Effort to recall judge in Brock Turner sex assault case can resume

This June 27, 2011, photo shows Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, who drew criticism for sentencing former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to only six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

Jason Doiy/The Recorder via AP

SAN FRANCISCO -- A recall campaign to oust a judge under fire for his handling of a sexual assault case involving a Stanford University swimmer can resume, a judge ruled Monday.

Retired San Francisco County Judge Kay Tsenin agreed with the recall campaign that the county -- not the state -- has authority over the recall of Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky. This opens the way for proponents of the recall to move forward with collecting signatures in support of it. 

"We're very thankful that the judge ruled in favor of Santa Clara County voters and their constitutional right to petition to recall Judge Persky," said Recall Persky Campaign chair and Stanford Law professor Michele Dauber. "This ruling validates our belief that Judge Persky filed a frivolous lawsuit that was intended to stall, delay and obstruct the democratic process, and also to waste taxpayer money."

Persky had sued after the intent to recall request was submitted, arguing the state should have the right to remove or recall judges, not the public.   

His attorney, Elizabeth Pipkin, said in a statement that they "are hopeful the court will change its tentative ruling after considering our arguments."   

The Santa Clara County registrar permitted recall proponents to begin collecting signatures earlier this month to qualify the issue for the June ballot. But Persky's attorneys filed a lawsuit arguing that proponents should have filed with California's secretary of state because county judges are state officers.

CBS San Francisco reports supporters must collect 90,000 signatures and be certified for the ballot by March 9 in order to appear on the June ballot.    

The ruling on the recall is tentative and a final ruling expected to be issued Thursday.   

Persky drew criticism nationwide after he sentenced former Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting a woman who had passed out behind a trash bin near a fraternity house. Turner is no longer attending Stanford and is a registered sex offender. He was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape, sexual penetration of an intoxicated person with a foreign object, his finger, and sexual penetration of an unconscious person with a foreign object. 

If Persky were to be recalled, it would be the first recall of a Santa Clara County judge in history. Dauber said only two judges in state history have been recalled -- one in 1913 in San Francisco and the other in 1932 in Los Angeles.