A campaign to recall Judge Aaron Persky, the California judge who sentenced former Stanford athlete Brock Turner to six months in prison for sexual assault, turned in a recall petition with nearly 100,000 signatures.
If certified, the petition will give California voters the chance to remove Persky from office this summer. Recall organizers say the judge consistently favors privileged defendants at sentencing, warranting his removal.
“The voters of Santa Clara County are saying loud and clear that they will hold Judge Persky accountable for his pattern of bias in favor of athletes and other privileged offenders who commit sex crimes and violence against women,” said Stanford University law professor Michelle Dauber, who leads the recall effort.
To hold a recall election, the Santa Clara Registrar of Voters requires the collection of thousands of signatures. The number of signatures on the recall petition must equal 20 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for superior court judges. A simple majority is required to recall the judge, and a plurality is required to elect his successor. It is possible that Persky could lose the recall vote, then win the election to replace him.
Organizers are confident they have secured the requisite number of signatures to force a recall, making certification something of a formality. If the Santa Clara registrar certifies the petition, a recall election will be held in June.
If a recall is certified, candidates have until March 22 to submit petitions to appear on the ballot. The San Jose Mercury News reports that just one candidate, assistant district attorney Cindy Hendrickson, has announced a challenge to Persky, though other candidates may soon launch their own campaigns.
Persky earned national notoriety after sentencing Turner to a brief prison term following his conviction for sexual assault. His victim, identified in court papers only as “Emily Doe,” delivered a victim-impact statement at sentencing which became a viral sensation.
Turner was released after serving three months of his six month jail sentence. He is currently appealing his conviction.
A coalition of California law school professors released a letter opposing the recall effort, warning the campaign threatens judicial independence. Prominent liberal scholars Pamela Karlan of Stanford Law School and Erwin Chemerinsky of University of California Berkeley School of Law are among the signatories.
“The mechanism of recall was designed for and must be limited to cases where judges are corrupt or incompetent or exhibit bias that leads to systematic injustice in their courtrooms,” the letter reads. “None of these criteria applies to Judge Persky.”
The judge submitted a statement in his defense to the registrar, arguing he properly followed sentencing guidelines for first-time convicts like Turner.
“As a prosecutor, I fought vigorously for victims,” the statement read, according to local media. “As a judge, my role is to consider both sides. California law requires every judge to consider rehabilitation and probation for first-time offenders. It’s not always popular, but it’s the law, and I took an oath to follow it without regard to public opinion or my opinions as a former prosecutor.”
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