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Martin Jenkins would be first gay justice on California Supreme Court

Martin Jenkins could be the first openly gay and the third Black man to serve on the California Supreme Court.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that he had nominated Jenkins, 66, for the state’s highest court.

Jenkins, who is retired, has served as Newsom’s judicial appointments secretary since 2019. He would fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Associate Justice Ming W. Chin.

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“As a critical member of my senior leadership team, I’ve seen firsthand that Justice Jenkins possesses brilliance and humility in equal measure,” Newsom said in a statement.

Martin Jenkins

Jenkins, who is nominated to be an associate justice, would be the first Black man to serve on the California Supreme Court in 29 years.

“I am truly humbled and honored to be asked by the Governor to continue serving the people of California on the Supreme Court,” said Justice Jenkins. “If confirmed, I will serve with the highest ethical standards that have guided me throughout my career, informed by the law and what I understand to be fair and just.”

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Jenkins nomination must be submitted to the California State Bar’s Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation and confirmed by the Commission on Judicial Appointments, which consists of Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal J. Anthony Kline.

A public hearing with the Judicial Appointments Commission is expected to take place in early November.

If Jenkins is confirmed, his swearing in could take place immediately after his confirmation.

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Judicial diversity

In his role as judicial appointments secretary, Jenkins has guided the Newsom Administration’s efforts to build a judiciary that reflects the people they serve. Jenkins spearheaded transparency efforts in 2019 by making public the Regional Judicial Selection Advisory Committees.

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For the first time in California history, the public learned the identities of the people who provide feedback on judicial candidates for nomination and appointment.

Jenkins has worked closely with these committees to appoint 45 jurists. Those selections have helped make the California judiciary mirror the state’s diversity.

Born and raised in the Bay Area, Jenkins earned a juris doctor degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law.

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Legal experience

As a young attorney working in the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during the Reagan Administration, Jenkins pursued cases involving police misconduct and cross burnings, according to Jenkins’ biography in a press release.

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Jenkins also has worked to promote gender equality through cases on pregnancy-related leave and sex discrimination, the release said.

After working three years as a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, Jenkins was a trial attorney from 1983 to 1986 litigating civil rights cases in the U.S. Department of Justice.

Between 1989 and 1997, Jenkins was a judge in Alameda County and Oakland.

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Jenkins was appointed by President Bill Clinton to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 1997 and served on the bench until 2008.

Prior to his role in the Newsom Administration, Jenkins served as an associate justice on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, from 2008 to 2019.

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About the author

Phillip Zonkel

Award-winning journalist Phillip Zonkel spent 17 years at Long Beach's Press-Telegram, where he was the first reporter in the paper's history to have a beat covering the city's vibrant LGBTQ. He also created and ran the popular and innovative LGBTQ news blog, Out in the 562.

He won two awards and received a nomination for his reporting on the local LGBTQ community, including a two-part investigation that exposed anti-gay bullying of local high school students and the school districts' failure to implement state mandated protections for LGBTQ students.

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