORDER
                                                           )
    JUDGE G. TODD BAUGH,                                   )
                                                           )
         Respondent.                                       )
                                          _____________
    
    ¶1      This matter comes before the Court on a formal complaint filed by the Judicial
    
    Standards Commission against Montana District Court Judge G. Todd Baugh. Judge Baugh
    
    has waived formal proceedings before the Commission, admitted that he violated Montana’s
    
    Code of Judicial Conduct, and consented to judicial discipline by this Court.         The
    
    Commission has filed with the Court its recommendation that the Court accept Judge
    
    Baugh’s acknowledgement of violation, waiver of formal proceedings, and consent to
    
    discipline in the form of public reprimand or censure. The Commission further recommends
    
    that this Court publicly censure Judge Baugh for the conduct set forth in the formal
    
    complaint filed against him.
    
                                        BACKGROUND
    
    ¶2      This judicial disciplinary matter arises from Judge Baugh’s August 2013 sentencing
    
    of Stacey Rambold for the crime of sexual intercourse without consent. Unless otherwise
    noted below, the following facts are taken from the formal disciplinary complaint filed
    
    against Judge Baugh.
    
    ¶3     In October of 2008, the State of Montana charged Rambold, a 47-year-old teacher at
    
    Billings Senior High School, with sexual intercourse without consent with a 14-year-old high
    
    school freshman. Tragically, the victim committed suicide in early 2010—before the legal
    
    proceedings against Rambold had been completed. Later that year, the State agreed to defer
    
    prosecution of Rambold in exchange for his admission to having committed one count of
    
    sexual intercourse without consent, and his agreement to enter sex offender treatment. Under
    
    the agreement, if Rambold violated the conditions of his sex offender treatment, his
    
    prosecution could be reinstated. Judge Baugh, a district judge of the Montana Thirteenth
    
    Judicial District Court, Yellowstone County, approved the deferred prosecution agreement.
    
    ¶4     Rambold was terminated from his sex offender treatment program for failure to
    
    properly participate in the program, for having unauthorized contact with minor children
    
    (relatives), and for engaging in sexual relationships with adult women and failing to disclose
    
    those relationships to his treatment team and group. Upon learning of these violations, the
    
    State reinstated Rambold’s prosecution.
    
    ¶5     On April 15, 2013, the State and Rambold entered into a plea agreement under which
    
    Rambold agreed to plead guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent. The
    
    State sought a sentence of 20 years in prison with 10 years suspended. Rambold, through
    
    counsel, asked that all but 30 days of his sentence be suspended.
    
    ¶6     On August 26, 2013, Rambold appeared before Judge Baugh for sentencing. Before
    
    imposing sentence, Judge Baugh spoke from the bench about his rationale for the sentence
    
    
                                                  2
    he was about to impose. Among other things, Judge Baugh stated Rambold’s victim was “a
    
    troubled youth, but a youth that was probably as much in control of the situation as
    
    [Rambold], one that was seemingly, though troubled, older than her chronological age.”
    
    Judge Baugh then sentenced Rambold to 15 years in the Montana State Prison with all but 31
    
    days suspended and with credit for one day served. Judge Baugh later explained to members
    
    of the press that “[i]t was horrible enough as it is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible
    
    beat-up rape.”
    
    ¶7     Judge Baugh’s sentence and rationale, particularly his remarks that the 14-year-old
    
    victim was “older than her chronological age” and “as much in control of the situation” as
    
    her 47-year-old teacher, sparked immediate public outcry.1               The Judicial Standards
    
    Commission began receiving hundreds of complaints against Judge Baugh and, in total, eight
    
    verified complaints were filed with the Commission. In addition, shortly after sentencing,
    
    Judge Baugh sought to modify Rambold’s sentence, apparently having concluded that, under
    
    § 46-18-205, MCA, the mandatory minimum sentence for Rambold’s crime was two years in
    
    prison. We blocked Judge Baugh’s attempt to resentence Rambold, on grounds that he
    
    lacked authority to revise a sentence he had already issued. He nevertheless held a hearing,
    
    at which he made additional public remarks on the case and his actions in it.2
    
    
    
    
           1
              See e.g. Matt Pearce, Hundreds Rally Against Montana Judge in Rape-Suicide Case, L.A.
    Times, Aug. 29, 2013, available at http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/nation/la-na-nn-montana-
    rally-20130829.
            2
               See Greg Tuttle, Baugh addresses media at unusual hearing in Rambold rape case,
    billingsgazette.com, Sept. 6, 2013, available at http://billingsgazette.com/news/local/crime-and-
    courts/baugh-addresses-media-at-unusual-hearing-in-rambold-rape-case/article_719fe5f8-78da-
    5878-bc89-148dcf0cf42a.html.
    
    
                                                     3
    ¶8     The State appealed the criminal case against Rambold. We recently vacated his
    
    sentence and remanded for resentencing by a new judge. See State v. Rambold, 
    2014 MT 116
    , 
    375 Mont. 30
    , ___ P.3d ___.
    
                                          DISCUSSION
    
    ¶9     Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to act in a manner that
    
    promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary
    
    and avoids impropriety or the appearance of impropriety. Judge Baugh has admitted that he
    
    violated that rule.
    
    ¶10    The comments to Rule 1.2 state, in relevant part, that public confidence in the
    
    judiciary is eroded by improper conduct and conduct that creates the appearance of
    
    impropriety. A judge should expect to be the subject of public scrutiny that might be viewed
    
    as burdensome if applied to other citizens. The test for appearance of impropriety is whether
    
    the conduct would create in reasonable minds a perception that the judge violated the Code
    
    or engaged in other conduct that reflects adversely on the judge’s honesty, impartiality,
    
    temperament, or fitness to serve as a judge.
    
    
    
    
                                                   4
    ¶11    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.
    
    ¶12    Article VII, section 11(3) of the Montana Constitution and § 3-1-1107, MCA, allow
    
    this Court, upon recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission, to impose
    
    discipline upon any Montana judge for violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct. We adopt
    
    the recommendation of the Judicial Standards Commission that we accept Judge Baugh’s
    
    admission that his actions violated the Code of Judicial Conduct and his consent to submit
    
    himself to this Court for public censure.
    
    ¶13    In addition, we conclude that Judge Baugh’s actions warrant his suspension without
    
    pay for 31 days. Judge Baugh’s current term in office expires December 31, 2014. He has
    
    
                                                  5
    announced that he will not seek reelection to another term. In light of those facts and in
    
    order to minimize the impact of his suspension on the parties whose cases are pending before
    
    him and on the other judges in the Thirteenth Judicial District, we conclude the suspension
    
    should commence on December 1, 2014.
    
    ¶14    Because Judge Baugh has not consented to a suspension, and because the Commission
    
    has not recommended suspension, we will allow Judge Baugh 15 days from the date of this
    
    Opinion and Order in which to withdraw his consent to discipline.
    
