When Judge Aaron Persky in California gave a convicted student rapist a sentence perceived by many as too lenient (yet fully within his authority), a Stanford law professor started a recall campaign against the elected judge and he became a national pariah.
Persky has since voluntarily removed himself from hearing criminal cases.
Now a Brown University student has started a similar pressure campaign against a federal judge who ruled against the university’s punishment of an accused student, saying it judged him by an ex post facto standard for sexual consent.
Alex Volpicello, a leader in the university’s Meiklejohn Peer Advising program, wrote a Facebook post (approaching 100 shares as of Friday afternoon) urging the Brown community to pressure Judge William Smith to retract his “distorted logic” in the ruling.
There’s no indication Volpicello thinks the pressure campaign can remove a lifetime appointee from the bench, but he seems to believe that emotional appeals and sheer numbers will lead Smith to reconsider his legal analysis. (“CW” means content warning, a variant of trigger warning.)
The post is plainly contemptuous of Smith’s analysis, saying it’s impossible that accused student John Doe did not know what Brown’s (unwritten) consent standard was:
Please let the judge know that Brown’s community standards on consent are universally known and understood, and that coercion and manipulation [Brown’s finding against Doe] is a blatant violation of the policy. …
PLEASE, I am BEGGING YOU, send an e-mail to Judge Smith (I LITERALLY HAVE A TEMPLATE YOU CAN COPY AND PASTE AT THE END OF THIS POST) stressing to him that not only does the irreparable harm that has been inflicted upon the survivor (emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially) obviously outweigh any consequence to the assailant, but that they are also outweighed by Brown’s interests, in that FEMALE BROWN STUDENTS CANNOT BE SAFE WITH SOMEONE WHO BELIEVES THAT SEXUAL COERCION AND MANIPULATION CAN REASONABLY BE EMPLOYED ON YOUNG WOMEN AND ACTIVELY COMMITS SEXUAL ASSAULT. Please, tell him that this is not only morally unjust to the survivor, but that it is a public safety hazard.
Volpicello’s suggested language to the judge focuses on his finding that Doe will suffer “irreparable harm” if he is not reinstated to his classes at Brown:
I implore you to understand that the “irreparable harm” supposedly inflicted to John Doe is laughably meager in comparison to not only the harm inflicted on the survivor (as I know that is not what you are addressing in a case of due process), but in comparison to the harm it will inflict on Brown University. …
He is a public safety threat, and I need to stress to you that Brown’s interest in suspending him far outweighs the incredibly narrowly tailored, minuscule, and little-encompassing interests that he holds. …
I want you to know that the sullen, tear-drained eyes of the sexual assault survivor,— a strong, brave woman struggling with a weight and a harm infinitely more complicated and heavy than you can comprehend— her family, myself, the Brown community, and the country will be watching you.
Brooklyn College Prof. KC Johnson, who closely follows due-process litigation stemming from campus rape cases, noted Volpicello’s post – and Volpicello promptly mocked him.
That said: such messages are a reminder of how one-sided public discourse is on campus (including from students) on issues of due process.
— KC Johnson (@kcjohnson9) September 1, 2016
.@kcjohnson9 Hard for me to see how an actual sexual assault in front of KC Johnson will convince him that a sexual assault transpired
— (((alex))) (@AlexVolpicello) September 2, 2016
IMAGE: Hans Splinter/Flickr