San Francisco native and former NFL cornerback Martin Jenkins, who has served on the California Court of Appeal for the First District since 2008, just became the fifth-ever Black associate justice named to the California Supreme Court, and the first justice on the court ever to be openly gay.
Jenkins, 66, was nominated to the CA Supreme Court by Governor Gavin Newsom in October, and on Tuesday his confirmation became official, as the Examiner reports. California's Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation called Jenkins "exceptionally well qualified," and said he was "praised for his brilliant intellect, first-class temperament, and boundless humanity."
Jenkins replaces Justice Ming Chin, who retired on August 31.
Earlier in his career, Jenkins served as a deputy district attorney and a federal prosecutor, and in 1997 then-President Bill Clinton appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Just over a decade later he was appointed to the state's appeals court system.
Jenkins has said that being a Black gay man has been one of his life's greatest challenges.
Retired appeals court justice William McGuiness said in a statement to the Chronicle, "Living his truth about being African American and gay,” Jenkins “knows what it means … to struggle and to be an outsider."
Another former colleague, retired U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, tells the Chronicle that because of his work ethic, Jenkins is "the James Brown of the judiciary."
In statement, Jenkins said, "I am not here in spite of the struggle, I am here because of the struggle. It has deepened my character, afforded me sensibilities about the world and about people who are not so willing to accept that people can love differently than they do, but nevertheless love sincerely, genuinely and effectively."
Jenkins grew up in San Francisco's Ingleside neighborhood, and attended St. Michael’s Catholic School "while his father worked as a clerk and janitor at Coit Tower," per the Chronicle. He went on to Santa Clara University where he became a star football player, and briefly played in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks, before deciding to go to law school.
And as the Chronicle notes, his judicial record is "largely moderate," and the record of his appointments by both Democrats and Republicans is a testament to that. During his tenure as a federal judge, Jenkins ruled in favor of a landmark class-action suit by female employees against Walmart — a case that was ultimately dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2011.