    ¶15    IT IS ORDERED that Judge Baugh is granted until June 19, 2014, in which to
    
    withdraw his consent to judicial discipline, in writing filed with the Clerk of this Court. If
    
    Judge Baugh withdraws his consent to judicial discipline, the Court will return this matter to
    
    the Judicial Standards Commission for formal proceedings.
    
    ¶16    IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, if Judge Baugh does not withdraw his consent to
    
    discipline, he shall appear before this Court in our courtroom in Helena, Montana, at
    
    9:30 a.m. on July 1, 2014, for the delivery of a public censure by this Court.
    
    ¶17    IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that, if Judge Baugh does not withdraw his consent to
    
    discipline, he will be suspended from the bench without pay for a period of 31 days
    
    beginning on December 1, 2014.
    
    
    
    
           DATED this 4th day of June, 2014.
    
                                                      /S/ MIKE McGRATH
    
    
    
    
                                                  6
    We Concur:
    
    /S/ MICHAEL E WHEAT
    /S/ BETH BAKER
    /S/ PATRICIA COTTER
    /S/ JIM RICE
    
    
    
    Justice Laurie McKinnon, dissenting.
    
    ¶18    “[N]either laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret;
    
    and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.”1 Public confidence in the judiciary, which is at issue
    
    in these proceedings, depends on laws that are predictably and uniformly applied. I cannot
    
    agree, therefore, with this Court’s decision to impose a sanction more severe than the one
    
    recommended by the Judicial Standards Commission when we have not articulated a single
    
    rule, standard, or analysis justifying this decision.         In rejecting the Commission’s
    
    recommendation, the Court fails to set forth a standard of review and fails to articulate any
    
    factors or objectives that guide our determination to impose a particular sanction. Our
    
    decision today may be viewed by some as arbitrary and predicated solely upon the personal
    
    opinion of any particular Justice. As a result, we have ultimately exacerbated the breach in
    
    public confidence initially wrought by Judge Baugh.
    
    ¶19    Because public confidence in the judiciary is earned through decisions that are
    
    transparent and nonarbitrary, this Court’s decisions must demonstrate that our discretion has
    
    been exercised in an evenhanded and uniform manner, to the extent humanly possible.
    
    Public confidence is restored only if the remediating court arrives at its decision as a neutral
    
    
           1
               Diane P. Wood, The Rule of Law in Times of Stress, 70 U. Chi. L. Rev. 455, 457 (2003).
    
    
                                                     7
    and independent arbiter and through the application of clear and articulable standards. The
    
    old Latin question, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (Who guards the guardians?) implies
    
    that in a society governed by laws, rather than by individuals, someone must guard the
    
    guardians—or else, ultimately, there is nothing but the rule of men.2 Standards of review,
    
    identifiable factors and objectives for imposing sanctions, and a review limited to the record
    
    before us are checks on the potentially unfettered discretion of this Court. Because we have
    
    failed to articulate these standards and rules in today’s Opinion, and thus have strayed from
    
    fundamental principles of American jurisprudence, I dissent.
    
                                         Standard of Review
    
    ¶20    Montana regulates judicial conduct through a system involving both this Court and
    
    the constitutionally created Judicial Standards Commission. Article VII, Section 11 of the
    
    Montana Constitution provides for the removal and discipline of judges and directs the
    
    Legislature to create a judicial standards commission to investigate complaints of judicial
    
    misconduct. In accordance with this provision, the Legislature created the Judicial Standards
    
    Commission consisting of five members: two district court judges, who are elected by the
    
    district judges; one attorney, appointed by the Supreme Court, who has practiced law in this
    
    State for at least ten years; and two citizens, appointed by the Governor, who are not
    
    attorneys or judges. Section 3-1-1101, MCA. Other provisions in Title 3, chapter 1, part 11,
    
    
    
    
           2
            As James Madison noted, “In framing a government which is to be administered by men
    over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the
    governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” The Federalist No. 51, at 320 (Isaac
    Kramnick ed., 1987).
    
    
                                                    8
    MCA, set out the procedures and authority of the Commission and provide for action by this
    
    Court.
    
    ¶21      The Constitution directs the Judicial Standards Commission to “make rules
    
    implementing this section.” Mont. Const. art. VII, § 11(2). Pursuant to this authority, the
    
    Commission has adopted the Rules of the Judicial Standard Commission (hereinafter,
    
    “Rule ___”).     Under these rules, the Commission investigates allegations of judicial
    
    misconduct upon receipt of a complaint or on the Commission’s own motion. Rule 10(b),
    
    (c). Based on its investigation, the Commission may summarily reject or dismiss a
    
    complaint because it “fail[s] to state any possible grounds for disciplinary proceedings.”
    
    Rule 10(e), (f). If there is cause to proceed,3 the investigation may result in the filing of a
    
    formal complaint. Rule 11(a). The judge who is the subject of the proceedings is entitled to
    
    discovery, Rule 12(f); to a formal hearing, Rule 13(a)-(f); and to a majority decision of the
    
    Commission before a sanction may be recommended to this Court, Rule 13(h). The
    
    Commission and the judge may, at any time, agree to a particular disposition of the matter.
    
    Rule 10(h).
    
    ¶22      As an alternative to dismissing a complaint or filing formal charges, the Commission
    
    may impose an informal sanction without any involvement by this Court. Rule 10(g) states
    
    that, after receipt of a complaint and before voting to hold a formal hearing, the Commission
    
    “may delegate to one or more of its members the authority and responsibility to personally
    
    and confidentially confer with the judge subject to the inquiry, and to make informal
    
    
             3
             The Rules do not set forth the level of scrutiny—such as reasonable grounds, probable
    cause, or some other standard—required in evaluating the allegations of the complaint.
    
    
                                                  9
    recommendations to the judge concerning the subject matter of the inquiry and a satisfactory
    
    disposition thereof.” If the judge agrees to the Commission’s suggested disposition, the
    
    matter may be disposed of on the basis of the agreement reached. Rule 10(g).
    
    ¶23    Rule 9(c) authorizes eight different sanctions that the Commission “may impose, or
    
    recommend to the Supreme Court”: (1) private admonition by the Commission; (2) private
    
    reprimand by the Commission; (3) public reprimand by this Court; (4) censure by this
    
    Court;4 (5) temporary suspension by this Court; (6) removal by this Court; (7) permanent
    
    removal by this Court, with a declaration that the person may never again hold a judicial
    
    office in Montana; and (8) retirement, imposed by this Court, for a permanent disability that
    
    seriously interferes with the performance of judicial duties. Although the Commission “may
    
    admonish or privately reprimand a judge with or without a formal complaint being filed,”
    
    any other sanction must be administered by this Court “after completion of a proceeding on a
    
    formal complaint, and recommendation to the Supreme Court.” Rule 9(d). The grounds for
    
    discipline or removal are set forth in Rule 9(b). Of relevance to this case, one of those
    
    grounds is “[v]iolation of the Canons of Judicial Ethics adopted by the Supreme Court of the
    
    State of Montana, which may include conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice
    
    which brings the judicial office into disrepute, or impropriety.” Rule 9(b)(4).
    
