The infamous Stanford rape case is making headlines around the country -- around the world, actually -- for the light sentence handed down to the convicted rapist Brock Turner by a California judge. An online petition to remove judge Aaron Persky from office has collected more than one million signatures, and additional petitions are still gaining momentum.
It takes more than public outrage and online petitions to oust judges, however. In fact, as Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's Seeker Daily report, removing a sitting judge from the bench is nearly impossible, thanks to the U.S. Constitution.
On the federal level, judges are not subject to term limits of antenure/">y kind -- they're legally permitted to serve for life. This is quite deliberate and specifically designed to separate the branches of power. The idea is to prevent judges from being influenced in their rulings by fear of losing their job. It's similar to the academic tradition of tenure.
Judges can be impeached, but it's a difficult process indeed. In the case of federal judges, the U.S. House of Representatives would adopt a resolution of impeachment, officially accusing the judge of misbehavior. Then the Senate would have to vote two-thirds against to convict. Only 15 federal judges have been impeached in the U.S. since 1804.
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On the state level, things are little different. As a California Superior Court Judge, Persky holds an elected position with a six-year term -- he can be voted out of office like anyone else. But just last week, Persky quietly slid into a new six-year term because he ran unopposed in Santa Clara, Calif.
So for the next six years, at least, Persky's job is safe -- unless he's the target of a recall election. In that case, the citizens of California themselves can remove the judge from office prior to the end of his term. (Many political observers think this is exactly what will happen to Persky.)
California voters have one other option, the independent state agency known as the Commission on Judicial Performance. Established by the California Constitution, this office allows a panel of judges to investigate judicial misconduct and enforce discipline, which can include removal from the bench.
-- Glenn McDonald
New York Times: Judge Aaron Persky Under Fire for Sentencing in Stanford Rape Case
NBC: Recall Effort Launched Against Judge Aaron Persky in Stanford Rape Case
The Marshall Project: How Easy Would It Be to Recall the Judge in the Brock Turner Case?
National Center for State Courts: Removal of Judges