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Former Football Player Martin Jenkins Becomes California's First Openly Gay Supreme Court Justice

California made history on Tuesday when the Commission on Judicial Appointments announced it unanimously confirmed Associate Justice Martin J. Jenkins, the state's first openly gay Supreme Court justice.

Jenkins, 66, is only the third Black associate justice to serve on the state's highest court and the first since the appointment of Allen Broussard in 1981. Jenkins fills the vacant seat from Associate Justice Ming Chin, who retired on Aug. 31. 

Jenkins played varsity football in college, and was a two-year starter for Santa Clara University. He intercepted five passes in his final year, and Jenkins went on to sign with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 1977, according to the team. He spent the off-season with Seattle, even making it to training camp.

He competed in two preseason games as a defensive back for the Seahawks, according to SF Gate. However, Jenkins was waived before the season began, and he chose to pursue a career in law.

Martin Jenkins signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 1977, but was cut before the season started. Now, he's the first openly gay California Supreme Court justice.  

Martin Jenkins signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 1977, but was cut before the season started. Now, he's the first openly gay California Supreme Court justice.  

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He earned his law degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law and then worked as a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney's Office for three years.

He went on to be a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, where he litigated civil rights cases, and returned home to work as in-house counsel for Pacific Bell's legal department in San Francisco.

Before he was appointed by former President Bill Clinton to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in 1997, Jenkins, a Democrat, served as a judge on the Oakland Municipal Court and the Alameda County Superior Court.

The San Francisco native was nominated by former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and served on the California Court of Appeal for the First District from April 2008 to January 2019, when Gov. Gavin Newsom named him his judicial appointments secretary.

Newsom nominated Jenkins to the state Supreme Court in October.

A report from the Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation said that Jenkins is “exceptionally well qualified,” and that “he is praised for his brilliant intellect, first-class temperament, and boundless humanity.”