Aaron Persky.

(Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM)


SAN FRANCISCO — Critics of Aaron Persky, the Santa Clara Superior Court judge who found himself at the center of a nationwide furor last year over campus rape, on Monday formally initiated the long process of trying to unseat him.

Led by Stanford University law professor Michele Dauber, a total of 50 people including local politicians, progressive activists and Silicon Valley engineers Monday morning submitted a notice of intent to circulate a recall petition to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters.

Also among the signatories was Mark Lemley, a Stanford Law School professor and intellectual property litigator at Durie Tangri, San Jose Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of media company BlogHer.

As grounds for the recall effort, the notice says Persky “stunned the world when he sentenced Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster at a fraternity party.”

“Santa Clara County residents deserve a judge who will protect victims—not rapists,” the notice adds. Persky has seven days to file a response to the filing. The judge did not immediately respond to a voice message left at his chambers on Monday morning.

Persky became the subject of a social media uproar in June 2016 after he sentenced Turner to just six months in jail for sexual assault crimes; the district attorney had sought six years. A statement by Turner’s victim, “Emily Doe,” quickly went viral and fueled an outpouring of criticism against the judge.

Turner was released last September for good behavior.  The same month, following a number of other controversial sentencing decisions involving sex crimes and assault against women, Persky requested to be reassigned to the civil division of the court.

The filing on Monday begins a lengthy and complicated recall process. Following the notice of intent, recall supporters will have to submit a proposed recall petition to the registrar; if that is approved, the campaign will have to gather a total of 58,634 valid resident signatures within a period of 160 days.

If the effort is successful, Santa Clara County voters will get to vote on the recall during the next election on June 5, 2018, according to the registrar’s office spokeswoman Anita Torres. If a majority of voters choose to oust Persky, the person with the most votes to replace him will take his seat on the bench. No clear front-runner has emerged yet to replace the judge.