Governor Gavin Newsom nominated Martin Jenkins to the California Supreme Court Monday, setting the stage for the first openly gay man to join the state’s highest court.
If confirmed, Jenkins also would be only the third Black man to serve on the court, coming after a 29-year span without such representation, Newsom’s office said Monday in announcing the pick.
“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,” Newsom said in a statement.
Jenkins, a former federal judge, said Monday he felt a “significant responsibility” being the first gay nominee.
“I want to say to some young person who may be out there today who is struggling with their identity...that I am not here in spite of the struggle. I’m here because of the struggle," Jenkins said as he accepted the nomination during a press conference.
“I want these young people to know that living a life of authenticity is the greatest gift you can give yourself, and if you do that, you, too, will find yourself in a position where people see you, they really see you and who you are, your authentic self," Jenkins, 66, said.
A former prosecutor and state judge who joined the federal bench after a nomination by President Bill Clinton, Jenkins grew up in San Francisco, where his father worked as a county clerk and janitor at Coit Tower.
He also had a short-lived career in pro football, Newsom’s office said.
“Just after finishing undergrad, he signed a contract with the Seattle Seahawks but soon realized that rather than sitting on the football bench, his true calling was becoming a lawyer and pursuing a different bench as a judge,” Newsom’s office said in a statement.
As a young lawyer in the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division during Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Jenkins pursued cases involving police misconduct and cross burnings, Newsom’s office said.
“I view Justice Jenkins as a ‘thinking judge.’ He presides and decides in an open-minded, even-tempered, courteous, patient and compassionate manner,” Senior U.S. District Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong, who serves in the Northern District of California, said in a statement.
“Importantly, Justice Jenkins never loses sight of the fact that, behind every case file, stand people who will be impacted by his decision,” she said.
A Democrat now serving as Newsom’s judicial appointments secretary, Jenkins is set to fill the vacancy left by the Aug. 31 retirement of Justice Ming W. Chin, a Republican considered the court’s most conservative member.
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