Judges who've said some controversial things

Judge in rape case: 'Keep your knees together'
Judge in rape case: 'Keep your knees together'

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Story highlights

  • "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?" Canadian judge asked
  • A judicial panel is going to recommend whether he should be ousted
  • He isn't the first judge who has gotten in hot water over remarks in court

(CNN)Judges aren't robots who operate their courts devoid of opinion or emotion. They say things, and sometimes their words can get them in hot water.

Case in point: A Canadian judge who might lose his job for asking a woman in a rape case why she couldn't "just keep (her) knees together."
    Here are instances in recent years in which judges' comments weren't as judicious as some would have liked:

    Rape victim 'probably as much in control' as defendant

    Judge G. Todd Baugh later apologized for his remarks in a rape trial.
    In 2013, a Montana judge drew criticism not just for a brief sentence that he gave a teacher who raped a student but also for something he said.
    The case: Billings Senior High School teacher Stacey Dean Rambold was accused of raping freshman Cherice Moralez in 2007. Moralez committed suicide in 2010 before the case went to trial.
    The teacher pleaded guilty to sexual intercourse without consent. In 2013, Judge G. Todd Baugh gave Rambold a 15-year sentence -- but suspended all of it except for 31 days.
    Baugh said the victim looked older than her years and was "probably as much in control of the situation as was the defendant."
    A state Supreme Court judge later ruled that Baugh's comments reflected bias. Another judge eventually sentenced Rambold to 15 years in prison, with five years suspended.
    Baugh, who retired in 2014, apologized for the comments.

    Teen 'wasn't the victim she claimed to be'

    Judge Jeanine Howard faced a reprimand from a state panel.
    Texas judge Jeanine Howard faced scrutiny in 2014 after implying to a reporter that a rape victim wasn't as sexually inexperienced as she'd claimed to be.
    Sir Khalil Young had pleaded guilty that year to felony sexual assault. Authorities said he was 18 when he raped a 14-year-old girl in her school in 2011. The Dallas County judge sentenced him to 45 days in jail, with five years of probation.
    Explaining the sentence to a Dallas Morning News reporter, Howard said the victim "wasn't the victim she claimed to be."
    According to a review by Texas' State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Howard said the victim had given the impression during testimony that she'd never had sex before. But Howard, the panel found, discovered an entry in the girl's medical records that led her to conclude incorrectly that the girl had given birth earlier.
    "Judge Howard's decision to publicly share unflattering information about a 14-year-old rape victim, at best, reflects poor judgment," the panel said in a 2015 reprimand of the judge.
    Howard expressed sympathy for the victim's situation and acknowledged her statements may have re-victimized her, the panel said.

    'A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him'

    Judge Aaron Persky was criticized over Brock Turner's sentence.
    California judge Aaron Persky has received a lot of public heat recently for the six-month jail sentence he gave former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman near campus.
    Those who argue the sentence was too lenient -- Turner was released after serving three months -- also are upset with what Persky said when he issued the sentence: "A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him."
    Persky noted that Turner would have to register as a sex offender. He said he took Turner's age and his lack of criminal history into account.
    Outcry over the sentence led to a campaign to recall Persky, who had prosecuted sex crimes before becoming a judge. At his request, Persky will no longer hear criminal cases after a transfer to Santa Clara County Superior Court's civil division by the end of September.
    The judge's supporters responded with their own campaign using a website called "Retain Judge Persky."

    'Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?'

    Judge Robin Camp has apologized and undergone sensitivity training.
    Canadian Federal Court Judge Robin Camp is the man under scrutiny for his comment on whether an alleged rape victim could keep her knees together.
    The case in question took place in 2014 when Camp was an Alberta Provincial Court judge before becoming a federal judge.
    A 19-year-old woman said she was raped over a bathroom sink during a house party. According to records of the trial, Camp asked her why she didn't "skew her pelvis" or push her bottom into the sink to avoid penetration. He openly wondered, "Why couldn't you just keep your knees together?"
    In another part of the trial, he said, "Some sex and pain sometimes go together ... that's not necessarily a bad thing."
    Camp acquitted the defendant, though the verdict was overturned on appeal, and a new trial is scheduled for November.
    The judge has undergone sensitivity training and has apologized publicly.
    Part of the Canadian Judicial Council held hearings this month about Camp's conduct in the case. The panel is expected to recommend to the full council whether he should be booted from his position.

    'You think you have anxiety now? You haven't seen anxiety'

    Florida Judge Jerri Collins wasn't impressed when a woman who'd alleged domestic violence missed a court appearance -- and Collins told her as much.
    Video from a Seminole County courtroom shows Collins berating the woman in July 2015. The woman, as a higher court would later find, had cited anxiety, depression and a desire to have no more contact with the person she accused of abusing her.
    "You think you have anxiety now? You haven't seen anxiety," Collins told the woman during a hearing after her absence. The woman sobbed.
    Collins found the woman in contempt of court and sentenced her to three days in jail, "even though the victim pleaded ... that she needed to take care of her 1-year-old child," Florida Chief Justice Jorge Labarga said.
    Larbarga reprimanded Collins last month. He ordered her to attend an anger management course and training related to domestic violence -- and warned that any further violations by Collins would be viewed "very harshly indeed."