    
    
    
           4
             The Commission distinguishes public reprimand from censure as follows. “Public
    Reprimand: A public reprimand administered by the Supreme Court, upon report and
    recommendation of the commission, which declares a judge’s conduct unacceptable under one of the
    grounds for judicial discipline but not so serious as to warrant a censure.” Rule 9(c)(3). “Censure:
    A public declaration by the Supreme Court that a judge is guilty of misconduct that does not require
    suspension or removal from office. Censure may be ordered in conjunction with other sanctions.”
    Rule 9(c)(4).
    
    
                                                    10
    ¶24    This Court’s role in judicial misconduct proceedings is specified in the Montana
    
    Constitution and by statute. The Constitution provides as follows:
    
                  (3) Upon recommendation of the commission, the supreme court may:
                  (a) Retire any justice or judge for disability that seriously interferes
           with the performance of his duties and is or may become permanent; or
                  (b) Censure, suspend, or remove any justice or judge for willful
           misconduct in office, willful and persistent failure to perform his duties,
           violation of canons of judicial ethics adopted by the supreme court of the state
           of Montana, or habitual intemperance.
    
    Mont. Const. art. VII, § 11(3). Section 3-1-1107, MCA, further provides:
    
                  (1) The supreme court shall review the record of the proceedings and
           shall make such determination as it finds just and proper and may:
                  (a) order censure, suspension, removal, or retirement of a judicial
           officer; or
                  (b) wholly reject the [Commission’s] recommendation.
                  (2) Any hearing conducted before the supreme court relative to a
           recommendation by the commission, together with all papers pertaining to
           such recommendation, shall be accessible to the public.
    
    ¶25    This Court has had limited opportunities to review the functions of the Commission
    
    and, as far as I am able to ascertain, has never rejected a recommendation of the
    
    Commission. While our statutory authority allows us to make such determination as we find
    
    “just and proper,” § 3-1-1107(1), MCA, there is no reference in the Constitution, the
    
    applicable statutes, or the governing rules as to the standard of review upon which we should
    
    assess Commission recommendations.          The Commission must apply the “clear and
    
    convincing evidence” standard of proof when evaluating evidence presented in support of a
    
    formal complaint, Rule 13(e), but the weight we must give the Commission’s findings and
    
    recommendations has never been articulated by this Court. What standard of review to
    
    apply, however, is necessarily the first question that should be addressed by the Court as it
    
    
    
                                                 11
    begins its decision-making process. Invoking the incorrect standard of review, or no
    
    standard of review as we have done here, potentially leads to a faulty and incorrect decision.
    
    ¶26    I note that the high courts of many other states have considered the appropriate
    
    standard of review to apply in proceedings of this nature. The reasoning of those courts,
    
    together with the Montana constitutional and statutory provisions governing judicial
    
    misconduct proceedings, leads me to conclude that a special form of “de novo” review
    
    applies to our review of Commission recommendations. Setting aside its power to dismiss a
    
    complaint or to resolve a complaint through private admonishment or reprimand, the
    
    Commission’s authority is limited to making a recommendation to this Court for a particular
    
    sanction or disposition. Mont. Const. art. VII, § 11(3); § 3-1-1106(3), MCA; Rule 9(c), (d).
    
    “[T]he term ‘recommend’ manifests an intent to leave the court unfettered in its
    
    adjudication.” In re Brown, 
    512 S.W.2d 317
    , 320 (Tex. 1974); accord In re Disciplinary
    
    Proceeding Against Deming, 
    736 P.2d 639
    , 642 (Wash. 1987) (stating this principle and
    
    concluding that the court’s review is “de novo”). Indeed, the authority to ultimately censure,
    
    suspend, remove, or retire the judge is entrusted to this Court alone, Mont. Const. art. VII,
    
    § 11(3), and we are entitled to “wholly reject” the Commission’s recommendation,
    
    § 3-1-1107(1)(b), MCA. We are required to “review the record of the proceedings” and to
    
    make such determination as we find “just and proper.” Section 3-1-1107(1), MCA. In
    
    exercising that authority, we must make our own independent evaluation of the record
    
    evidence adduced in the proceedings before the Commission.
    
    ¶27    The term “de novo” carries somewhat different implications depending on the
    
    context. In an appeal to a district court from a justice court that is not a court of record, the
    
    
                                                   12
    district court must try the case “de novo.” McDunn v. Arnold, 
    2013 MT 138
    , ¶ 12, 
    370 Mont. 270
    , 
    303 P.3d 1279
    . “A trial ‘de novo’ means trying the matter anew, the same as if it
    
    had not been heard before and as if no decision had been previously rendered.” McDunn,
    
    ¶ 22 (alteration and some internal quotation marks omitted). Such de novo review certainly
    
    would not apply here, as this Court does not try the matter “as if it had not been heard before
    
    and as if no decision had been previously rendered.” The rules do not provide for this Court
    
    to receive evidence and conduct hearings on the formal complaint. We instead “review the
    
    record of the proceedings” that occurred before the Commission. Section 3-1-1107(1),
    
    MCA.
    
    ¶28    In the context of reviewing a district court’s summary judgment ruling, we have stated
    
    that “de novo review affords no deference to the district court’s decision and we
    
    independently review the record, using the same criteria used by the district court to
    
    determine whether summary judgment is appropriate.” Siebken v. Voderberg, 
    2012 MT 291
    ,
    
    ¶ 20, 
    367 Mont. 344
    , 
    291 P.3d 572
    . Affording “no deference” to the Commission’s
    
    recommendation, however, would be improper for two reasons.
    
    ¶29    First, it must be remembered that, at the summary judgment stage, the court does not
    
    make findings of fact, weigh the evidence, choose one disputed fact over another, or assess
    
    the credibility of witnesses. The court merely examines the record to determine whether
    
    there is a genuine issue as to any material fact relating to the legal issues raised and, if there
    
    is not, whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the undisputed
    
    facts. Andersen v. Schenk, 
    2009 MT 399
    , ¶ 2, 
    353 Mont. 424
    , 
    220 P.3d 675
    . On appeal, this
    
    Court “has access to the same facts and can put itself in the same position as the district court
    
    
                                                   13
    judge when reviewing his or her purely legal rulings.” Cole v. Valley Ice Garden, LLC, 
    2005 MT 115
    , ¶ 4, 
    327 Mont. 99
    , 
    113 P.3d 275
    .
    
    ¶30    In contrast, the Commission’s recommendation to this Court typically follows a
    
    formal hearing where witnesses may testify and evidence is introduced. Rules 9(d), 13.
    
