SANTA CLARA - Efforts to recall a now infamous Santa Clara judge continue while opposition has sprung up against a bill that prevents courts from handing down short sentences like the one Judge Aaron Persky handed down in the Stanford rape case.
Approximately $150,000 has been funnelled into a campaign that’s seeking to put a special vote on the November ballot to have Persky forced out of California’s legal system.
The “Recall Judge Aaron Persky” campaign is seeking $500,000 to fund an effort to obtain the signatures of 80,000 residents of Santa Clara County.
While the effort has been in the national spotlight lately and has the support of millions, Peter Berlin, a Los Angeles-based criminal defense lawyer, said it rare for judges to be recalled.
“The entire purpose of the judiciary is to be free from public pressure, political correctness and other influence, so they can apply the law to the particular facts and circumstances of the case, not to be bullied by certain groups,” Berlin told the Northern California Record.
Beyond having to meet all of the criteria to push such an effort from petitions to polling places, there’s no precedent for recalling a judge who has acted within the bounds of the law.
“Judges will not be removed from the Judicial Council for their rulings that are within the law barring, some form of corruption or impropriety,” Berlin said.
Separate from the recall campaign, there’s a Change.org petition with more than 1.3 million signatures that seeks another route to force Persky from his post. The petition is directed at "decision maker" that includes the California State House, California State Senate, 29 representatives, a senator, a congressman and the president of the United States.
For those disappointed in the justice system as a result of Perksy’s ruling in the Stanford case, Berlin pointed out what many people may not be ready to admit right now.
“The situation is not the norm,” he said. “The majority of cases don’t have such a result, nor are ever publicized or discussed.”
While recall and removal efforts launched against the judge may fizzle out or fall flat, California legislators, urged and inspired by their constituents, have put forth several bills to change the way rape cases are handled.
Assembly Bill 702 seeks to expand the definition of rape to include crimes currently classified and forcible sodomy and sexual assault.
Another more controversial bill, AB 7888 seeks to set mandatory minimums for rape cases so California sees no more cases like the one in which Turner was sentenced to six months in jail -- good behavior on the inside saw him serve just three months.
But there has been backlash from victims rights advocates who have asserted that the bill and its mandatory minimums, three years imprisonment, is too reactionary.
"When we set policy based on one story that upsets people, over and over again we set bad policy," Natasha Minsker, director of the ACLU of California Center for Advocacy & Policy, told the Northern California Record.