California’s Supreme Court has its first openly gay justice.
Martin Jenkins was sworn in on Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom in a virtual rather than in-person ceremony because of coronavirus safety restrictions.
“In swearing in Justice Jenkins today, our state once again makes history, and we elevate an extraordinary Californian to the bench,” Newsom said in a statement. “The people of our state could not ask for a finer jurist or better person to serve them in this capacity.”
Newsom nominated Jenkins to replace Justice Ming Chin, who retired on Aug. 31. The Commission on Judicial Appointments unanimously confirmed Jenkins in November, praising him for his “brilliant intellect, first-class temperament, and boundless humanity.”
During a news conference in October, Jenkins said his identity as a gay man has been “perhaps the greatest challenge of my life.”
Jenkins also is the third Black justice to serve on the court. He joins a diverse bench that includes another Black justice, Leondra Kruger; Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuellar, who is Latino; two Asian Americans, Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye and Justice Goodwin Liu; and white justices Joshua Groban and Carol Corrigan..
Jenkins grew up in San Francisco. His father was a clerk and janitor at the city’s iconic Coit Tower. He was a prosecutor in Alameda County and a civil rights attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Reagan administration.
He was appointed as a federal judge in 1998 joined the state Courts of Appeal in 2008. He retired last year and joined Newsom’s administration as the judicial appointment secretary, helping Newsom vet potential appointments for judgeships.