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Since 1911, when Progressive crusaders introduced the judicial recall, just four California judges had been booted from the bench by angry voters—until today.
Santa Clara County voters favored ousting Aaron Persky, the judge who prompted widespread outrage in 2016 when he handed down a lenient sentence to a former Stanford University swimmer for sexual assault. In that case, Persky sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for assaulting an unconscious, intoxicated young woman outside a campus fraternity party.
Persky becomes the first California judge to be removed via recall since 1932.
The vote followed a high-profile, well-financed publicity campaign against Persky, whose decision shot to national prominence after the publication of the woman’s emotional 12-page court statement. The recall campaign, which was led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber, raised more than $1 million and netted the endorsements of the Mercury News and a legion of lawmakers, women’s right organizations, and other community leaders from around the state.
Supporters of the recall contend that Persky’s decision, which bypassed the prosecution’s request for a six-year sentence for Turner, demonstrated a bias on his part against sexual assault victims. Opponents of the recall argue that the effort over-politicized the judiciary, which “risks undermining the very foundation of dispassionate, independent judgment,” as 46 California law professors wrote in a letter opposing the recall.
With 39 percent of votes and counting, 59 percent of voters were supporting the recall of Persky.