Widgets Magazine
Santa Clara County voters recall Judge Aaron Persky
Judge Aaron Persky looks on during a news conference in Palo Alto, Calif., on Tuesday, May 8, 2018. (Courtesy of Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group/TNS)

Santa Clara County voters recall Judge Aaron Persky

Santa Clara County voters have recalled Judge Aaron Persky ’84 M.A. ’85, who raised national controversy after sentencing former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner to six months in jail for sexual assault of an unconscious woman. Persky is the first California judge to be recalled since 1932.

Results late Tuesday night showed 43 percent of precincts reporting and 59 percent of voters supporting the recall.

Persky will be immediately replaced by Cindy Hendrickson ’87, an assistant district attorney who supported the recall effort.

“It has always been part of my job to be fair and objective in evaluating cases,” Hendrickson told The Daily in March. “As the DA, once you become convinced that the evidence paints a certain picture, you may advocate for that position, but in terms of evaluating a case every step along the way, you have an absolute obligation to be fair to the defendant and be objective in your evaluation of the evidence.”

Proponents of the recall movement, spearheaded by Stanford Law Professor Michele Dauber, argued that Persky’s rulings showed a pattern of bias toward male athletes and against female victims of abuse and sexual violence.

“The voters of Santa Clara County are the winners of this election,” Dauber wrote in a statement to The Daily. “We voted today against impunity for high status perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence. We voted that sexual violence is serious and it must be taken seriously by our elected officials. In this historical moment, when women’s rights are under attack, the women and many men of this county stood our ground.”

Cases the recall campaign cited as problematic include a four-day sentence for possession of images showing sexual abuse of children and Persky’s decision to let an athlete defer his domestic violence sentence to play football.

It was Persky’s sentence for Turner, though, that embroiled him in public debate. Turner was convicted in March of 2016 on three counts for sexual assault at a January 2015 party outside Stanford’s Kappa Alpha fraternity.

“Persky has repeatedly abused his discretion on behalf of abusers,” Dauber told The Daily last month. “As a result, voters in this county have lost confidence in his ability to be fair.”

Opponents of the recall — among them, many of Dauber’s colleagues at Stanford Law — have contested characterizations of Persky as biased, saying that the judge has generally followed the probation officer’s recommendations and that the recall would jeopardize judicial independence. They contend that judges should remain relatively insulated from public opinion that could push them toward harsher sentencing.

“I think judges typically should accept criticism of their decisions,” Persky said in a press conference last month at which he gave his first public remarks on the recall effort. “It’s legitimate, it’s an absolutely justified avenue of public discourse. We should sit, we should listen, we should take it … But the recall takes it one step too far. The recall, if successful, threatens the integrity of our justice system, and it demands a response.”

Robert Weisberg, a Stanford Law professor and vocal opponent of the recall, has in the past voiced concerns that the Recall Aaron Persky campaign might be construed as the stance of Stanford Law because of its visibility.

LaDoris Cordell, a vocal defender of Persky, called Tuesday a “sad day for the California judiciary.”

“Most of all we are grateful to the voters of Santa Clara County,” Dauber wrote. “We have won this fight because the people of this county stood up and said Enough is Enough.”


This report will be updated as additional details come to light.


Contact Julia Ingram at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu and Courtney Douglas at ccdouglas ‘at’ stanford.edu.

About Courtney Douglas

Courtney Douglas is a sophomore from Coronado, California studying English Lit, Political Science and Human Rights. Before stepping into the Managing Editor role, Courtney was a news desk editor and a staff writer. She also established the Community Life & Inclusion Program (CLIP) at The Daily. Her favorite person in the world is her younger brother, Collin ('22!). Contact Courtney at ccd4 'at' stanford.edu.

About Julia Ingram

Julia Ingram ’21 is a reporter for the University/Local beat. She is a New York City native interested in English literature, psychology, ballet, and all things cat related. Contact her at jmingram ‘at’ stanford.edu.
  • Antel Lopez

    Woman from off campus gets drunk with underage student. Etc.

  • Vasco

    Law professor experiences family tragedy and goes on a jihad against the rule of law. Minority males to bear the brunt of privileged Jane Doe’s alcoholism.

  • Josh Cohen

    Stanford – some part of it anyway – has to be seen as responsible for this recall.
    if she was not a fully tenured professor making about $350k, with the cachet of “Stanford Law School” behind her, could Dauber had undertaken this successully? It seems unlikely.

    Additionally, though some faculty and students objected to the recall, the administration – particularly VIce-Provost Drell,, has acted to encourage and enable Dauber when she is spreading false information, such as the vastly inflated statistics for sexual “violence” against women at Stanford.

    The people of Stanford proved they really are isolated in ivory towers when they were oblivious to the fact Dauber used class envy against Turner and Persky – many voters were spurred on to vote against the rich guy – purely out of envy – Dauber recognized these people hate Stanford itself, and she used that hatred, calling Turner “privileged” again and again and claiming Persky was biased in his favor because they were from the same class.

    This of course ignored the fact the sentence came from the probation department, Turner was here on athletic scholarship, and is not from a rich family and “Emily Doe” was the local girl from Palo Alto with very powerful connections.