    Unlike a summary judgment proceeding, the Commission must weigh the evidence, choose
    
    one disputed fact over another, evaluate the credibility of witnesses, and make findings of
    
    fact. Unlike this Court, the Commission is in the unique position of observing the demeanor
    
    of witnesses (if any), assessing their credibility, and deciding the weight of their testimony.
    
    Thus, deference should be given to the Commission’s determinations in this regard. See In
    
    re Disciplinary Proceeding Against Anderson, 
    981 P.2d 426
    , 432 (Wash. 1999) (“In
    
    evaluating the evidence, we necessarily give considerable weight to credibility
    
    determinations by the Commission, as the body that had the opportunity directly to observe
    
    the witnesses and their demeanor.”); In re Disciplinary Action Against McGuire, 
    2004 ND 171
    , ¶ 6, 
    685 N.W.2d 748
     (“Although our review is de novo, we accord due weight to the
    
    hearing body’s findings because the hearing body had the opportunity to observe the
    
    demeanor of the witnesses.”).
    
    ¶31    Second, the Commission is a constitutionally established body uniquely composed of
    
    two judges, one attorney, and two citizens who are neither judges nor attorneys. Mont.
    
    Const. art. VII, § 11(1). The Commission is specially tasked with the investigation and
    
    adjudication of alleged judicial misconduct. Mont. Const. art. VII, § 11(2); § 3-1-1106,
    
    MCA. Under the framework outlined in Article VII, Section 11, this Court’s power to
    
    impose a particular sanction is contingent on the Commission having so recommended.
    
    
                                                  14
    Mont. Const. art. VII, § 11(3). As the Michigan Supreme Court observed regarding that
    
    state’s Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC):
    
                   As a constitutionally created state agency charged with making
           recommendations to this Court concerning matters of judicial discipline, the
           JTC is entitled, on the basis of its expertise, to deference both with respect to
           its findings of fact and its recommendations of sanction. However, such
           deference cannot be a matter of blind faith, but rather is a function of the JTC
           adequately articulating the bases for its findings and demonstrating that there
           is a reasonable relationship between such findings and the recommended
           discipline.
    
    In re Brown, 
    625 N.W.2d 744
    , 744 (Mich. 2000); see also In re Kelly, 
    238 So. 2d 565
    , 571
    
    (Fla. 1970) (“In view of these constitutional provisions prescribing the composition of the
    
    Commissions, its findings should be given great weight.”); In re Robson, 
    500 P.2d 657
    ,
    
    659-60 (Alaska 1972) (“Normally considerable weight will be accorded to a given
    
    recommendation from the commission, if supported by an adequate factual basis.”).
    
    ¶32    Based on the foregoing discussion, I would hold that our review of a Commission
    
    recommendation, and any underlying findings or conclusions, should be based on our own
    
    independent evaluation of the evidence—a de novo review of the record.5 At the same time,
    
    however, I believe we must give due weight to the Commission’s findings and
    
    recommendation, particularly to the extent those are premised on the Commission’s expertise
    
    or its assessment of witness credibility. See In re Johnstone, 
    2 P.3d 1226
    , 1234-35 (Alaska
    
    2000); Kennick v. Commn. on Jud. Performance, 
    787 P.2d 591
    , 598 (Cal. 1990); Schirado,
    
    364 N.W.2d at 52.
    
           5
            This approach is followed by various other courts. See e.g. In re Hanson, 
    532 P.2d 303
    ,
    315-16 (Alaska 1975); Geiler v. Commn. on Jud. Qualifications, 
    515 P.2d 1
    , 4 (Cal. 1973); Kelly,
    238 So. 2d at 571; In re Diener, 
    304 A.2d 587
    , 594 (Md. 1973); Jud. Qualifications Commn. v.
    Schirado, 
    364 N.W.2d 50
    , 52 (N.D. 1985).
    
    
                                                  15
    ¶33    Having addressed what I believe is the appropriate standard of review, no other
    
    conclusion can be reached but that an independent, de novo review of the record supports a
    
    finding that Judge Baugh violated Rule 1.2 of the 2008 Montana Code of Judicial Conduct.
    
    This rule concerns “Promoting Confidence in the Judiciary.”                Judge Baugh has
    
    acknowledged his violation of this rule, and his acknowledgement serves as conclusive
    
    evidence, in light of the averments in the Formal Complaint, that he failed to “act at all times
    
    in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality
    
    of the judiciary” and failed to “avoid . . . the appearance of impropriety.” Mont. Code Jud.
    
    Conduct R. 1.2. Having determined that the violation was established by clear and
    
    convincing evidence—consisting of Judge Baugh’s admission—the matter remains of what
    
    sanction to impose.
    
                                               Sanction
    
    ¶34    There are three matters which bear on the question of an appropriate sanction: factual
    
    considerations relating to the judge and the transgression; the goals and objectives of
    
    imposing a sanction; and the distinction between judicial misconduct on one hand, and legal
    
    error or an abuse of discretion on the other. I believe the Court’s Opinion is deficient in
    
    failing to articulate and address these considerations.
    
    ¶35    First, the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct suggests factors that should guide our
    
    consideration of a sanction. It states:
    
           Whether discipline should be imposed should be determined through a
           reasonable and reasoned application of the Rules, and should depend upon
           factors such as the seriousness of the transgression, the facts and
           circumstances that existed at the time of the transgression, the extent of any
           pattern of improper activity, whether there have been previous violations, and
    
    
                                                  16
           the effect of the improper activity upon the judicial system or others.
    
    Mont. Code. Jud. Conduct, Scope, ¶ 6.
    
    ¶36    Similarly, factors in determining the appropriateness of a sanction have also been
    
    addressed by courts in other jurisdictions, and there exists a well-recognized body of caselaw
    
    on this subject. The New Hampshire Supreme Court, for example, considered various
    
    approaches before settling on the following five factors: (1) the nature of the misconduct;
    
    (2) the extent of the misconduct; (3) the judge’s culpability; (4) the judge’s conduct in
    
    response to the commission’s inquiry and the commencement of disciplinary proceedings;
    
    and (5) the judge’s reputation and record on the bench. In re Coffey’s Case, 
    949 A.2d 102
    ,
    
    115 (N.H. 2008) (citing Cynthia Gray, American Judicature Society: A Study of State
    
    Judicial Discipline Sanctions 81-82 (2002)). The Washington Supreme Court has set forth a
    
    list of ten factors commonly referred to as the Deming factors:
    
                   To determine the appropriate sanction, we consider the following
           nonexclusive factors: (a) whether the misconduct is an isolated instance or
           evidenced a pattern of conduct; (b) the nature, extent and frequency of
           occurrence of the acts of misconduct; (c) whether the misconduct occurred in
           or out of the courtroom; (d) whether the misconduct occurred in the judge’s
           official capacity or in his private life; (e) whether the judge has acknowledged
           or recognized that the acts occurred; (f) whether the judge has evidenced an
           effort to change or modify his conduct; (g) the length of service on the bench;
           (h) whether there have been prior complaints about this judge; (i) the effect the
           misconduct has upon the integrity of and respect for the judiciary; and (j) the
           extent to which the judge exploited his position to satisfy his personal desires.
    
