SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU) - The effort to remove a sitting Santa Clara County judge took another step forward Tuesday. The county Board of Supervisors voted to add a petition to recall Judge Aaron Persky to the June ballet.
The last time the pro and con Persky forces clashed in court was inside the Olde Courthouse over the issue of recall signature collections. The court allowed the collections, and now those signatures pave the way for Persky’s removal, and some say, possible adulteration to the judiciary.
Under lock and key, and kept deep within a cavernous county registrar’s storage vault, sits six boxes that could end the career of a sitting judge; 94,000 verified voter signatures in the Recall Persky effort.
“California elections code requires us to keep certain election materials for up to two years. And they’re kept under lock and key here in case there’s every a question,” said Phillip Chantri, a spokesman for the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.
The question before Santa Clara County voters come June 5th – should Judge Aaron Persky keep his seat on the bench, or be sent packing. On KTVU’s “The Four on 2,” recall organizer Michelle Dauber said finally the voice of voters will be heard.
“They want to hold Judge Persky accountable for his pattern of bias in favor of athletes and other privileged offenders who commit violence against women,” said Stanford law professor Dr. Michele Dauber, the organizer of the Committee to Recall Persky.
Persky was the presiding judge in the Brock Turner trial. He became infamous after sentencing the former Stanford swimmer to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a frat party in 2015.
Turner served half his sentence due to good behavior and was released to a crush of cameras. The backlash against the sentence formed the foundation for the recall effort. But Tuesday night, Persky’s attorney maintains the judge acted properly.
“Being a judge is not a popularity contest. We hire the judges of this state to follow the facts and the law,” said Elizabeth Pipkin.
Elizabeth Pipkin says that’s exactly what Persky did in the Turner case – review any criminal history, the probation departments recommendation, and initial statements from the victim. Persky supporters fear removing a judge because a ruling is unpopular, but not illegal or a violation of law, sets a dangerous precedent.
“We have inequality. It means that we have a lack of due process, and that we can’t trust our judiciary. We actually would not be a democracy, if we did not have an independent judiciary. We would be um, we would be a tyranny,” said Santa Clara School of Law Professor Margaret Russell.
For now, the fate of a judge, and according to some, the essence of democracy, sits in a secure room, waiting to see if these boxes will bring down a sitting judge. Meanwhile, Persky’s legal team has appealed a ruling by a county court, arguing the recall should be handled by the secretary of state. The United States 6th District Court of Appeals will make an expedited ruling before the June election date.