Justice Jenkins

From Bronco football to the California Supreme Court, Martin Jenkins ’77 has spent more than four decades defending the bench.

Justice Jenkins
Martin Jenkins ’77 at his confirmation hearing. Image courtesy Commission on Judicial Appointments.

“A Product and Protector of the American Dream.” That’s what Gov. Gavin Newsom ’89 called Martin Jenkins ’77 when he was sworn in as the first openly gay justice on the California Supreme Court. Newsom praised Jenkins, the third Black man to serve on the court, for his “compassion, humility, lifelong commitment to public service, and passion for justice.”

In announcing the appointment Jenkins, Newsom underscored the importance of having a state Supreme Court justice who is “a living, breathing example of the idea that ‘love means love.’”

A football scholarship brought Jenkins to SCU, where head coach Pat Malley ’53 pointed the defensive back toward a different bench. Malley introduced Jenkins to a few African American lawyers who demonstrated how large an impact he could make in law. So, after a brief time playing in the NFL with the Seattle Seahawks, Jenkins enrolled at the University of San Francisco, earning his J.D. in 1980.

“Over a distinguished career that spans more than four decades, Judge Jenkins has worked at every level of our vaunted legal system: a civil rights attorney, a county prosecutor, a municipal, superior, and a federal court judge,” Newsom said. “Now his career culminates in a seat on the California Supreme Court.”

At the virtual nomination ceremony in October, Jenkins thanked his mentors and parents, for “they taught us the value of public service.” Acknowledging the challenges he’s faced as a gay man, he insists he has not made it this far in spite of the struggle. “I am here because of the struggle … Living a life of authenticity is the greatest gift you can give yourself.”

Martin Jenkins Confirmation
Martin Jenkins ’77 was sworn in to the state Supreme Court in December 2020. Image courtesy Commission on Judicial Appointments.
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