    I think it’s great to have dissenters and social critics -but encouraging hate for the institution you benefit so greatly from – and for everyone who makes anywhere near the money you do – is going way too far.

    It should be remembered – this was all done in contempt for the people she was manipulating, and with no concern for them . Contempt for their stupidity and ignorance and what easy marks they were – and no desire to help the system be more fair – it was all about recalling Persky so the rest of the judges would be scared – she is admitting that now

    Stanford really has a lot to answer for in my view.

  • cardcounter

    He followed the recommendation of the county probation officer which he has consistently done through the years. Blame the probation officer if you don’t like the sentence.

  • George Williams

    The stupidity of an act isn’t a valid excuse even though may be done conistiently. If I advise you to jump off a cliff would you take that advice? No judge cedes her/his judgment to others. In the end, the judge must be held responsible.

  • Damiana

    Except that’s not what happened.

  • Antel Lopez

    That is exactly what happened.

  • Damiana

    You’re lying.

  • Damiana

    You’re disgusting.

  • Antel Lopez

    She was early 20s, graduate of another nearby university – went to a Stanford on campus party dropped off by her mom. He was underage. Both got drunk and left the party. The rest is history. These are facts — read the court papers they are available online.

  • John Shapiro

    Your comment does not really make sense nor is it accurate.
    The “stupidity:” of an act is subjective and you did not tell us why the probation recommendation was ‘”stupid”
    Let’s look at some objective facts – you may disagree but they are not stupid –
    1. Six years prison for Turner would have cost something like $450K – maybe more – 3 months jail is likely 1/10th that – less probably.
    This state is broke by releasing Turner after 3 months, he becomes Ohio’s problem – I actually believe NOT a problem, an asset, butni any case, California saved a fortune, with very low chance of any downside – he COULD have stayed here- where, even if he did the crime he would only be a danger to passed out drunk women – we can’t pay infinite amounts to lock people up – I submit to you, n terms of protecting severe alcoholic binge drinkers, locking up Turner for $450k is a waste of money

  • John Shapiro

    There is an interview with Michele Dauber on YouTube – on the Democracy Now channel – in which she claims Turner nearly beat Emily Doe to death, and stuffed pine needles and dirt into her vagina. The purpose of these claims – also made by Emily Doe – are clearly to remove any doubt Doe consented- and to make everyone believe a six month jail sentence was far too lenient.

    They are lies – Dauber lied, and, in the interview she admits she “saw” the famous Emily Doe speech,
    “before the world” and that, with the help of one of the producers of the discredited documentary on campus sexual assault, “The Hunting Ground” she sent it out to media outlets because “the world needed to see it” – in other words, all indications are this was a pure propaganda job – there is no reason to believe anything “Emily Doe” claimed in the speech which is not independently verified in some way .

    Besides lying about being stuffed full of pine needles, Doe lied about thinking she had “fallen” and was in a Stanford office – she thought she was in the drunk tank – and she lied to the cops to omit any mention of calls to her boyfriend when she came to get her phone and they asked her what traffic was on it for the lost time. This lying took place only a few hours after she agreed to prosecute Turner.

    Finally, it’s worth pointing out, Emily Doe, after calling her BF from the party at 3 am his time, waking him up, also told him she was being approached by a lot of guys at the party but she preferred him – she was playing some kind of emotional games in other words with him.

    Bottom line it – she looks like the hot mess who gets passed out drunk at the big frat party, when you look closely .

  • John Shapiro

    Whether or not Emily Doe got drunk with Brock Turner, she definitely went to a frat party and got wasted – told her boyfriend men from the party were coming on to her – some kind of melodrama which the media did not tell us about – probably PARTLY due to DA keeping it secret – but there were MANY reporters in the courtroom -who said not one word about Emly Doe playing games with her “very stable and very exciting” new boyfriend.
    Another thing not widely known – she moved in with him not long after –

  • Damiana

    She didn’t get drunk with Brock Tuner, she merely got drunk. The facts are easy to come by.

  • Damiana

    I read the court docs two years ago. I know she wasn’t getting drunk with Turner, which is why I said it was a lie.

  • Antel Lopez

    They were at the same party— drinking together. What is that called? They left together. Read the docs again? Attending a campus party where there are underage students you are getting drunk with, and you don’t attend that university is called what?

  • Damiana

    They were at the party and not drinking together. It was a huge party. He tried to butt in when she, her duster and friends were dancing and hanging out. He tried the same thing with several women. So no, they were not hanging out. He was caught assaulting her and accounts vary about what happened between the time her sister left her and when she was found by the Swedish men.

  • Damiana

    That is irrelevant. She was also drinking before the party and that’s also irrelevant. The court docs are public, the proceedings were public and the trial was widely reported on. Your assertion of melodrama is also irrelevant. Who cares who she moved in with or didn’t move in with or how new her relationship was.

  • Antel Lopez

    Shall I post a copy of the actual transcript for you from the court? Give me a few days. But live in your fantasy until then.

  • Damiana

    I have the transcript, moron.

  • Antel Lopez

    Lulz—— first sign of losing, the ad hominem. Soon, Hitler comments. Waiting.