Justice Martin Jenkins

2022 Lewis F. Powell Jr. Award for Professionalism and Ethics

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA–Martin Jenkins has been selected to receive the prestigious 2022 American Inns of Court Lewis F. Powell Jr. Award for Professionalism and Ethics, which recognizes attorneys, judges, government officials, journalists, or others who have rendered exemplary service in the areas of professionalism, ethics, civility, and excellence. Jenkins, an associate justice of the California Supreme Court, will receive the award at the 2022 American Inns of Court Celebration of Excellence at the Supreme Court of the United States October 29.

The son of a janitor, Jenkins first became interested in the law after defending a fellow Santa Clara University football player in a disciplinary hearing. The dean was so impressed that he called Jenkins’ football coach, Pat Malley, and together they suggested Jenkins apply his leadership skills to the law as a way of making an impact in his community. After a brief stint as a professional football player, Jenkins headed to law school at the University of San Francisco, where he graduated with honors in 1980. He began his career as a prosecutor for the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, then moved to Washington, DC, to handle racial violence and police misconduct cases as an assistant U.S. attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

After a stint in the private sector, Jenkins began his judicial career in 1989 when he was appointed to the municipal court in Oakland, then moved up to the Alameda County superior court. In 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In 2008, he was appointed as an associate justice on the California Court of Appeal for the First District. After serving as senior judicial appointments advisor to California’s governor, he joined the California Supreme Court in 2020, becoming the court’s first openly gay justice and its fifth African American one.

For Jules Bonjour, Esquire, who nominated Jenkins for the award, it is not just Jenkins’s qualities as a jurist that set him apart but also his humanity and humility. “He believes that he has been given the responsibility to show others, by his example, what can be achieved despite obstacles,” writes Bonjour, noting Jenkins’s commitment to mentoring both law students and younger students from underrepresented communities. “He has lived up to that responsibility with his service to the community and in administering justice fairly and with compassion.”