Voters recall Judge Persky

Michele Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber and Ex-Judge Aaron Persky

Daily Post Staff Writer

After a two-year crusade to avenge a six-month county jail sentence seen as too lenient for sexual assault, the so-called “Brock Turner judge,” Aaron Persky, was recalled from the Santa Clara County bench yesterday (June 5).

With 100% of the precincts reporting, the recall was supported by 60% of the 176,058 voters whose ballots have been counted as of today (June 6) at 12:30 p.m.

As for who should replace him, voters chose Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson over San Jose attorney Angela Storey by a ratio of 69.1% to 30.9%. Retired Palo Alto Judge LaDoris Cordell, who campaigned in support of Persky, said she would continue to fight for an independent judiciary by working to make it more difficult to recall judges.

“We did everything we could possibly do to fight the most dishonest campaign I had ever encountered. It was dishonest about who Aaron Persky was on the bench, and dishonest about his record,” Cordell told the Post. “People were basically ill-informed about him and also about how the court system, and particularly the criminal justice system, works.”

Cordell lamented that, for the first time in history, a California judge had been recalled after doing “nothing wrong” and said she “absolutely believes history will prove us right.”

Now, she wants to change the law to prevent judicial recalls without documented misconduct, bias, incompetence or illegal behavior. She said she might want to see the law require two-thirds of the vote for a judicial recall, rather than a simple majority of 50%.

She said the recall campaign benefited from an 18-month head start because until the measure qualified for the ballot in January, there was nothing for Persky to campaign against.

Cordell also disparaged recall leader Michele Dauber as “a misguided, very troubled person who was able to galvanize this and remove a good, decent judge.”

“Right now, anyone can just pick on a judge,” Cordell said. “If you gather the signatures and raise the money, you can do it. That’s not how this should work.”

The recall campaign raised $1.2 million to unseat Persky. The anti-recall side raised $1 million, including $371,448.62 in legal services from the San Jose law firm McManis Faulkner. Another $1.1 million in Santa Clara County taxpayer funds were used to put the measure on the ballot.

She added that she saw Persky yesterday evening and that he would “be OK.”

“As a lawyer, he was a fighter for the poor and underserved and he’ll continue to do good work,” Cordell said. “I am heartened by the thousands of people who voted against the recall because they got it, but this doesn’t end here.”

Dauber didn’t return a call seeking comment late last night.

However, Dauber told the Washington Post, “Tonight many, many voters voted against the culture of impunity for high-status perpetrators of sexual assault or domestic violence … This election expresses clearly that sexual assault, sexual violence is serious and it has to be taken seriously by elected officials. It’s a historical moment when women across all sectors of society are standing up saying enough is enough.”

Voters casting their ballots at the Lytton Gardens Senior Community in downtown Palo Alto were almost evenly split on the recall.

Alyson Davies said she voted for the recall, but supported Storey because she had a “better argument for why she was running.”

“I feel like for such a high-profile case, for him to do such a lenient sentence, I feel like, what is he doing for the less high-profile cases? I just don’t trust his judgment, and I prefer to have someone else for the next four years,” Davies told the Post.

The furor against Persky started in 2016, when he gave Turner six months in county jail for digitally penetrating a 23-year-old woman while she was passed out drunk outside a fraternity party at Stanford. Turner was a 19-year-old freshman at the time of the crime.

Pattern alleged

After the sentence, the recall campaign found six other cases that they say show a pattern of bias in favor of wealthy, white college athletes accused of sex crimes and domestic violence. Of the four criminal cases that the recall campaign said fit that profile, the only white defendant was a plumber and the only college athlete was a black College of San Mateo football player.

The state Commission on Judicial Performance found no pattern of bias or misconduct by Persky.

Kim Spitler, a Mountain View tax accountan who worked as a precinct inspector yesterday, said she voted for the recall, and for Storey as the successor. “I agree that judges should feel independent, but I don’t think there was any other way for people to show their displeasure,” Spitler said. “(Storey) seemed the one that would be more judicial.”

‘Tough call’

Robotics engineer Roy Kornbluh said he voted to recall Persky, but that “it wasn’t an easy choice for me.”

“That was a really tough call, because I think he made the wrong decision on (the Brock Turner) case, but he was within the guidelines. You want the judicial to be kind of insulated from voters as well,” Kornbluh said.

