Campaign to Recall Aaron Persky Shifts Focus to Political Activism

When more than 60 percent of the local electorate voted to recall Judge Aaron Persky in the June 5 primaries, they sent a clear message to Silicon Valley and the nation at large: that sexual assault, and in this case one who ruled leniently when it came up in a court of law, would no longer go unnoticed.

The Recall Persky movement—a multi-million dollar campaign which gained global press coverage, celebrity endorsements and support from dozens of elected officials—owed much of its success to campaign chair Michele Dauber, a Stanford Law professor, Palo Alto resident and mother of five. Dauber is a fast-talking tour de force. She speaks her mind with a political activist's fervor, but articulates her thoughts with a tactful grace that comes from her years as an educator.

Outraged by the outcome of the 2016 Brock Turner case, she spent the last two years dedicating her life’s work to telling the story of Emily Doe, the unnamed but outspoken sexual assault survivor in one of the county’s most publicized and contentious court cases. And she did so amidst death and rape threats, stalkers and an ever-increasing onslaught of internet trolls.

Yet just two months after the landslide win, Dauber is back in action, working to promote her latest venture to raise awareness about sexual assault: an ongoing series of community events including panel discussions, town hall meetings and film screenings that she hopes will continue to move voters into political action around these issues.

“Women are 51 percent of the registered voters in this country, meaning we do not have to accept a state of affairs in which the crimes and offenses that we experience and which interfere with our ability to achieve equality in society are not treated seriously,” she says. “Our goal in the Recall Persky campaign, and as we move forward through these new organizational forms, is to make sure that these issues are addressed at the ballot box.”

LaDoris Cordell, a retired Santa Clara County judge, was one of the more outspoken critics of Dauber and her campaign. Cordell says she believes the recall could still jeopardize judicial independence and that the campaign should have focused more of its efforts on local, actionable change. “[They] could and should have used the million-plus dollars they raised to assist victims of sexual abuse by funding the testing the backlog of rape kits or by funding more shelters for abused women or by funding more anti-sexual abuse training for school counselors,” Cordell writes in an email to San Jose Inside.

Interestingly, Dauber’s new venture directly addresses one of Cordell’s concerns, the first of which is a screening of the HBO documentary I Am Evidence at 6:30pm on Aug. 16 at the Campbell United Church of Christ. The 2017 film exposes the nationwide epidemic of untested rape kits, shedding new light on the damaging effects that this shortcoming of the criminal justice system has had on victims of rape.

The screening—which is co-sponsored by the Women’s Caucus of the Santa Clara County Democratic Club, Orchard City Indivisible, Action Together Bay Area, Women's March Bay Area and the Democratic Activists for Women Now— includes a panel discussion between Dauber, county Supervisor Cindy Chavez and YWCA Silicon Valley CEO Tanis Crosby and a tabling area where community members can get involved with a number of local organizations on the spot.

“With this event, we thought it would be important to work with other activists and feminists in the community,” Dauber says. “We’re pushing forward on women’s rights generally, but we are also specifically working to raise the political salience of violence against women issues.”

By involving nonprofits, elected officials, and advocacy organizations across the South Bay, Dauber hopes to form a strong enough coalition to shift the conversation into real political action. First on her agenda is urging legislators to expand the number locations where sexual assault survivors can obtain a rape kit.

Currently, South Bay residents can only obtain exams in one location at Valley Medical Center in San Jose, a startling reality that Dauber described as “completely and totally unacceptable.” Coupled with the fact that survivors often have to wait an average of seven to nine hours in the clothes they were assaulted in to have their exams completed, many forgo the process entirely.

“No one who experiences this sort of offense should be subject to this kind of treatment in one of the richest counties in America,” Dauber says. “It’s outrageous that in Santa Clara County you cannot get this exam done closer to where you’re located, and we’re trying to change that.”

She mentions that the lack of rape crisis centers in the South Bay is already a key platform issue for some elected officials including San Jose City Councilman Don Rocha, who is running for supervisor this fall.

The second event Dauber will host is a town hall forum with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Palo Alto), who will explain the efforts that are underway at the federal level to address sexual harassment and intimate partner violence.

