PALO ALTO, Calif. – A California court said Thursday that a judge who was criticized for ordering a lenient six-month jail sentence in a rape case against a former Stanford University swimmer will no longer hear criminal matters by his own request.
Santa Clara County Presiding Judge Rise Pichon said she has granted the request of Judge Aaron Persky.
“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.”
The move is not necessarily permanent. The assignment is subject to an annual review and takes effect Sept. 6.
Persky ordered the six-month sentence for Brock Turner, a Dayton, Ohio, resident who had been attending Stanford on a swimming scholarship.
Authorities say Turner sexually assaulted the girl while she was passed out near a trash bin.
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 effort, said that while the move from Persky is welcome, the recall attempt will continue, in part because Persky “can still transfer back to hearing criminal cases any time he chooses.”
“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.”