State Watch

Newsom nominates first openly gay justice to serve on California Supreme Court


California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) this week announced that he nominated Justice Martin Jenkins, who currently serves as judicial appointments secretary to the governor, to serve on the state’s Supreme Court.

If confirmed, Newsom’s office said Jenkins would be the first openly gay justice to serve on the high court and the third African American man in the state’s history. An African American man hasn’t served on the court for nearly 30 years.

Newsom said Jenkins, a former judge who also worked as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice on civil rights cases, is “widely respected among lawyers and jurists, active in his Oakland community and his faith, and is a decent man to his core.”

“As a critical member of my senior leadership team, I’ve seen firsthand that Justice Jenkins possesses brilliance and humility in equal measure. The people of California could not ask for a better jurist or kinder person to take on this important responsibility,” he continued.

In a video message Newsom posted to Twitter on Monday, Jenkins discussed the historic significance his appointment would have.

“I want to say something about being a first. There have been firsts and there will continue to be firsts. There is a significant responsibility that goes with being a first that I think can be best dispatched in doing the work at the highest level I possibly can,” he said. 

“But I want to say to some young lonely person who may be out there today who is struggling with their identity, anyone who knows me knows my identity has been, as a gay man, perhaps the greatest challenge of my life,” he continued.

“I want to say today to those young people who may be watching and those who may hear about what has transpired here that I am not here in spite of the struggle,” Jenkins said. “I’m here because of the struggle.”

Jenkins previously served as an associate justice on the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District for more than ten years and was appointed by former President Clinton to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 1997, Newsom’s office said.

Jenkins, who obtained a Juris Doctor degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law, was also a judge on the Alameda County Superior Court for several years in the 1990s, as well as the Oakland Municipal Court before that.

Jenkins, who Newsom’s office identified as a Democrat, is expected to replace Associate Justice Ming W. Chin, who recently retired, on the high court. His nomination now awaits confirmation from the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

Tags California Gavin Newsom LGBT state Supreme Court
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