Taking place at 3pm on Sept. 29 at the Campbell United Church of Christ, the town hall, co-hosted alongside the Women’s Caucus and Orchard City Indivisible, resonates with Dauber on a personal level. Eshoo, just weeks before the June primary, condemned the recall of Persky in a joint statement with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose). At the time, it came as a big blow to Dauber’s recall effort, but she now looks forward to the prospect of building bridges between her campaign and Eshoo’s and opening a larger dialogue about sexual harassment.

“We won 55 percent of the vote in Anna’s district, so we thought it was important to talk to her to see where we could work together, and we’re very excited that she accepted our invitation,” Dauber explains. “I’m pleased she wants to join with us and have our support to work on the issues we all care about.”

Another of Dauber personal achievements with the Women’s Caucus, one that she feels “very proud of,” involved rewriting this year’s candidate endorsement questionnaires to include two new questions that address violence against women—a topic never directly asked of candidates in years past. Small but intentional changes in the electoral process like this, she hopes, will reframe the conversation to include survivors of sexual assault from the very start. And to Dauber, that’s significant progress. “I was sort of laughed at when I suggested this idea, but after it was done everyone agreed that it was really important and a good innovation—one that candidates responded well to,” she explains.

Dauber intends to plan an event every month leading up to the November midterms, but she explains that her ultimate goal is to extend these community forums far beyond election day. Ultimately, Dauber feels she will have done her job when candidates incorporate issues of sexual harassment on their platforms and turn them into real legislative action once elected.

“I want to be totally clear: the goal of the recall campaign was to take the legitimate anger of women over the failures of our legal system to effectively address violence against women and transform that anger into electoral action,” Dauber explains in a recent phone interview. “We need to get women, survivors, and other advocates out there, pushing forward this agenda through the vote.”


  1. I am against everything this woman is working for, but I am in a tiny minority. My warning to all the progressives that read these pages, this woman is dangerous. She will come after you and destroy you if you stray one inch from her authoritarian agenda. It will not be traditionalists or conservatives that will suffer, because we have nothing this woman wants. It is to control you, progressives she is after, what you do, what you think, what you say.

    Don’t say you were not warned.

    • I agree, I voted for the recall of the Judge because of his asinine judgment, he was influenced by MONEY from the east coast, NOT for the reasons this DODO brain is advocating

  2. > Outraged by the outcome of the 2016 Brock Turner case, . . . .

    BUT, WAIT!!

    The outcome of the “Brock Turner case” wasn’t determined be Judge Persky; it was decided by Proposition 57!,_Parole_for_Non-Violent_Criminals_and_Juvenile_Court_Trial_Requirements_(2016)

    “California Proposition 57, Parole for Non-Violent Criminals and Juvenile Court Trial Requirements (2016)”

    “California must fix the list of ‘non-violent’ crimes”

    “There isn’t a woman alive who was ever raped while either intoxicated or unconscious who doesn’t consider the entire experience violent.

    But that’s not how these crimes are defined legally in California. The same for human trafficking of a child, abducting a minor for prostitution, drive-by shootings at inhabited homes or cars, felony domestic violence, solicitation to commit murder, among others.”

    Stanford University “Law Professor” Michele Dauber KNEW that Judge Persky’s decisions were shaped be Prop 57, yet Dauber used sensationalist rhetoric and mob action to attack Judge Persky’s LAWFUL verdicts, subvert an independent judiciary, and remove a competent, responsible judge from office.

    Dauber has no business playing any role in the American legal system and her stature as a faculty member of the Stanford Law School is as absurd as law school classes on using bullhorns.×350.jpg

  3. I don’t understand. He was drunk, she was drunk. This isn’t DUI – but two horny young people messing around. Supposedly she was passed out – or was she? maybe she was in a state of “Bliss” when people passing by caught then in the pre-supposed act (didn’t they still have their clothes on?). Maybe she was then embarrassed at being discovered and feigned some “innocent me” pose. I mean she was out in the bushes with him – how did she get there? Did he Cave-man her by the hair to set the stage for this heinous crime or was it just a normal case of adolescent hormones that led them to the spot of possible pressing intentions with an outcome that saved the “reputation” of one and wrecked the life of another.
    Dauber didn’t just twist the law, she perverted the biology of human nature.

