Why Women are Leading the Fight Against the Recall of Judge Persky

Editor's Note:

The recall campaign of Judge Persky has reached a new low say the women fighting what they call a misguided recall effort. The leaders of NoRecall2018 are a group experienced in criminal law and procedure, social justice and advocates for survivors and defenders of women's rights.

“The recall campaign is spending more than a million dollars to remove one judge who followed the law in every case. Real reform or additional support for survivors of rape could take place with these kind of resources ­–­ but instead we have a misguided effort of recall,” says Santa Clara University Law Professor Ellen Kreitzberg, a cofounder of the No Recall Campaign of Judge Persky.

Kreitzberg is also Co-director of the Center for Social Justice and Public Service at Santa Clara Law School, she along with a group of women with extensive backgrounds in criminal law, criminal procedure, constitutional law, social activism, civil rights, social justice and criminal justice reform formed and lead the campaign to oppose the recall and to aggressively speak out on matters on which the judge, cannot due to limits on sitting judges.

The steering committee includes Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell, Santa Clara University Law Professor Margaret Russell, and Attorney and Former Public Defender Elspeth Farmer. For decades they have been outspoken supporters for women who are survivors of sexual assault, or victims of abuse or harassment and advocates for the rights of women.

On their website NoRecall2018.org they spell out the falsehoods perpetuated about Judge Persky and his time on the bench by the recall campaign. One that they say has had almost two years to spin a false narrative without any opposition. Retired Judge Cordell calls it, “stunning in its dishonesty,” and continues, “the spokespersons of the recall, while they have no background or experience in criminal law or criminal procedure know better. They know that this recall is a threat to judicial independence and that their vindictive attempt to recall Judge Persky is pulling us back to into the world of mandatory minimum prison sentences that resulted in mass incarceration of the poor and people of color,” she said. “They also know that this recall has nothing whatsoever to do with the #MeToo movement but that has not stopped them from co-opting it.”

The harsher sentences we are already seeing in the courthouse has one important consequence – harsher sentences that will land disproportionately on our communities of color said Professor Kreitzberg about what supporters fail to see in their recall effort. “The recall campaign was directly responsible for the passage of a new mandatory minimum sentencing bill taking away discretion from judges and requiring a three-year sentence in prison for even young offenders with no prior record.” Anyone convicted of the same crime of sexual assault on an unconscious person as Brock Turner since the passage of the law cannot get less than three years in prison.

But the recall continues.

“Because they have no real experience in criminal justice reform, they fail to see the long term damage that this recall effort will have. This effort will bring us back to the failed policies of mass incarceration and a school to prison pipeline for young men – and in particular young men of color,” stated Kreitzberg. The public defender in Santa Clara County has also publicly stated that it will take our communities of color decades to recover from the recall added Kreitzberg.

Professor Ellen Kreitzberg said she did not know Judge Persky and had never appeared before him, when lawyers she respected alerted her to the tactics of the recall campaign she began to look into it.

“I was appalled at how they had demonized a fair and thoughtful judge, how they had distorted or completely misrepresented the facts of his cases to try to make their claims, and how they had decided to sacrifice this one judge who followed the law in every case to advance their greater goals.”

They paint him as a judge who favors white privileged athletes and yet the cases they cite do not show that at all she says. “This is a judge who when faced with a young offender with no prior record, will temper justice with mercy – regardless of race or ethnicity.” In the cases cited by the recall one young man is African-American, one is Asian and one is Pacific Islander, but even these sentences were done with the full support of the probation office and without any opposition by the district attorney.

According to the No Recall campaign website Judge Persky presided over more than 2,000 criminal cases during his 14 years on the bench. The five cases identified by the recall campaign to support their claim of a pattern of bias only represents one quarter of one percent of all of Judge Persky’s cases. This tiny sample does not show a pattern or bias – in every case cited by the recall campaign, Judge Persky followed the law and generally accepted the recommendation of the probation report.

Once challenged, the recall campaign was forced to adjust somewhat, “but for the most part they are really indifferent to the truth,” says Kreitzberg.

She describes the nature of the recall campaign as demonizing a “thoughtful judge who has spent his life in public service and to essentially equate him on equal footing with our worst perpetrators.” Their recent law signs – with a photo of Brock Turner next to that of the judge harkens back to one of the most racist campaign ads of Willie Horton and Michael Dukakis where an African American parolee’s photo was placed next to the candidates photo.

Kreitzberg qualifies the recall campaign as hitting a new low with its latest mailer of a photo of Donald Trump and Judge Persky. She describes the tactic as more scurrilous, more sensationalist, and more deceptive. “I have lost all respect for the recall campaign that has taken the important issue of sexual assault and the treatment of victims and turned it into a personal punitive campaign designed to demonize Judge Persky regardless of the truth.”

“What’s tragic is that so many real victims are being compromised as well by these tactics. The campaign has shown there are no ethical constraints and no moral compass they feel compelled to follow.”



The views in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the organization SV De-Bug


Related Media:
Judge Facing Recall Breaks His Silence
Why the Recall of Judge Persky is Terrible for Racial Justice
How Our Limited Options for "Justice" Around the Brock Turner Sentence Only Punishes Communities of Color



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