As California’s notoriously long ballot-counting process continued Wednesday, here are six results the legal community is talking about.
➤➤ Voters ousted Judge Aaron Persky in Santa Clara. What now?
In the end it wasn’t really close. Nearly 60 percent of those who cast ballots in Santa Clara County voted to oust Judge Aaron Persky for his six-month sentence of sexual assault perpetrator Brock Turner. The recall was the first since 1932.
“We voted today against impunity for high-status perpetrators of sexual assault and domestic violence,” recall campaign leader Michele Dauber said in a prepared statement. “We voted that sexual violence is serious and it must be taken seriously by our elected officials.”
Former Santa Clara County Judge LaDoris Cordell, a recall opponent, said Wednesday “is a sad day for the judiciary.”
“It doesn’t bode well for state court judges around the country,” Cordell said. “I’m hearing it from judges already.”
Cordell said she’ll be lobbying to add specific criteria to the state constitution’s recall provisions. “Right now it’s fair game to go after anybody.”
Voters chose Assistant District Attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson to replace Persky.
➤➤ AG Xavier Becerra advanced easily to the general election.
Attorney General Xavier Becerra cruised to the November election with more than 45 percent of the primary vote. His incumbency, his mantle as President Donald Trump’s legal-challenger-in-chief and the continued support of his appointer, Gov. Jerry Brown, proved insurmountable.
Becerra will face off against former El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Steven Bailey. As if trying to win statewide office as a Republican in bright-blue California isn’t tough enough, Bailey is facing a disciplinary investigation by the Commission on Judicial Performance tied to his tenure as a judge, which ended in 2017. A hearing on the charges once scheduled for June 11 has been moved to Sept. 4.
Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones finished fourth out of four candidates on election night and has thrown his support to fellow Democrat Becerra. No word yet on whether he’ll drop his lawsuit challenging Becerra’s use of the Third District Court of Appeal courtroom to shoot campaign ads.
➤➤ Four San Francisco judges win retention election.
San Francisco Superior Court Judges Andrew Cheng, Curtis Karnow, Cynthia Ming-Mei Lee and Jeff Ross all handily beat back challenges from four public defenders.
The judges had the backing of the political and legal establishment, from Gov. Jerry Brown to the Queen’s Bench Bar Association to Associate Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar of the California Supreme Court.
Maria Evangelista, Kwixuan Maloof, Niki Solis and Phoenix Streets said they could better serve San Francisco’s diverse community than four judges appointed by Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. (The incumbent judges are Democrats).
It remains to be seen whether courthouse operations will return to normal after the public defenders’ electoral revolt.
“It makes it tough, I’ve got to say,” said San Francisco Judge Richard Ulmer, who backed his colleagues’ retention. “It’s very difficult when you have folks come into the courtroom when they’ve been making false claims of racism.”
➤➤ Jeffrey Bleich’s run for lieutenant governor ends.
Dentons partner and former state bar president Jeffrey Bleich finished fourth in a crowded field seeking to advance in the lieutenant governor’s race. It was a tough campaign for the former U.S. ambassador to Australia.
Top vote-getter Eleni Kounalakis and her father, Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos spent $9 million to ensure her campaign would advance to November. Second-place finisher Ed Hernandez, a state senator from the San Gabriel Valley, locked up a lot of endorsements from his Democratic colleagues and labor groups.
Bleich issued a statement that said in part:
We ran the campaign that we promised you—independent, substantive, and honest. We managed to earn hundreds of thousands of votes statewide without taking money from special interests, corporations, lobbyists, or a SuperPAC. And we stayed true to our commitment to raise the quality and focus of the debate.
I hope that you take pride in the campaign we ran, the ideas we put forward, and our ability to stay principled and earn the support of so many people who studied the race.
He added: “My spirits are high. So don’t worry that I’m sitting in some dark room listening to sad music.”
➤➤ UC Irvine law profs vie for Orange County congressional seat.
Katie Porter, who enjoys the backing of Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris, defeated her law school colleague and fellow Democrat David Min to finish second in the race for the 45th Congressional District. Porter hopes to surf a blue wave when she faces incumbent Republican Rep. Mimi Walters in November. Whether Porter can regain a cordial working relationship with Min after a bruising campaign is another matter.
➤➤ Incumbent judges were nearly all big winners.
The political action committee organized by judges to help sitting judges facing election challenges contributed to 13 candidates this year. PAC-backed judges won 12 of those races. The thirteenth was Judge Aaron Persky.
Incumbent San Diego County Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep, who did not receive financial help from the judges PAC, will head to a runoff in November. Kreep finished first in a five-candidate field Tuesday with 31.6 percent of the vote. He’ll face Deputy District Attorney Matt Brower in the general election.
Kreep received a severe censure from the Commission on Judicial Performance last year for committing 57 acts of misconduct or improper action between 2012 and 2015, many of them linked to insensitive courtroom comments that “demonstrated a lack of judicial temperament.”