    Deming, 736 P.2d at 659. The Deming factors are frequently cited by other courts. See In re
    
    Jett, 
    882 P.2d 414
    , 419 (Ariz. 1994); Jud. Disc. & Disability Commn. v. Thompson, 
    16 S.W.3d 212
    , 226 (Ark. 2000); In re Inquiry Concerning McCormick, 
    639 N.W.2d 12
    , 16
    
    (Iowa 2002); In re Chaisson, 
    549 So. 2d 259
    , 266 (La. 1989); In re Hathaway, 
    630 N.W.2d 17
    850, 860 n. 13 (Mich. 2001); Miss. Commn. on Jud. Performance v. Skinner, 
    119 So. 3d 294
    ,
    
    ¶¶ 31-32 (Miss. 2013); In re Disciplinary Action Against McGuire, 
    2004 ND 171
    , ¶ 33, 
    685 N.W.2d 748
    ; In re Singletary, 
    967 A.2d 1094
    , 1101-02 (Pa. Ct. Jud. Disc. 2008); In re Rose,
    
    
    144 S.W.3d 661
    , 733 (Tex. Rev. Trib. 2004).
    
    ¶37    Second, also significant to the determination of a sanction is the accepted principle
    
    that “[the] goal in imposing sanctions is to protect the public and foster judicial integrity—
    
    not to punish.” In re McVay, 
    158 P.3d 198
    , ¶ 9 (Ariz. 2007) (internal quotation marks
    
    omitted); see also McComb v. Commn. on Jud. Performance, 
    564 P.2d 1
    , 5 (Cal. 1977)
    
    (“The ultimate objective is to protect the judicial system and the public which it serves from
    
    judges who are unfit to hold office.”); In re Inquiry Concerning a Judge, 
    788 P.2d 716
    , 722
    
    (Alaska 1990) (“Because the purpose of judicial discipline is to protect the public rather than
    
    punish the individual judge, the proceeding is neither civil nor criminal but sui generis.”).
    
    The public may be protected in several ways. One way is to remove the offending judge
    
    from office. Another is to keep the public informed that its judiciary actively investigates
    
    allegations of judicial misconduct and takes appropriate action when the allegations have
    
    been proved. “Judicial discipline thus protects the public by fostering public confidence in
    
    the integrity of a self-policing judicial system.” Johnstone, 2 P.3d at 1234.
    
    ¶38    Nevertheless, although punishment itself is not a goal of the process, imposing
    
    sanctions on an offending judge does have “punitive effects.” Johnstone, 2 P.3d at 1234.
    
    The punitive aspect of judicial discipline serves: to discourage further misconduct on the part
    
    of the disciplined judge and the judiciary as a whole; to reinforce the perception that judicial
    
    ethics are important; and to promote public confidence by demonstrating that the judicial
    
    
                                                  18
    system takes misconduct seriously. Punishment is a means of achieving these goals, but it is
    
    not an end in itself. Johnstone, 2 P.3d at 1234. Thus, courts have recognized that
    
    punishment may have an indirect role in imposing a sanction. See e.g. In re Probert, 
    308 N.W.2d 773
    , 776 (Mich. 1981); In re Kneifl, 
    351 N.W.2d 693
    , 700 (Neb. 1984); In re
    
    Eastburn, 
    914 P.2d 1028
    , 1035 (N.M. 1996).
    
    ¶39    As the foregoing caselaw reflects, determining the appropriate sanction requires a
    
    fact-intensive analysis based on generally applicable factors, and the sanction must be aimed
    
    at protecting the public and fostering judicial integrity, not punishing the specific judge.
    
    Critical to restoring public confidence in the judiciary is transparency in our decision-
    
    making, which necessitates that we identify those factors and objectives that guide our
    
    discretion in choosing to reject the Commission’s recommendation. The Court, however,
    
    has failed to articulate any factors or objectives—such as those set forth in the Montana
    
    Code of Judicial Conduct, those set forth in Deming, or some other set of factors—which
    
    have guided its discretion. In my view, the Court’s decision is deficient in its failure to
    
    consider, or even set forth, relevant considerations affecting the sanction to be imposed. A
    
    fundamental premise of the rule of law is that equivalent misconduct should be treated
    
    equivalently. Without standards, factors, and objectives guiding our consideration, we are
    
    left to make a decision in a legal vacuum, deciding whether a given sanction strikes us, by
    
    our own consciences, as commensurate with the wrongdoing. I, myself, am uncomfortable
    
    with rendering such an arbitrary decision. I believe this Court should not be guided by what
    
    might seem like “the right thing to do.” We cannot render fair decisions without employing
    
    guidelines, reason, or the law in our analysis.
    
    
                                                 19
    ¶40    Of course, our review is limited to the record created in the proceedings before the
    
    Commission, § 3-1-1107(1), MCA, and that record in the present case is rather meager due
    
    to Judge Baugh’s waiver of formal proceedings. We have the averments of the Formal
    
    Complaint filed by the prosecuting attorney, and the admissions in Judge Baugh’s responses
    
    to the allegations. But there is no testimony or evidence to review. Thus, the record before
    
    us contains no information regarding such factors as whether there has been a pattern of
    
    improper activity and whether there have been previous violations. The record does not
    
    establish Judge Baugh’s tenure and contribution to the bench and bar, and whether there
    
    have been prior complaints or discipline imposed. This does not mean, however, that our
    
    determination of the proper sanction need not be based on articulated factors and objectives.
    
    Indeed, identifying those factors and objectives is crucial to ensuring that a proper record is
    
    made by the Commission in the first place.
    
    ¶41    Finally, the third matter relevant to our imposition of a sanction is the distinction
    
    between judicial misconduct and errors of law. Matters involving legal error or the exercise
    
    of judicial discretion, particularly in the context of sentencing, are outside the function of the
    
    Commission and within the appellate jurisdiction of this Court. In other words, a complaint
    
    that a judge misapplied the law or abused his or her discretion is properly addressed by an
    
    appeal to this Court, not a proceeding before the Judicial Standards Commission.
    
    “[G]enerally, a judge is not subject to discipline for ‘appealable errors of law or abuses of
    
    discretion,’ and ‘[j]udicial error alone is not a sufficient basis upon which to found violations
    
    of the Code of Judicial Conduct.’” In re Hocking, 
    546 N.W.2d 234
    , 239 (Mich. 1996)
    
    (second brackets in original, citations omitted).
    
