On Tuesday, voters in the state of California decided to recall Brock Turner judge Aaron Persky — and it looks like a woman will be the one to replace him. With the majority of precincts reporting, Assistant District Attorney Cindy Hendrickson looks posted to win the special election to serve the remainder of his four-year term, as she had around 70 percent of the vote early Wednesday morning.
Persky became well-known for his highly controversial lenient sentencing in the Turner case. Turner was convicted of sexual assault in 2016 after assaulting an unconscious woman on Stanford University's campus. Persky sentenced Turner to six months in prison, asserting, among other things, that serving a lengthy prison term could have a "severe" impact on Turner's life. Turner ended up only serving three months in prison due to good behavior.
Persky's lenient sentencing sparked a national outcry and, indeed, was the impetus behind the special election to recall him. Stanford law professor Michele Dauber helped spearhead the recall initiative, telling The Cut that the idea for a recall was sparked by "a group of politically active women in Silicon Valley who are large Democratic donors, particularly to women candidates." Persky is the first judge to be recalled in California since 1932.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Hendrickson, Persky's likely successor, said she supported the recall election and decided to run because she "wanted to give voters a meaningful choice." She also added that she would "work really hard to gain the respect of my fellow judges.”
On a campaign fundraising site, Hendrickson indicated that she has worked for 23 years as a prosecutor and that she was sworn in as a Deputy District Attorney five years ago. Hendrickson also described herself as an advocate for "the most vulnerable victims in society." She further indicated that she believes her experience has provided her with a strong foundation from which to do work as a judge. As Hendrickson noted:
My professional background will enable me to hit the ground running. The courtroom is a place I appeared regularly for 25 years. The diversity in my personal background which has expanded my lens, and my lengthy experience working with the judicial system and in the community will enable me to judge wisely.
Hendrickson was facing Angela Storey in the race for the recalled judge's seat. Storey is a trial lawyer who has worked in various legal fields. Notably, Storey opposed the recall election, saying to the Mercury News that it set a "dangerous precedent" regarding the role of public opinion in influencing judge's decisions.
"From my perspective, a judge's job is to make difficult choices and to make rulings that people aren't going to always agree with," Storey told Palo Alto Online. "We don't want our judges necessarily looking over their shoulders trying to gauge public opinion."
Nonetheless, despite her opposition to the recall, Storey decided to run for Persky's seat. She indicated to Palo Alto Online that she believes that Persky's replacement needs to be experienced and fair. As Storey described:
We need a judge who's got a diverse experience in the legal field who understands not just criminal but also civil (case) and somebody who has a temperament to ensure everybody in that courtroom is going to be treated fairly.
While both women had different perspectives on the recall election, it is clear that each one felt that her legal experience would allow her to effectively act as a strong replacement for Persky. If and when Hendrickson is confirmed as Persky's successor, she will serve out the remainder of his term, until the year 2022. She can then choose to run for re-election if she so desires.