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Voters in Santa Clara County last week voted to recall Judge Aaron Persky, who sparked national outrage in 2016 while presiding over a high-profile sexual assault case involving a Stanford swimmer. He was the first judge recalled in the state since 1932.
The recall effort drew surprising fissures on the left. Some saw the six-month jail sentence Mr. Persky gave Brock Turner as a prime example of the bias women and sex victims face in the courts. Others worried the recall posed a symbolic threat to judicial independence. (For context, and to learn more about the effort, read our stories here and here.)
We asked two of the main players working for and against the recall their thoughts about what it means: Stanford professor Michele Dauber, who led the recall effort; and Judge LaDoris Cordell, a vocal critic of the campaign to remove Mr. Persky. Their responses have been condensed and lightly edited.
The recall effort began years before #MeToo became a national conversation. But do you see this recall as part of that movement?
Dauber, writing via email: This is a historical moment in which women from across a broad cross-section of American life are standing up and refusing to continue with business as usual. I think that there is a broad recognition that the high rates of gender-based violence and sexual harassment that women experience are preventing women from achieving equality.
Cordell, speaking by phone: In my view, when Harvey Weinstein came along, the recall effort co-opted the MeToo conversation. It demonized this judge, who followed the law. It was a very dishonest campaign, and that worked. They said that he’s no better than a judge who engages in sexual assault and harassment. I had a law professor when we were first years who told us a good liar beats the system every time.
What do you think this recall represents?
Dauber: The recall, together with the recent Roy Moore Alabama Senate race, demonstrated that violence against women is a voting issue — alongside reproductive freedom. If candidates want the votes of women, they will have to take this issue seriously. If they do not, they will hear from women at the polls.
One of the most unfortunate results of that victim blaming is that women saw virtually the entire legal profession linking arms with a campaign that engaged in this conduct. To women, this reinforced the view that the legal profession itself — judges, lawyers, and court personnel — blame victims, excuse perpetrators, and do not take sexual assault seriously.
Cordell: Women have a right to be angry about our criminal justice system and how it responds to the concerns of women. And I’ve been one of those women calling for reform in the system. But an emotional response is not a way to handle anything.
The word “lenient” gets used. For me, that means tempering judgment with compassion, with mercy, when it’s appropriate. I’ve sent people to 25 to life, people who did not deserve mercy, but there are some who do. And we now have minimum sentencing requirements and no judge can show mercy.
There was a backlash to your efforts, even from within liberal circles. At times they were extremely personal. What do you make of those critiques?
Dauber: With respect to the concern about judicial independence, Judge Persky is elected. There is no such thing as an elected official who is independent of the electorate. With respect to whether judges will sentence everyone more harshly, I simply don’t agree that this will occur and I don’t share the dim view of judicial integrity that is embedded in this concern.
This campaign was very tightly messaged and focused on ending impunity for high status offenders like Brock Turner. I think judges are smart enough to be able to distinguish Mr. Turner from poor and black and brown drug and nonviolent offenders.
Cordell: My whole team, we were a group of women who were feminists who have been fighting for criminal justice reform for years, we’re liberals, and we’re getting pilloried by the left.
And it’s so reflective of what’s happening right now in our country. When I went to college in the late ’60s and ’70s, everybody had their say. And today you can’t do that. You can’t bring a speaker in if that’s someone you don’t like. In college, you’re supposed to be exposed to as many views as possible. And now there’s yelling and hollering and people saying there isn’t a safe space.
(Please note: We regularly highlight articles on news sites that have limited access for nonsubscribers.)
• A radical plan to split California into three separate states has qualified to be on the ballot in November. [The Los Angeles Times]
• A report found that African-Americans are disproportionately involved in police use-of-force cases on Bay Area Rapid Transit. [The Mercury News]
• National Democrats are turning to Hollywood for help shaping their message during the midterm elections and beyond. [Politico]
• Will the rise in Democratic voters in Orange County be enough to flip the U.S. House? [The Los Angeles Times]
• Katie Hill, who is facing off against Representative Steve Knight in the 25th District, reflected on her chances and the sexism within her own party took her by surprise. [The New Yorker]
• A brush fire in the West Side of L.A. prompted scores of home evacuations. The blaze was started by a weed-Wacker someone was using to clear brush ahead of fire season. [The Los Angeles Times]
• Emergency room visits have increased in Southern California since the Affordable Care Act passed, contrary to goals set by proponents of the law. [The O.C. Register]
• Tesla, the Palo Alto company, announced Tuesday that it was reducing its work force by 9 percent. [The Los Angeles Times]
• California voting experts warn that the state’s voters are suffering from “voter fatigue.” [The Los Angeles Times]
• A dry winter last year followed by an anticipated hot summer could bring an increased fire risk to Southern California. [The O.C. Register]
• A new “fire hydrant for helicopters” in Southern California could give firefighters a leg up in combating out-of-control blazes. [The O.C. Register]
And Finally …
An estimated one million fans crowded onto the streets of downtown Oakland Tuesday to mark the Golden State Warriors’ N.B.A. championship win with a booze-filled victory parade.
Confetti spewed into the air as the hometown heroes were greeted by cheering revelers. The streets were awash with blue and gold banners, T-shirts and hats as marchers rejoiced. Steph Curry popped champagne and sprayed it out over the parade.
It was the third such pageant in four years, much to the city’s delight. “I want to enjoy this as much as I did my first and my second one,” Mr. Curry told television cameras, before sprinting off to greet people standing along the parade’s barricades.
California Today goes live at 6 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: CAtoday@nytimes.com.
California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.