Being on California’s highest court in itself is an honor, but for Martin Jenkins, it also means making history as the first openly gay justice on the California Supreme Court. In October, California Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Jenkins, 66, to replace Justice Ming Chin and on Tuesday, November 10, was unanimously confirmed to the state Supreme Court.
Before pursuing a career in law, Jenkins played football professionally for the Seattle Seahawks. After receiving his law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law, Jenkins became a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office from 1980-1983. Jenkins joined the United States Department of Justice as a Trial Attorney in 1983 with an assignment to the Civil Rights Division-Criminal Section, where he prosecuted racial violence and police misconduct cases during his time at the DOJ.
Jenkins was appointed as a judge to the Oakland Municipal Court in 1989 by Governor George Deukmejian and in 1992, was appointed to the Alameda County Superior Court by Governor Pete Wilson. In 1997, Jenkins was appointed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California by President Bill Clinton.
After almost 11 years with the U.S District Court, Jenkins went on to serve as an Associate Justice of the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District, Division Three, from 2008 to 2019.
In an interview, Jenkins talked about his partner, Sydney Shand, a Southern California real estate broker:
“He’s a wonderful man. And when I was finally able to be authentic about who I was, he showed up like a miracle. I fell in love for the first time late in life. I denied myself for so long. And now I’m happy.”
Also, while Jenkins is the third African American man ever to serve on the California Supreme Court, he is the first in 29 years. In a statement from the Governor’s office, Governor Newsom gave his praise for Jenkins:
“Justice Jenkins 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.”
Jenkins will serve the remainder of Justice Chin’s term, which expires in 2022, and following that Jenkins, without opposition, will be confirmed by California voters in a statewide ballot.
”’Sources: California Courts Official Website, The Advocate, The Office of California Governor Website, Los Angeles Times, KPIX CBS SF Bay Area Official YouTube Channel, California Courts Commission on Judicial Appointments Website