Recall effort for Brock Turner's judge poses serious threat to rule of law, say law profs
California law professors including Pamela Karlan, Gerald Uelmen and Erwin Chemerinsky signed a support letter for the judge who presided over the recent Stanford University sexual assault trial, and is facing a recall petition.
Of the 46 law professors opposing the recall of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, 11 are from Stanford University, the San Jose Mercury News reports. In June, Persky sentenced Brock Turner, a former Stanford swim team member who was found guilty of sexually assaulting an intoxicated, unconscious woman, to six months in jail. The sentence includes mandatory sex-offender registration. The minimum state prison term for the offense Turner was convicted of is two years, the Mercury News reports. Efforts to call for Persky’s removal began shortly afterward, on the basis that Turner’s sentence was too short.
“Rather than take on the difficult democratic work of seeking to change the law that confers sentencing discretion upon judges, or filing a complaint with the independent state agency charged with investigating and punishing judicial misconduct, the recall movement seeks to make Judge Persky and all other California judges fear the wrath of voters if they exercise their lawful discretion in favor of lenience,” the professors wrote. “This poses a serious threat to the rule of law. Naked political pressure of this kind risks undermining the very foundation of dispassionate, independent judgment upon which all criminal convictions and sentences depend for their legitimacy.”
The government sought a six-year sentence for Turner, according to the article, and argued that he lied about a history of drinking. His probation officer recommended a shorter sentence, basing the decision on the defendant’s age; intoxication level at the time of the incident; and prior record. Turner was arrested a year before the incident, the Los Angeles Times reported, for underage drinking.
Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor who co-chaired the group that in 2013 revised the university’s sexual assault policy, is seen as a leader for the recall movement. Another group, which through Change.org gathered petition signatures to remove Perksy, is in the process of sending those signatures to the Santa Clara County Superior Court. A similar petition was on MoveOn.org.