Debate over Judge Persky recall as voters get ready to decide his fate

In a little less than seven weeks, Santa Clara County voters take to the polls to decide the fate of a sitting Superior Court Judge. Aaron Persky faces a recall effort fueled by his June 2016 decision to sentence a Stanford student guilty of sexual assault to six months in jail.

Proponents for and against the recall face-off Wednesday night in a debate. At issue: Should a sitting judge be removed if enough voters disapprove of a decision? Or is this a misguided step, that could harm the judiciary?

Nearly a year and a half after Brock Turner’s sentenced was served, the other shoe is poised to drop in the debate over Judge Aaron Persky..

“This is not about me. And it’s not about Judge Cordell,” said Stanford Law professor Michele Dauber.

She chairs the movement to recall Persky, claiming his sentence in the Turner case was too lenient due to bias.

“Judge Persky has a history and pattern of bias. He has show in case after case after case, that he will make decisions that will favor very privileged men who commit domestic violence or sex crimes,” said Dauber.

“He did nothing unlawful. This was one case,” countered retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell.

She is an outspoken critic of the recall movement. Cordell said using public pressure to remove a sitting judge harms the overall judiciary.

“We want judges who will make decisions based on the facts and the law, and not based on public pressure,” said Judge Cordell.

Representatives from the clashing viewpoints are slated to debate for 30 minutes Wednesday night at the Fremont Hills County Club in Los Altos Hills. The South Peninsula Area Republican Coalition, or SPARC, is hosting the event as part of its regular monthly meeting..

SPARC is charging 40 dollars for members and 45 dollars for non members to attend the debate. Critics say forcing people to pay is muting part of the electorate on a very important issue.

“Healthy debate is always a good thing,” said Vera Sloan, a San Jose-based political activist.

She said the scheduled debate does little good if the vast majority of voters cannot pay to attend and will not hear the arguments.

“Everyone needs to be able to participate. We don’t have a political system that says, you should have to pay to play,” said Sloan.

SPARC representatives said the costs cover their fees, and that interest in this month’s meeting mushroomed almost over night. Meanwhile, the two sides prepare for a first time face-off that could determine if one judge continues sitting, or is forced from the bench.

“It’s about nearly 100,000 voters in this county who have expressed strongly their desire to vote against Judge Persky,” said Dauber.

Cordell countered, “He’s a good and decent judge with a very good reputation.”

The debate begins at 7pm. Each representative will give their opinion for 15 minutes, then Q-and-A from the audience. SPARC representatives ae considering streaming the event to allow a greater audience to hear each position.