Campaign postpones recall election of Brock Turner judge | News | Palo Alto Online |


Campaign postpones recall election of Brock Turner judge

Standalone November election could cost taxpayers $6.9 million

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The group working to unseat Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky for alleged judicial bias has decided to delay placing a recall on the ballot until next summer given the cost of mounting a special election this November.

Palo Alto resident Michele Dauber, chair of the Recall Persky campaign and Stanford University law professor, said she "immediately" decided to postpone the campaign to June 2018 after learning recently about the difference in cost.

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters estimates it would cost taxpayers about $6.9 million to hold a special recall election this fall, compared to $576,075 next summer.

The discrepancy in cost is because there are no other items slated for the November 2017 ballot, according to the Registrar, while there are at least three other countywide races scheduled for next June (for district attorney, sheriff and assessor).

Dauber said she believes that the new election date, while not the campaign's first choice, will not affect the outcome of the recall. She launched the recall movement last summer amid widespread furor over Persky's six-month sentencing of former Stanford student Brock Turner for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus. The recall campaign has since alleged that other sexual violence cases Persky oversaw demonstrate a bias for privileged, white defendants and against women and defendants of color.

"To me, there really wasn't a choice once we learned the cost differential," Dauber told the Weekly. "We're confident we're going to win whether this happens in November or June."

The recall campaign has raised more than $400,000 so far, Dauber said, and will start gathering the 58,634 voter signatures required to put the recall on the ballot early this summer. The campaign will have 160 calendar days to gather signatures, after meeting a series of requirements for its recall petition and securing approval from the county elections official, according to the Registrar.

Persky did not return a request for comment left for his court clerk in San Jose, where he now hears civil cases. Persky launched an official anti-recall campaign in September. His "Retain Judge Persky" website states he has a "reputation for being fair to both sides" and he "took an oath to uphold the Constitution, not to appease politicians or ideologues."

Persky, who was first appointed as a judge in Santa Clara County in 2003, ran unopposed and was re-elected to a new six-year term in November.

Panteha Saban, a longtime Santa Clara County public defender who opposes the recall, told the Weekly that she hopes the delay will provide time for the campaign to "speak to respected prosecutors and defense attorneys who work in the trenches of the courtroom to really ask them whether this recall is actually in the best interests of the residents of this county.

"I don't think it is," she said.

Saban said she hopes Santa Clara County voters see the recall as she does: "an attack on our independent judiciary and the discretion of judges to make individualized decisions about people's lives that they really believe is just."

Who might oppose Persky as a candidate in June remains to be seen, although Cindy Hendrickson, an assistant district attorney on District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s executive team, told the San Jose Mercury News that she is "strongly considering a run." Hendrickson declined to comment further to the Weekly.

Once a recall election is called, a nomination period kicks in for candidates to file for election to the office, according to the Registrar’s Guide to Recall. The guide notes a possible exception: Under the California constitution, there is some "legal uncertainty" as to whether the successor to a recalled judge would be elected by voters or appointed by the governor.

If a successor election is included, the Registrar of Voters estimates that it could cost about $533,000.

Anita Torres, a spokesperson for the Registrar, said her office could not confirm with certainty, but believes this is the first recall of a judge in Santa Clara County’s history.

In research her campaign has conducted, Dauber said they found only four instances in California history when judges were successfully recalled: one in 1913 in San Francisco and three in 1932 in Los Angeles.

The Palo Alto Weekly has created a Storify page to capture ongoing coverage of the Brock Turner case and related issues. To view it, go to


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21 people like this
Posted by Marrol
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Mar 22, 2017 at 9:35 am

As it should be considering that the judge in this case essentially followed the rule of law in the sentencing process. I can't help but think that many of these protesters likely voted for the legislation that set the stage for this outcome. There are definitely consequences and downsides to enacting legislation that allows for decriminalization, diminishing what constitutes a violent crime, and early release programs. That becomes the rule of law, and that's what judges have to adhere to.

