SAN JOSE — The annual list of new job assignments for Santa Clara County Superior Court judges nearly always contains a few nuggets, and the new roster is no exception.
Judge Aaron Persky, faced with the first viable recall threat in California in more than eight decades, has volunteered to take an assignment he can do from home, out of the direct public eye.
He’ll be the “night judge,” meaning he’ll be on call 15 hours a day, five days a week, from 5 pm to 8 am, starting Sunday evening and ending Friday morning. All new judicial assignments for 2018, including his, begin Jan. 16.
Persky is bound by strict ethics rules that prohibit commenting on specific cases like Turner and limit how he can campaign, He has put up a billboard with the message asking voters to “Retain Judge Persky.”
Stanford law professor Michele Dauber mounted a recall campaign after Persky gave what many considered a lenient, six-month sentence last summer to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, who sexually assaulted a woman in 2015 outside a campus fraternity party. Turner served half the time (three months), as is customary for inmates for good conduct, and will have to register as a sex offender for life.
Persky could have volunteered for nights for any number of reasons. It’s possible his new assignment will free him up to do limited campaigning such as meet-and-greets or fundraisers. Or maybe he’s just trying to be helpful to the court since the night job isn’t normally a popular assignment.
But the persistent rumor that Persky is being driven out of civil court by lawyers filing peremptory challenges to disqualify him from handling their cases is utterly false.
As the night judge, he will handle a variety of requests, including for search warrants, bail and emergency protective restraining orders.
Dauber called it “worrisome” that Persky will be handling emergency protective orders because “he clearly doesn’t take domestic violence seriously.” His supporters disagree, saying that he protected women in his former capacity as a prosecutor to keep sexually violent predators from being released. Judges grant most emergency protective orders since they are short-term orders. But it’s plain that Dauber will be closely tracking exactly how Persky handles them.
In another interesting tidbit off the new list, Judge Vanessa A. Zecher will become supervisor of the criminal division. Those are the courts that came under fire this summer from the civil grand jury for taking longer than any other in the state to resolve felony cases, leaving accused suspects in jail longer than necessary at a significant cost to taxpayers.
If anyone can snap the court out of what the grand jury called a “culture of complacency,” it’s Zecher. A tough, hard-working judge, she’s not afraid to deny lawyers’ requests for postponements, as proved by her calm but brisk handling of the recent Sierra LaMar death penalty trial.
Originally posted in The Mercury News by Tracey Kaplan. Read it here.