He said he voted for Hendrickson as the successor to the recall.

Persky didn’t start campaigning against the recall until last year, and didn’t personally speak out until this spring. He cited the “awkwardness” of being thrust into the political sphere and the fact that judicial ethics prevent him from discussing cases.


  1. Cordell is right —— this happened because of a lot of uninformed voters. If you’re not informed, don’t vote!

  2. Now that we’ve gotten the knack of doing recalls, let’s recall the Palo Alto school board and start over! Maybe Michele won’t be so enthusiastic about that recall!!!

  3. Simply put, emotions triumphed over facts. The facts voters ignored were that the Brock Turner sentence was within the law, it reflected the evaluation of a female parole officer and Persky had no history of giving breaks to white, priviledged athletes. The fact is that he was cleared of accusations that he acted with bias by the judicial commission. But one woman riled up a lot of angry people and it’s cost this judge his job. Now our judges will be forced to take into consideration not just the law and the facts but also angry pressure groups. This is a horrible outcome. I wonder how the Stanford law school faculty can sit back and allow this to happen without speaking up.

  4. I’m glad judges will now be looking over their shoulders when they think about handing down a leinant sentence in a rape case. It’s about time! The good old boys network needs to end.

    • You are SO ignorant – typical of those who voted for Recall – whom I call “Dauber’s Dupes”. This was NOT a case of rape! And there was no violence involved, either! With Dauber’s help, this girl with a substance abuse problem has ruined two other people’s lives – probably to save face with her own parents! As for Dauber – lacking insight int her own motives – & trying to further her careers as ‘a national leader on the issue of campus sexual assault’ – HA! The truly progressive approach to campus sexual assault when alcohol is a major factor is restorative justice!

  5. Further: A young woman who grew up in Palo Alto, with friends whose parents have Ph.D’s AND J.D.’s and teach at Stanford Law School, is totally more elite and privileged than a kid from the ex-urbs of Dayton, Ohio! Get real here!

  6. >A young woman…is totally more elite and privileged than a kid from the
    >ex-urbs of Dayton, Ohio! Get real here!

    Sure, sure…let’s all get real here. Esp that kid from Dayton, Ohio was just entitled to getting his “fifteen minutes of action”, a fact his father seemed to register well enough to voice on record to the media. Talk to the Stanford swim team members and you’d find this kid from Dayton OH deserved more than what Mr Persky served him

  7. I think the fact that Palo Alto and the neighborhood voted against the recall while in general communities further away voted for it speaks to the fact that those of us for whom it was a more local issue more often researched the facts (as I did), while for those further away may have more often just heard one-sentence headline about a judge giving a rapist no jail time – the pesky detail about Turner not actually being charged with or convicted of rape being ignored.

    The biggest problem, I’m my opinion, is that this recall was not really about Persky or Turner. Turner will not serve 5 extra minutes in jail from this recall – but thousands of future Californians will probably serve a few extra years – at taxpayer expense, of course – as judges will be less willing to risk being seen as lenient.

  8. I’m sorry for Judge Persky. He deserved a fair trial from the voters, not this lynch mob the professor from Stanford drummed up. The problem with the #MeToo movement is that they find men guilty without any due process or a fair method of determining whether they’re guilty. All you’ve got to do is make an allegation on social media and the target is fired. This is vigilante justice at its worst.

  9. This was a win for all women. Michele, thank you for giving a voice to the voiceless. Emily Doe won’t be forgotten.

  10. The various comments of the Anti-Recall/Pro-Persky crowd is telling in one important way: their sense of being separate, different from, “smarter”, “better” than those who chose to vote differently. Really? So you did the “research” and those that voted differently didn’t and merely “read a one-sentence headline”? You “understand” something and those others don’t? The others are a “lynch mob” where “emotions trumped facts” whereas your side is all fact, rational, etc.?
    This nose-in-the-air condescension, looking down on others, coming off as “smarter than the others” will hurt you and keep hurting you until you learn otherwise. Wake up!

  11. I’m happy Palo Altans has the good sense to reject this crazy train. I can’t explain what happened is San Jose or Sunnyvale, but they’ve always seemed to live on a different planet than us.

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