23 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2017 at 10:09 am

[Portion removed.] Persky's judgement was reasoned and lawful. [Portion removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Thomas
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2017 at 10:58 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]

30 people like this
Posted by Wasteful
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 22, 2017 at 2:16 pm

Does Michele Dauber understand that she's reinforcing the idea that it is now okay to berate "so-called judges?" I don't know anyone who agrees with the Turner sentence, myself included. Dauber and the young woman have already accomplished a tremendous victory in compelling Judge Persky to discontinue hearing any sexual assault cases. I don't recall anyone saying he planned that before the Turner case. Dauber's campaign forced Persky out. He now hears only civil cases. Why isn't that appropriate and enough? Dauber seems determined to hound this judge, no matter the cost. Can't the $400,000 she has raised be better used? This seems like her personal vendetta against Persky and not a reasonable response to the situation.

21 people like this
Posted by Interested
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 22, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Folks seem to forget that Judge Persky actually followed the recommendation of the Adult Probation Department in his sentencing of Brock Turner. While many, myself included, may believe that it was an inappropriate sentence, Judge Persky was simply following the advice offered by sentencing professionals. I have appeared before and worked with Judge Persky in divorce and custody matters. He has precisely the temperament and caring attitude that divorcing families need to have.

4 people like this
Posted by Wonderment
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2017 at 5:15 pm

But the real, unanswered Q is why was Persky re-elected in November 2016 to begin with? By then, wasn't Michelle Dauber's recall campaign already in full-swing?

15 people like this
Posted by Abitarian
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Wonderment --

Judge Persky was not "re-elected" in November. Because there were no challengers, his name did not actually appear on the ballot. Citizens had no opportunity to actually vote for him or write in another candidate. Judge Persky was automatically granted another term in office without any votes being cast.

Now, there's a rule that could be easily fixed.

30 people like this
Posted by Good Ole Boy
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2017 at 5:50 pm

Persky has made so many other bad decisions, including freeing a wife-beater who went back to abusing her.

He's a sorry excuse for a judge who seems not to take violence against women seriously, especially if the offender attends or attended Stanford....
Persky needs to be removed from the bench post haste!

4 people like this
Posted by need more than hearsay
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 22, 2017 at 6:28 pm

@Good Ole Boy,

Can you provide your statistics? How many cases has he adjudicated and what were the outcomes of all of them? Not just one case here, one case there but a detailed breakdown of why he should be removed with a list of all the cases he's been involved with to back it up.

[Portion removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2017 at 8:36 pm

Annette is a registered user.

I agree with Saban and appreciate that she has the courage to articulate her concerns. Wanting to maintain an independent judiciary is not equivalent to blaming the victim, approving the sentencing, or accepting "good ol' boy" actions. I also think it is time to let the healing begin in this truly tragic case and fail to see how the recall contributes to that.

3 people like this
Posted by million dollar baby
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2017 at 7:54 am

" Can't the $400,000 she has raised be better used? This seems like her personal vendetta against Persky and not a reasonable response to the situation."

It's a lot more than that:
- $400,000 funds raised to fight against Persky
- $576,075 that the taxpayers must pay to fund the re-call election
- $??? that will be spent on the other side

So it's not $400,000 for this "personal vendatta" but over a million dollars!

4 people like this
Posted by Peers Parent
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 23, 2017 at 10:10 am

Peers Parent is a registered user.

See the second question and answer on this page

Web Link

This is not an isolated incident. This man has a long record of leniency toward affluent athletes.

6 people like this
Posted by recall donor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 23, 2017 at 10:58 am

Donors who give to a political campaign do so because they support that campaign. Donors who have given to the recall did so because they support recalling Judge Persky and the fact that Professor Dauber has raised so much money for this campaign is a sign of both the breadth and the intensity of support for the campaign. By contrast, Judge Persky has raised very little, the vast majority from fellow judges and public defenders who practiced before him.

While commenters here will be voting no on the recall, as is there right, 67% of Santa Clara County voters support the recall , and women support it by more than 4:1. So clearly to those voters and donors, the money is not wasted.

As for the cost of the election, the recall campaign is to be commended for deciding to put the election off until June so that it would not require a special election. That shows that the proponents are not, as claimed in this thread, on some ego trip or vendetta but are carefully balancing community values and concerns so as NOT to waste taxpayer money.