    
                                                   20
    ¶42    Nevertheless, although legal error or an abuse of discretion does not in itself
    
    constitute judicial misconduct, judicial misconduct creating the need for discipline may arise
    
    from the same source as judicial conduct that is within the scope of appellate review. In re
    
    Inquiry Concerning Lichtenstein, 
    685 P.2d 204
    , 209 (Colo. 1984); In re Laster, 
    274 N.W.2d 742
    , 745 (Mich. 1979). The important distinction is that appellate review seeks to correct
    
    erroneous legal rulings prejudicial to a particular party, while disciplinary action seeks to
    
    prevent potential prejudice to future litigants and the judicial system itself. Lichtenstein, 685
    
    P.2d at 209; Laster, 274 N.W.2d at 745. Consistent with this distinction, the Montana Code
    
    of Judicial Conduct recognizes that the rules set forth therein “should not be interpreted to
    
    impinge upon the essential independence of judges in making judicial decisions.” Mont.
    
    Code. Jud. Conduct, Scope, ¶ 5. If every error of law or abuse of discretion subjected a
    
    judge to both reversal and discipline, the independence of the judiciary would be threatened.
    
    ¶43    There is ample caselaw in which a judge’s comments made during sentencing have
    
    been evaluated in the context of judicial misconduct proceedings. Three of these cases are
    
    useful in addressing the issue now before this Court. First, in Lichtenstein, the Colorado
    
    Supreme Court rejected a recommendation that a judge be publicly reprimanded for
    
    statements he made during sentencing of a man for the second-degree murder of his wife. In
    
    explaining why he was imposing a four-year suspended sentence, the judge observed that the
    
    defendant’s “heat of passion” had been
    
           “caused by a series of highly provoking acts on the part of the victim of
           leaving him without any warning; . . . in a sense deceiving him as to her
           intentions by being extremely loving and caring up to and through the morning
           that she left the family home with the full intention of obtaining a divorce and
           proceeding with a separation from him without even giving him any
    
    
                                                   21
           knowledge of her whereabouts or that of their son.”
    
    Lichtenstein, 685 P.2d at 206. These comments and the suspended sentence generated
    
    extensive publicity, and a formal complaint was filed. The state Commission on Judicial
    
    Discipline found that the judge’s remarks violated the Colorado Code of Judicial Conduct
    
    “by bringing the judiciary into disrepute and undermining public confidence in the integrity
    
    and impartiality of the judiciary.” Lichtenstein, 685 P.2d at 207.
    
    ¶44    The Colorado Supreme Court ultimately determined that the sentence was illegal and
    
    remanded for resentencing. Lichtenstein, 685 P.2d at 206 n. 7. The court concluded,
    
    however, that there was no judicial misconduct. Emphasizing the need to evaluate the
    
    judge’s remarks in context, and noting that the judge was required by statute to make specific
    
    findings on the record detailing the circumstances which justified a departure from the
    
    presumptive sentence, the court reasoned:
    
           Judge Lichtenstein’s remarks were made in an effort to place on record the
           extraordinary mitigating circumstances that he believed justified a sentence
           below the presumptive sentence of eight to twelve years applicable to second
           degree murder. The judge was attempting to describe how the victim’s
           conduct, as perceived and interpreted by the defendant, brought about an
           emotional state in the defendant similar to the “irresistible passion” required
           for voluntary manslaughter. Although the sentencing comments contain some
           phraseology which, when read in isolation, might have offended the
           sensibilities of others, the full context of the sentencing hearing indicates that
           the choice of words was no more than an awkwardly executed effort to place
           on record the confused and highly emotional state of the defendant at the time
           of the killing, which, in the judge’s opinion, constituted a mitigating
           circumstance justifying a sentence below the presumptive range. The judge’s
           comments were not intended to be disrespectful of the law, the victim, or
           anyone else; nor do they reasonably lend themselves to such a connotation in
           the full context of the hearing. We thus conclude that the judge’s remarks
           were not such as to bring the judiciary into disrepute or to undermine public
           confidence in the integrity or impartiality of the judicial system . . . .
    
    
    
                                                  22
    Lichtenstein, 685 P.2d at 209 (footnote omitted).
    
    ¶45    Similarly, in Hocking, the Michigan Supreme Court rejected a recommendation that a
    
    judge be sanctioned for improper remarks made during sentencing on a rape conviction. The
    
    defendant, an attorney, had orally and digitally penetrated a woman he was representing in
    
    divorce proceedings. Although rejecting the defense’s motion for a directed verdict, the trial
    
    judge observed that “this was the weakest criminal case that resulted in a conviction that I’ve
    
    ever seen.” Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 238 n. 12. The judge thus imposed a sentence that
    
    deviated significantly downward from the sentencing guidelines. He identified, as mitigating
    
    factors, evidence that “the Defendant helped the victim up off the floor after the occurrence,”
    
    that “the victim told a spouse-abuse agency the sex was not forced but . . . her resistance was
    
    worn down by the Defendant’s persistent request,” and that “the victim agreed to the
    
    Defendant’s 2:00 a.m., Sunday morning visit.” Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 239 (internal
    
    quotation marks omitted). The third remark was interpreted to mean that a lesser sentence
    
    was appropriate because “the victim asked for it.” Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 239. The state
    
    Judicial Tenure Commission found that these statements were “bizarre” and “showed a
    
    certain obvious lack of sensitivity towards the feeling of women generally,” and
    
    recommended that the judge be suspended from judicial office for thirty days without pay.
    
    Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 237, 239 n. 14 (internal quotation marks omitted).
    
    ¶46    In reviewing the judge’s comments, the Michigan Supreme Court began its analysis
    
    with the principle, noted above, that judicial error alone is not a sufficient basis upon which
    
    to found violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 239. The
    
    court thus observed that “Judge Hocking is not subject to discipline for his decision to depart
    
    
                                                  23
    downward on the basis of the facts of the case. Relief for unjustified departure, if warranted,
    
    is available through appeal.” Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 239. Acknowledging that a judicial
    
    officer is not immune from discipline for the manner in which a decision is articulated, the
    
    court then observed:
    
                  It is clear, however, that every graceless, distasteful, or bungled attempt
           to communicate the reason for a judge’s decision cannot serve as the basis for
           judicial discipline. We are committed to eradicating sexual stereotypes, but
           we cannot ignore the cost of censoring inept expressions of opinion. The
           commission’s contention that Judge Hocking’s comments were “rife with
           remarks revealing his frustration with the jury verdict and his sympathy for the
           defendant” illustrates the problem.
                  Judge Hocking was obviously straining to find ground to justify a
           reduced sentence. However, disagreement with a jury verdict is not improper,
           and sympathy for a defendant a judge believes to have been wrongfully
           convicted is not inappropriate. The rationale for a severe sentence would
           inevitably have a negative effect on those who disagree with the verdict, and
           “sympathetic” remarks would have a negative effect on those who believed the
           verdict was correct. In short, we would discourage honest explanation of the
           rationale for tailoring sentences to the offender and the offense were we to
           define misconduct from the perspective of the person most sensitive to such
           remarks.
    
    Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 240.
    
    ¶47    In contrast, the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted a recommendation that a judge be
    
    publicly reprimanded for making statements at sentencing that expressed a stereotypical
    
    view regarding the sexual nature of young boys. In the Matter of Bruce A. Gaeta, No. ACJC
    
    2002-171 (N.J. Advisory Comm. on Jud. Conduct), adopted, In the Matter of Bruce A.
    
    Gaeta, No. D-140 (N.J. May 7, 2003). The defendant was a former teacher who had pleaded
    
    guilty to second-degree sexual assault involving her 13-year-old male student. In the plea
    
    agreement, the defendant agreed to a sentence of three years’ incarceration; however, the
    
    judge sentenced her to probation. In imposing this sentence, the judge opined: “‘Maybe it
    
    
                                                  24
    was a way of [the victim] to, once this did happen, to satisfy his sexual needs. At 13, if you
    
    think back, people mature at different ages. We hear of--newspapers and t.v. reports over the
    
    last several months of nine-year-olds admitting having sex.’” Gaeta at 5-6. The judge
    
    related that when he was serving as a prosecutor and was looking around the courtroom for
    
    the fifteen-year-old girl who was the victim of an assault, “‘he was surprised to see someone
    
    ‘who looks like she’s twenty-five-years old,’ adding that the defendant in that case stated
    
    ‘[he] had no idea until later on. Well, too bad. The law said you violated the statute.’”
    
    Gaeta at 6 (brackets in original).
    
    ¶48    The state Advisory Committee on Judicial Conduct found that the judge’s remarks
    
    expressed stereotypical views regarding the sexual nature of young boys. Gaeta at 8. The
    
    Committee observed that the law criminalizing sexual activities between an adult and a
    
    minor is strongly based on the understanding that minors, boys as well as girls, are
    
    especially, and presumptively, vulnerable and subject to harm from sexual acts with adults.
    
    Gaeta at 9. Reasoning that the judge’s remarks implied “a bias, that is, a preconception or
    
    predetermined point of view about the sexuality of minors,” the Committee determined that
    
    the judge had violated the Code of Judicial Conduct in that his statements “fostered the
    
    impression of lack of impartiality” and “constituted conduct prejudicial to the administration
    
    of justice that brings the judicial office into disrepute.” Gaeta at 10-11. In recommending a
    
    sanction, the Committee noted that the judge’s record was excellent and that he had “a
    
    deserved reputation for integrity.” Gaeta at 14. Moreover, there was no “semblance of bias,
    
    prejudice, unfairness or partiality” in the judge’s “long and unblemished judicial career.”
    
    Gaeta at 14. The Committee thus determined: that the judge’s statements “were isolated,
    
    
                                                 25
    situational and aberrational” and “not reflective of any underlying bias”; that the judge was
    
    “fully capable of avoiding any repetition of this conduct”; and that there was “no likelihood
    
    that similar conduct will recur.” Gaeta at 14. Nevertheless, the Committee observed that
    
           [a] judge who makes such remarks, even out of inadvertence or by speaking
           carelessly or loosely, creates in the context in which they were spoken the
           perception that he or she is biased and harbors prejudices that will lead to
           prejudgment, lack of objectivity and unfairness. Such remarks undermine
           public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary and detract from the
           proper administration of justice and the reputation of the judicial office.
    
    Gaeta at 14-15. The Committee recommended, therefore, that the judge be reprimanded.
    
    Gaeta at 15. As noted, the New Jersey Supreme Court adopted this recommendation.
    
    ¶49    In light of this caselaw, several observations about the present proceedings are in
    
    order. Preliminarily, the Formal Complaint, which necessarily frames the allegations of
    
    misconduct for which Judge Baugh may be sanctioned, asserts that Judge Baugh imposed
    
    “an overly lenient sentence” and “justified the unlawful sentence by blaming the child
    
    victim” (emphases added). The Complaint goes on to relate that “Judge Baugh’s assertion
    
    that the victim was ‘older than her chronological age’ is inconsistent with Montana law . . .
    
    which requires evaluation of child victims based on chronological age alone” (emphasis
    
    added). The Complaint further alleges that “Judge Baugh attempted to retract his sentence
    
    and rationale in a manner inconsistent with Montana law” (emphasis added). The Complaint
    
    summarizes that “[t]hrough 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, therefore violating [Rule 1.2 of the]
    
    Montana Code of Judicial Conduct” (emphasis added). Two statements have been attributed
    
    
    
                                                 26
    to Judge Baugh in the Complaint: (1) Judge Baugh stated that Rambold’s victim was “a
    
    troubled youth, but a youth that was probably as much in control of the situation as the
    
    Defendant, one that was seemingly, though troubled, older than her chronological age,” and
    
    (2) Judge Baugh later explained to members of the press that “[i]t was horrible enough as it
    
    is just given her age, but it wasn’t this forcible beat-up rape.”
    
    ¶50    The issue before us is not whether Judge Baugh violated the Code of Judicial
    
    Conduct; he has admitted that he failed to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public
    
    confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary” and failed to
    
    “avoid . . . the appearance of impropriety.” Mont. Code Jud. Conduct R. 1.2. The question
    
    is the proper sanction. Nevertheless, the portions of the Formal Complaint italicized above
    
    must be scrutinized in assessing the appropriateness of Judge Baugh’s sanction, as they draw
    
    into question the distinction between legal error and judicial misconduct—a distinction the
    
    Court fails to acknowledge and address in its Opinion. The fact that a judge has imposed an
    
    “unlawful” sentence or one that is “inconsistent with Montana law” is not, in itself, a basis to
    
    sanction a judge. Hocking, 546 N.W.2d at 239. Such errors can be—and, in fact, have been
    
    in the instant matter—remedied through an appeal to this Court. See State v. Rambold, 
    2014 MT 116
    , 
    375 Mont. 30
    , ___ P.3d ___ (concluding that Judge Baugh lacked statutory
    
    authority to suspend all but 31 days of Rambold’s sentence, and remanding for resentencing
    
    before a different judge). Similarly, exercising leniency is not, by itself, a basis for
    
    sanctioning a judge. The sentencing policy of Montana specifically states that “[s]entencing
    
    practices must permit judicial discretion to consider aggravating and mitigating
    
    circumstances.” Section 46-18-101(3)(d), MCA. Furthermore, this Court has explained that
    
    
                                                  27
           Montana law provides for generalized, indiscriminate sentencing of criminal
           defendants, with term ranges and broad authority for sentencing courts to
           impose conditions. . . . [Montana’s Criminal Code vests] wide sentencing
           discretion in the trial judge who is familiar with the character and past record
           of the defendant, and with the circumstances of the particular case.
    
