Kelli Evans nominated as 1st lesbian to California Supreme Court

Kelli Evans

Kelli Evans has been nominated as a California Supreme Court associate justice. If confirmed, she will be the first self-identified lesbian and second Black person to serve on the bench. Photo: Office of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Kelli Evans has been nominated as a California Supreme Court  associate justice. If confirmed, she will be the first self-identified lesbian and second Black person to serve on the bench.

Gov. Gavin Newsom made the announcement today.

Evans’ nomination is the second time Newsom has selected someone from the LGBTQ+ community for the Supreme Court. Martin J. Jenkins, a gay Black man, was nominated and confirmed as an associate justice in 2020.

Kelli Evans

Evans, a judge in Alameda County Superior Court, served as chief deputy legal affairs secretary in the governor’s office, where she helped shape California’s moratorium on capital punishment.

In a statement released by Newsom’s office, Evans said she is “truly honored by this opportunity to serve the people of California on our state’s highest court.

 “I have worked my entire career to promote equality and access to justice and to protect the rights of some of society’s most disenfranchised members,” she said. “If confirmed, I look forward to furthering our state’s work to ensure equal justice under the law for all Californians.”

Evans would fill the court vacancy created by Newsom’s elevating Supreme Court Associate Justice Patricia Guerrero to chief justice.

Guerrero is set to succeed Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who is retiring when her term ends Jan. 2.

Guerrero was the first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court and, if confirmed, will be the first Latina to serve as chief justice.

Nomination praised

Tony Hoang, executive director of Equality California, applauded Evans’ nomination.

“Representation is power, and it’s critical in our collective fight for full, lived equality,” he said in a statement. “Governor Newsom’s historic appointment of Judge Evans ensures that California’s highest court better reflects the diversity of our state …

“We are confident she will continue to uphold and advance equal justice under the law for all Californians,” Hoang said.

In the statement announcing Evan’s nomination, Newsom said she “has dedicated herself to helping all Californians have an equal chance at justice.

“Raised by her grandmother in public housing, Judge Evans was inspired from a young age to find ways to help expand justice and opportunity for everyone, especially marginalized and vulnerable communities,” Newsom said. “I have seen firsthand her commitment to the highest ideals of public service, and her passion to protect and advance civil rights and liberties for all Californians.

“I have no doubt that her exemplary talent, wide-ranging knowledge and experience, strong moral compass, and work ethic will make her an outstanding Supreme Court Justice,” he said.

Evans also served as special assistant to California’s attorney general from 2017 to 2019 and associate director of the ACLU of Northern California from 2010 to 2013.

Confirmation process

Kelli Evans’ 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 Rob Bonta, and senior presiding justice of the state Court of Appeal Manuel Ramirez, in November.

Guerrero’s nomination must also be confirmed by voters in the Nov. 8 general election.

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.

Share This

Share this post with your friends!