    • Your questions are fairly well answered in the opinion:
      Here’s an excerpt: “Jeff Taylor, a deputy sheriff with the Stanford University Department of Public Safety, responded to a call about an unconscious person with possible alcohol poisoning at just after 1:00 a.m. He found the female subject, later identified as Jane 1, lying on the ground behind a dumpster enclosure. Her dress was gathered around her waist and her buttocks and vagina were exposed. A pair of women’s underwear was on the ground next to her. One of her breasts was exposed. Her hair was disheveled and full of pine needles. After confirming that Jane 1 had a pulse, Taylor asked her if she was okay, but he received no response, even to yelling.”

      • OK – I have been in situations wherein a female companion and I drank excessively – later I would be passed out only to find out later that my clothing was partially removed and underwear was askew (don’t you hate it when your underwear is askew?) – I find out later that the ahem “lady” allowed herself some gratification with my body parts – – – so two adults knowingly get into an alcohol induced state of “relaxation” with the intentions of loosening their inhibitions. One goes lights out before the other and the other figures someone has to finish up what was started. I don’t blame the woman I was with as I understand she may have had biological urges that overwhelmed her good sense and courtesy – “well here’s this guy that started the rodeo with me – may as well get on and ride him. He would have wanted it.” Should I have shared some “blame” as I was tossing back as many drinks as my companion?

    • Your kidding right? Adolescent hormones, he was 19 years old, he took advantage of an intoxicated and from witness accounts unconscious female. He ran from the scene when discovered, not the actions of a couple out in the bushes as you say. I don’t know if he deserved more than he got but I do know that it is people like you that give men a bad name.

    • She was unconscious. From the reports at the time, I don’t think she had the opportunity to fake some “‘innocent me’ pose” when the two people found her and Brock Turner.

  4. Always the same idiots spewing the same garbage. Sure, blame the victim. She dressed slutty. She was drunk. How dare she complain now, she asked for it.

    • LJW – I posted all my rhetoric as questions so that further, honest dialog might come forth. Only sluts call people idiots without realizing such.

  5. > And she did so amidst . . . an ever-increasing onslaught of internet trolls.

    ME! ME! ME!

    Over here! ME!

    They’re talking about ME!!!

    And, now that I have your attention, The Troll sayeth:

    1. Michele Dauber should be indicted for obstruction of justice for threatening a sitting judge with loss of position and emoluments.

    2. Michele Dauber, Cindy Seely Hendrickson, and Mary Elizabeth Magill should be indicted for conspiracy to obstruct justice.

    3. Michele Dauber and Mary Elizabeth Magill and Stanford Law School should be indicted for fraud for purporting to offer “legal education” using non-qualified “law professors”.

    Even Stanford Law School students recognize the con and the shame of Dauber and Stanford’s conduct:,_Santa_Clara_County,_California_(2018)

    “Fifty-three of the 180 students in Stanford Law School’s graduating class sent an open letter to Dauber expressing their disagreement with her effort to recall Persky. Below is an excerpt from the letter:

    “ We have deep reservations about the idea of a judge — any judge — being fired over sentencing decisions that the public perceives as too lenient.

    As we’ve learned during our time at the law school, judicial independence is a cornerstone of due process and an essential prerequisite of a fair criminal justice system… After decades of mass incarceration driven by mandatory minimums and other punitive sentencing regimes, we believe that judicial leniency is already too scarce, even though we strongly disagree with how it was applied to Turner. And in a world where judges believe they are one unpopular sentencing decision away from an abrupt pink slip, it will only grow scarcer.”

    Stanford Law School exists to foster and promote rule of law, NOT to establish Michele Dauber’s cred as a political “activist”.

  6. I fully agree with Bubble’s post above.

    I know I’m in a minority but I do believe what happened to Brock was in fact punishment. The life he anticipated having is completely over.

    There will be easy to anticipate “unintended” consequences the people who howled for Perky’s scalp are going to rail against in time.

    • You are not a minority; you are Mr. noboby using his pen&s to think due to lack of brain! The life he anticipated is over due to being a sexual predator who sexually assaulted an unconscious woman! His predatory and sexual urges were more important to him than the education and life he wanted. These was his decision. He is the only one responsible for the life and status (sexual offender site status) he currently has.

      • > You are not a minority; you are Mr. noboby using his pen&s to think due to lack of brain!

        Is that you, Michele?

        I guess we have to give you some credit for using your words this time instead of shouting at us with a bullhorn.

        Possibly, we’re making some progress here.