    Driver v. Sentence Rev. Div., 
    2010 MT 43
    , ¶ 17, 
    355 Mont. 273
    , 
    227 P.3d 1018
     (internal
    
    quotation marks omitted). Finally, a judge imposing sentence must always articulate his or
    
    her reasons for the particular sentence imposed, § 46-18-115(6), MCA, and the judge is
    
    statutorily required to consider the victim’s statements, § 46-18-115(4)(c), MCA.
    
    Sanctioning the judge based solely on the fact that his or her reasons for a given sentence
    
    were expressed in an awkward or inelegant manner would potentially undermine Montana’s
    
    sentencing policy. It is the judge’s act of placing at issue the independence, integrity, and
    
    impartiality of the judiciary, not the judge’s failure to communicate his or her reasoning
    
    using the best possible phraseology, that warrants the imposition of a sanction.
    
    ¶51    I believe this case bears a similarity to Gaeta. Whether or not he actually held a bias,
    
    Judge Baugh’s remarks implied “a bias, that is, a preconception or predetermined point of
    
    view about the sexuality of minors”—adolescent girls in particular. Gaeta at 10. His
    
    statements created the perception that he harbored prejudices that would lead to prejudgment,
    
    lack of objectivity, and unfairness. Gaeta at 14-15. The remarks thereby undermined public
    
    confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and created an appearance of
    
    impropriety. It is this transgression that our sanction must address. Our purpose is not to
    
    punish Judge Baugh, but to protect the public and to promote public confidence in the
    
    judicial system. McVay, 158 P.3d at 200; McComb, 564 P.2d at 5; Johnstone, 2 P.3d at
    
    
    
    
                                                  28
    1234. To do so, we must consider the circumstances that existed when Judge Baugh made
    
    his concededly improper remarks. Mont. Code. Jud. Conduct, Scope, ¶ 6.
    
    ¶52    In this regard, Rambold introduced into evidence, without any objection from the
    
    prosecution, two video recordings of interviews with the victim for Judge Baugh to consider
    
    when imposing sentence. I have reviewed these interviews because I believed it crucial to
    
    place myself in the same position as Judge Baugh when he was imposing sentence. While
    
    the interviews have been kept under seal and are not available for public viewing, they are, in
    
    my opinion, very emotional and tragic. Judge Baugh’s remarks appear to have been based
    
    on his review of these interviews, particularly the specific statement the victim made
    
    regarding “control” as it related to her relationship with the defendant. Notably, the
    
    interviews would have led me to impose a harsher sentence on Rambold, had I been the
    
    sentencing judge. The interviews demonstrate the response of a youthful victim who, as is
    
    typical of youth, fails to appreciate the impact of a tragic event on her life and mistakenly
    
    believes she was in “control” of the situation. This is precisely the reason, in my opinion,
    
    that courts must intervene to protect our youth and impose a harsher sentence under these
    
    circumstances. This serves, nevertheless, to illustrate the nature of discretionary sentencing,
    
    which Montana has long followed and which the Legislature has mandated in
    
    § 46-18-101(3)(d), MCA.
    
    ¶53    In any event, the Court fails to evaluate Judge Baugh’s inappropriate statements in the
    
    context of the videotape evidence that was produced at sentencing and was a basis of his
    
    decision. As a result, the Court fails to address “the facts and circumstances that existed at
    
    the time of the transgression” as required by the Montana Code of Judicial Conduct. Among
    
    
                                                  29
    the other factors the Court overlooks or fails to address is the fact that Judge Baugh
    
    acknowledged his misconduct.        Deming, 736 P.2d at 659 (“whether the judge has
    
    acknowledged or recognized that the acts occurred” is a factor that should be evaluated in
    
    assessing a sanction). The Court also does not address the significance of the fact that one of
    
    the statements identified in the Formal Complaint was made in the courtroom in the judge’s
    
    official capacity, while the other was made outside the courtroom. Moreover, the Court has
    
    not considered whether the misconduct was an isolated occurrence, whether Judge Baugh’s
    
    remarks were reflective of an underlying bias, whether he was capable of avoiding any
    
    repetition of the improper conduct, and whether there was any likelihood that similar
    
    misconduct would recur. Deming, 736 P.2d at 659; Gaeta at 14. As previously mentioned,
    
    we have no record as to Judge Baugh’s length of service, whether there have been prior
    
    complaints or discipline imposed, or whether there is a pattern of conduct in Judge Baugh’s
    
    personal life or official capacity exhibiting an appearance of impropriety.
    
    ¶54    Additionally, our decision to delay imposition of Judge Baugh’s sanction “in order to
    
    minimize the impact of his suspension on the parties whose cases are pending before him,”
    
    Opinion, ¶ 13, is directly at odds with the principle that the sanction should be designed to
    
    protect the public against further misconduct by the disciplined judge. Further, our
    
    consideration of the impact of his suspension “on the other judges in the Thirteenth Judicial
    
    District,” Opinion, ¶ 13, is similarly not a valid consideration in imposing a sanction on
    
    Judge Baugh. By sheltering the sanction in order to minimize the impact on the other judges,
    
    our transparency is compromised by removing from public observation, to some extent, the
    
    judiciary’s response to the misconduct.
    
    
                                                  30
    ¶55    Judge Baugh’s statements unquestionably were improper and gave the impression of
    
    bias and prejudice. He has acknowledged his misconduct and submitted himself for public
    
    censure. Given the limited record before us and the deference I believe we should afford
    
    Commission recommendations, I perceive no basis for rejecting the Commission’s
    
    recommendation of a public censure.
    
    ¶56    In conclusion, based on the record and the foregoing principles, I question whether
    
    our standardless rejection of the Commission’s recommendation can restore the public’s
    
    confidence in their judiciary. We have chosen to reject the reasoned recommendation of the
    
    Commission whose membership consists of two district judges with a combined tenure of
    
    over 40 years on the bench, a seasoned attorney admitted to the bar over 50 years ago, and
    
    two citizens appointed by the Governor. Without doubt there has been a “public outcry”
    
    against Judge Baugh and his statements at sentencing, and the easiest thing for this Court to
    
    do is to respond with an increased sanction demonstrating our intolerance for such
    
    stereotypical characterizations. However, the independent judgment of this Court will surely
    
    be threatened if we respond to the public outcry without applying identifiable rules of
    
    analysis. Our job, first and foremost, is to be evenhanded and transparent. The public does
    
    not need another example, this time in their highest court, of judicial decision-making that
    
    fails to follow, or even acknowledge, restrictions imposed by rules of law.
    
    ¶57    I would adopt the Commission’s recommendation, without modification. I dissent
    
    from the Court’s contrary decision.
    
                                                      /S/ LAURIE McKINNON
    
    
    
    
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