A Judge is Recalled

 Photo: Marco Ugarte / AP

Photo: Marco Ugarte / AP

The Brock Turner rape trial

In 2016, Brock Turner was convicted of sexual assault of an unconscious Emily Doe at a Stanford party. The crime carried a 14-year prison sentence, but judge Persky imposed a jail sentence of only 6 months (of which Turner served 3) based on the probation department’s recommendation. The recommendation was based on Turner being a first-time offender and the overcrowding of prisons.
 

The People Take Action

On Tuesday, Judge Aaron Persky was recalled by voters in Santa Clara County. The judge sparked controversy following his ruling on the Brock Turner case. Following the trial, a recall campaign led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, a friend of the victim, garnered widespread support. This is the first judicial recall in California since 1932.

 



Those in favor of the recall call it an enormous victory for women’s rights, sexual assault victims, and American democracy. They lambasted the probation department’s rationale for the recommendation – posing the question “Are all men allowed to rape one woman each before they are properly punished?” Furthermore, the judge's history for favoring athletes in the past is called into question. The #MeToo movement is given credit for boosting the recall effort and its outcome.

Those in opposition call the judicial election a questionable practice since elected judges can be susceptible to imposing harsher sentences simply to appease voters. They claim that a threat to judicial independence undermines the integrity of the system and sends a dangerous message. Judges should rule according to the crime and not public opinion. They credit the success of Brown vs. Board of Education to the independence afforded to federal judges who are appointed not elected. 

Judicial independence vs. justice for an unfair sentence

Several judges and prominent lawyers – including the DA that prosecuted Turner – have opposed the recall, citing the effects this will have on minorities and economically disadvantaged people who are sentenced by judges who might now be hesitant to exercise leniency. Nonetheless, Turner was neither poor nor a minority. Following the case, California passed a law requiring mandatory minimum prison time for similar sexual assault cases. Whether the recall will have long-standing effects on judicial independence remains to be seen.

When you're on the verge of being booted


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