Opponents of recalling judge stress judicial independence

SANTA CLARA — Iowa, Sacramento, the White House — and now Santa Clara County.

Those are just a few of the places where the principle of judicial independence has come under heavy fire by impassioned advocates, according to panelists who spoke Thursday at Santa Clara University’s law school.

The panelists, who gave a lunchtime talk to about 75 law students, oppose the ouster of Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky. He currently faces a well-organized recall threat in Santa Clara County for giving a sentence many regard as too lenient to a former Stanford athlete convicted of sexual assault.

Recall advocates led by Stanford law professor Michele Dauber have gathered more than 45,000 of the 55,634 signatures they need by early January to put the issue on the June ballot. They also have raised more than $500,000.

“Judge Persky is clearly biased, and has made a slew of terrible decisions in cases of sex crimes and violence against women,” Dauber said. “We have to end the culture of impunity for these offenses, and holding elected officials accountable for creating that culture and reinforcing it is a legitimate exercise of democratic accountability.”

But rather than debate the merits of the six-month jail sentence Persky gave Brock Turner, the panel made up of a federal judge, retired state appellate court justice and McGeorge law school professor stressed the risk of putting political pressure for any reason on judges who make unpopular decisions.

“Do you really want a system where a judge holds fingers up to the air to see which way the wind is blowing?” said retired state appellate justice Arthur G. Scotland. “It sets a dangerous precedent.”

In Sacramento in 2004, for instance, opponents of same-sex relationships threatened to recall retired Judge Loren McMaster for upholding legislation that gave domestic partners the same rights as those who were married. …read more

Source:: The Mercury News

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