New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is getting slammed by fellow liberals and others for lauding a petition effort to recall a California judge for his sentencing in the high-profile sexual-assault case involving a Stanford swimmer.
Organizers last week turned in roughly 95,000 signatures to recall Judge Aaron Persky, who sentenced Brock Turner to six months in jail for the 2015 sexual assault of a young woman while he was a member of the Stanford swim team.
“This is incredible,” Gillibrand gushed this past weekend on Twitter. “In California, the activists behind @RecallPersky gathered 100,000 signatures to recall the judge who sentenced Brock Turner to just six months in jail after he was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman outside a frat party.”
The signatures still must be certified by Santa Clara County, but the campaign appears to have more than the roughly 60,000 needed to force a recall vote in early June.
Critics say the recall effort — along with Gillibrand’s support — is fueling a pervasive political climate in which judges are being pressured to order longer jail or prison sentences, which will only add to the problem of mass incarceration.
“I’m extremely disappointed to see this from Gillibrand,” Marc Joseph Stern, a lawyer and a liberal-leaning writer for Slate.com, tweeted Sunday. “These campaigns only exacerbate mass incarceration by scaring other judges into imposing higher sentences across the board.”
Stephen Shanley, another Gillibrand follower on Twitter, wrote: “Sound more like mob mentality. Your support is dangerous to independent Judiciary. You should not be supporting this recall.”
Such criticism marks the second time in recent weeks that Gillibrand — a potential 2020 presidential candidate — has been under attack from liberals.
The senator was criticized last month for leading an effort to force Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken to resign from Congress for alleged sexual misconduct before a congressional ethics committee even investigated the accusations.
Critics suggested she used the situation as an opportunity to nix a possible 2020 White House bid by Franken, another liberal favorite, and that Gillibrand disrespected the Clinton family, who has supported her, for saying Bill Clinton should have resigned as president during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
“All this reeks of is political opportunism,” a Democratic strategist told The Hill newspaper. “And that’s what defines Kirsten Gillibrand’s career.”
Others, including law school professors from such liberal-leaning California universities as UC Berkeley and Stanford, have reportedly backed Persky, amid the recall effort and Gillibrand’s support.
The California Judges Association has also backed Persky, who has filed a legal challenge to the petition-recall effort.
“If a party believes a judge made a wrong decision, that party may appeal the decision,” the group said as the recall movement started. “It does harm to our constitutional system, however, to place judges in fear of recall or personal harm before making unpopular decisions that comply with the law.”