Brock Turner Judge Switches to Civil Court

     SAN JOSE (CN) – The judge who sentenced Brock Turner will no longer preside over criminal cases now that his request to be transferred to the civil division has been granted.
     Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky has been embroiled in controversy since he sentenced Stanford student Brock Turner to six months in county jail for digitally penetrating his classmate while she was unconscious. Many perceived the sentence as too light.
     In a statement to the press, Santa Clara County’s presiding Judge Rise Jones Pinchon emphasized that it was Persky’s decision to move and not a reassignment handed down by the court.
     “While I firmly believe in Judge Persky’s ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served,” Pinchon said. “Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment.”
     The distractions have been myriad and severe.
     Persky has been the subject of a recall campaign that arose within days of Brock Turner’s sentencing hearing.
     Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, who heads the “Recall Aaron Persky” campaign, issued a statement saying her group will continue the recall efforts, noting that Persky could still transfer back to the criminal bench.
     “We will continue to proceed with the recall election as it is important for Santa Clara County voters to decide whether Judge Persky should remain on the bench for the next six years,” she said.
     Roderick O’Connor, Santa Clara County Deputy Public Defender, said Persky’s critics were misusing the recall system, which is designed to remove judges when they operate outside the bounds of the public trust, not when members of the public disagree with a sentence.
     “It is ludicrous and outrageous to witness these types of political maneuvers simply because he did not pass as draconian a sentence as somebody wanted,” O’Connor said in an interview. “This is a judge who has sat on a bench for 13 years and always carefully used his discretion. And he did so in this case.”
     Indeed, while several legal experts have agreed the sentence was too lenient, many are pushing back against the recall effort, saying the backlash has gone too far.
     A group of Santa Clara Superior Court retired judges said Persky followed correct procedure, adopted the recommendation of the probation officer and read extensively from the victim’s letter during the sentencing hearing.
     “Calls to remove a judge because of a decision, even a very unpopular one, when that judge exercised discretion permitted under the law, is an entirely different matter,” the retired judges said in a July letter. “The essence of judicial independence is that judges must be able to make decisions without fear of political repercussions.”
     The 18 retired judges who signed the letter said a recall compromises that judicial independence and would establish a dangerous precedent.
     Nevertheless, Dauber continues to argue that Persky is biased “in favor of privileged defendants in sex crimes and domestic violence.”
     “In our opinion, Judge Persky is biased and should not be on the bench,” she said. “And voters of Santa Clara County will have the choice to decide.”

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