I believe -- along with a lot of lawyers I know -- that Judge Persky should resign. Even those who are supporting him publicly are saying behind the scenes that he should quit. Representative Jackie Speier called for him to resign publicly. Representatives Khanna, Swalwell, and McNerney have supported and endorsed the recall as has State Senate President Kevin De Leon and former mayor Pat Burt and current Palo Alto City Council member Corey Wolbach. That does not sound like one woman's private "vendetta." It sounds like broad non-ideological support for getting rid of a biased judge.

4 people like this
Posted by be informed
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 23, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Since the above link to the "recall persky" website was left, here are the links to the other views:

California Bar Association Statement: Web Link

"In view of these principles, the SCCBA opposes the present attempts to remove Judge Persky from the bench based on his sentence in the Brock Turner case. The SCCBA has seen no credible assertions that in issuing the sentence, Judge Persky violated the law or his ethical obligations or acted in bad faith. Nor is the SCCBA aware of any other complaints or allegations of impropriety against Judge Persky during his 13 years on the bench. Seeking to punish a judge under these circumstances presents the very threat to judicial independence that the SCCBA has resolved to condemn."

Retired Judges Statement: Web Link

"We firmly believe that removing Judge Persky from office under these circumstances would set a dangerous precedent and be a serious threat to judicial independence."


"The commission has concluded that there is not clear and convincing evidence of bias, abuse of authority, or other basis to conclude that Judge Persky engaged injudicial misconduct warranting discipline."

These are all un-biased, well-informed decisions provided after significant resources and investigations from the main legal boards in the state.

6 people like this
Posted by recall donor
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Mar 23, 2017 at 2:11 pm

Here is an article about the Recall campaign's reply to the Commission on Judicial Performance. The CJP is a troubled agency with a history of making closed-door decisions to protect their own. It is under audit by the state and has sued to block the audit. That agency is a joke and everyone knows it. They literally never discipline judges. They should change their name to the Commission for Judicial Protection.

Web Link

If you like leaving rapists and wife beaters in the community where they can reoffend, Persky is your man. All I can say is it's a damn good thing that the recall resulted in him leaving the Palo Alto criminal courthouse or he would be sentencing Ronnie Farrell to after school detention instead of prison where he belongs.

Everyone can vote their conscience in this election. I am saying no to privileged white rapists getting away with it.

2 people like this
Posted by back foot
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2017 at 5:35 pm

"That agency is a joke and everyone knows it. "

Yeah! Along with retired judges and the California Bar Association! What do these so called experts know?!

1 person likes this
Posted by Frank Lewis
a resident of another community
on Mar 24, 2017 at 3:18 pm

The Brock Turner case was a politically-contrived spectacle, staged by utterly ruthless Democratic Party operatives like Michelle Dauber. They believed that the affair would help Hillary Clinton's campaign by activating a very affluent upper-middle-class social constituency that is obsessed with gender and other forms of essentially reactionary identity politics. This is what the case was all about. Both Brock Turner and the alleged victim were used. The unfortunate encounter between two immature and inebriated young people should not, based on the facts of this case, have become a criminal proceeding.

2 people like this
Posted by Not A Stanford Alum
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 24, 2017 at 5:47 pm

[Post removed.]

4 people like this
Posted by recall donor
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 25, 2017 at 9:20 am

If you are wondering how a recall election works, this short video from the campaign gives an entertaining and excellent introduction. It really clarifies how it works, and why it is just a call for an early election. Judge Persky is elected not appointed, and he is going to have to stand for re-election whether it is in 2022 or now. If the voters of the county want to vote on him in 2018 instead of 2022 and then can get the signatures for it, then there is no problem with that.

Web Link

And I say kudos and thank you to the proponents of this grass-roots initiative which was started by women who are sick and tired of having to accept injustice in rape cases. "Enough is Enough" is the campaign slogan and I agree.

4 people like this
Posted by My Left Foot
a resident of Green Acres
on Mar 25, 2017 at 11:26 am

Persky has a legacy of lenient sentencing for rapists, wife beaters, and privileged white make athletes... if he sentences them at all. (Turner ?)

The outrage and recall efforts by the community have driven this poor excuse for a judge out of Palo Alto criminal courthouse cases and will hopefully soon remove him from his seat altogether. [Portion removed.]

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