Santa Clara County Presiding Judge Rise Pichon has granted the request of Judge Aaron Persky for reassignment. Persky was harshly criticized and subjected to a recall campaign over the leniency of a six-month jail sentence for a former Stanford University swimmer who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman.
“While I firmly believe in Judge Persky’s ability to serve in his current assignment, he has requested to be assigned to the civil division, in which he previously served,” Pichon said in a statement. “Judge Persky believes the change will aid the public and the court by reducing the distractions that threaten to interfere with his ability to effectively discharge the duties of his current criminal assignment.”
Though the move is not necessarily permanent, Persky will no longer hear criminal cases. The assignment is subject to an annual review, and takes effect Sept. 6. Another judge’s desire to transfer to Palo Alto reportedly made a quick swap with Persky possible. Normally such changes don’t happen until a new year.
When ordering the six-month sentence for Brock Turner, a Dayton, Ohio, resident who had been attending Stanford on a swimming scholarship, Persky cited the effect the conviction will have on Turner’s life. The case sparked a national debate on college drinking and sexual assault, and led to a recall effort against the judge. Michelle Dauber, the Stanford law professor behind the recall, plans to continue her efforts.
“The issue of his judicial bias in favor of privileged defendants in sex crimes and domestic violence still needs to be addressed by the voters of Santa Clara County,” Dauber said in an email. “In our opinion, Judge Persky is biased and should not be on the bench.”
Dauber and other organizers reportedly will begin collecting signatures in April to qualify the issue for the November 2017 ballot.