        After we learn how to use our words, we’ll try to talk about “due process” and what a civilized society does when the behavior is ambiguous and there are no witnesses.

        • OK Mr. Bubble head. It is useless talking to you. In the past you stated for Bandura’s to be a theory way above you neuronal potential. You also have a sick fixation with Ms. Dauber. Bad news for you! There is no brain replacement surgery:(

      • Hey, I didn’t say I like Brock or feel sorry for him. I think he’s a fool to give up opportunities that very few people would ever been in a position to take avail themselves. He had a lot to lose through reckless behaviour and lost it.

        • I totally agree with this statement. To conclude, criminal risk taking behavior is dangerous and likely to repeat. I wonder what type of rehabilitation treatment he received during those three months in jail!

  7. I Strongly supported the Recall Persky and will strongly support another recall on other Santa Clara judges who have protected pedophiles, domestic abusers, and rapists of privilege status. I have a positive opinion about Michelle Dauber. She is a real feminist with a purpose to improve women’s social status and access to justice. However, my opinion about Cindy Chavez and other female politicians such as Zoe Lofgren is negative. They both are weak politicians and opportunist. Zoe Lofgren was few months ago a strong supporter for the NO RECALL OF JUDGE PERSKY; now, she will try to form a feminist look. In the last election, no one was running against her or other corrupted public officials in the Santa Clara County. She is my representative; I did not vote for her. Both of these women have also protected abusive men by action and inaction. The sad reality is that real community leaders such as Michelle Dauber will find themselves surrounded by the status quo politicians private citizens like myself dislike. If I attend events where Cindy Chavez and Zoe Lofgren will be, it will be to protest their typical and corrupted political styles. Good luck Michele!

    • Slavery was the rule of law; IT IS NOT ANYMORE! Bad laws make people fight for change! FEMINIST GROUPS IN THE SILICON VALLEY ARE HERE TO STAY; different groups aiming from a different angles to achieve the same goal. POLITICS AND JUDICIAL BUSINESS AS USUAL are no longer tolerated!

      • > POLITICS AND JUDICIAL BUSINESS AS USUAL are no longer tolerated!

        Tribal warfare and mob rule WAS business as usual before the invention of civilization and the rule of law.

        Socrates was forced to drink poisonous hemlock by the Athenian mob because of POLITICS AND JUDICIAL BUSINESS AS USUAL for the crime of “impiety” which really meant “being politically incorrect”.

        Slavery was the law UNTIL the law was changed. It was changed because THE RULE OF LAW allowed it to be changed.

        Which is what Michele DAUBER SHOULD HAVE DONE if she didn’t like Judge Persky’s sentencing guidelines. Instead, she engaged in obstruction of justice by organizing mobs to intimidate and threaten the judge’s job.

  8. A couple of thoughts:

    Zoe Lofgren has done a lot for Silicon Valley — the satellite Patent Office sticks in my mind. Compare her record of accomplishment to, say, Mike Honda’s.

    Judges are now afraid of public response to their actions. The judge in the Ghost Ship fire case rejected the plea-bargained sentence as inadequate, after listening to the survivors’ reactions for two days. While involuntary manslaughter is a crime, it is distinguished from other homicides in that the person responsible for the deaths never intended to harm anyone. Yet the survivors clamored for more punishment.

    • Bill Clinton is probably the best President this Country has had in terms of economic and other important policies he can take credit for. President Bush Senior also did a lot for the country. On the other hand, their sexual issues are also known by the public. Zoe Lofgren and other Santa Clara County judges, Phillip Pennypacker, Joseph Huber, Julia Emedy… and others have engaged in protecting pedophiles and domestic abusers. Their political and powerful status is much more important to them. Santa Clara County judges do not have to be afraid. They just have to be aware that the the women in the Silicon Valley have a Zero Tolerance Policy for judicial corruption. The advancement of women status and their access to justice is our united goal. We are not going to ask for it;WE ARE GOING TO TAKE IT. WHATEVER IT TAKES!

    • Yes for sure…money to pay for good legal representation can make the difference between facing a first degree, second degree, or “involuntary” manslaughter charge. Isn’t this the case of O.J. Simpson? Individuals from high social economic status have more access to “justice.” IT HAS TO STOP. I am pro rehabilitation but not for sexual and violent crimes. Judges have to keep in their minds who is the victim and the criminal when applying the law!

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