Online Extra: Political Notes: Gov names lesbian to Alameda court seat

  • by Matthew S. Bajko
  • Monday June 4, 2018
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Governor Jerry Brown kicked off Pride Month by naming a lesbian lawyer to a judicial vacancy on the Alameda County Superior Court.

Friday, June 1, Brown's office announced he had appointed Oakland resident Jenna M. Whitman to the East Bay court's bench. She was among 21 people Brown named last week to vacant Superior Court seats around the state.

According to judicial demographic information released by the state court system earlier this year, Whitman will be the fifth known LGBT person serving on the Alameda court. As of December 31, 2017 there were two lesbians, one gay man, and one transgender judge on the court.

"I am honored to be joining an incredibly distinguished bench," Whitman, 45, told the Bay Area Reporter Friday afternoon in a brief phone interview. "They are all the right things - smart, hardworking, fair - and so I just really look forward to joining them and trying to become that good of a judge."

Her appointment now brings the total number of known LGBT jurists serving on the state's appellate and trial courts to at least 57. The number marks a record for the state's bench and a slight increase from the 50 LGBT judges listed in the demographic judicial data for 2016.

Whitman is a member of Bay Area Lawyers for Individual Freedom, the local bar association for LGBT attorneys, and a past board member of the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. She told the B.A.R. the timing of her appointment had not gone unnoticed.

"I thought that was a really wonderful coincidence. There aren't many of us out folks on the bench, and so, I think it is good for everyone," said Whitman of having the governor name another LGBT person to a judicial seat.

Whitman, a Democrat, will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge George C. Hernandez Jr. She was unsure how soon her swearing-in would take place.

Since 2017 Whitman has served as a court appellate attorney at the 1st District Court of Appeal. During the decade prior she was a research attorney at the Alameda County Superior Court.

"I loved the work, I loved supporting the judges there," Whitman said of her time working for the Alameda court. "It is very important work. It's service to the public. I enjoyed every minute of it."

She initially applied for a judgeship two years ago with the governor's office. Last Tuesday, she received the phone call informing her of the judicial appointment; she will earn $200,042.

"I thought I would like to make the judiciary my professional home so I applied," said Whitman, who was born in Palo Alto and grew up in Los Altos.

After graduating Yale College Whitman earned her law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center. She was an associate at Howard, Rice, Nemerovski, Canady, Falk and Rabkin from 2001 to 2004 and then joined Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann and Bernstein LLP.

Since 2004 she has lived in Oakland, apart from several years in Alameda. She and her wife, Amy Whitman, a data consultant for an insurance company, have a 2-year-old son, Zachary.

SF election night parties

After months of campaigning and countless debates, local candidates are ready to party as they watch the June 5 primary results come in after 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

In San Francisco the city's gay Castro district will be host to three election night parties all within blocks of each other. Gay mayoral candidate Mark Leno will be taking over Harvey Milk Plaza, kitty-corner to his mayoral campaign headquarters, tomorrow evening.

The public parklet above the Castro Muni station is named after the city's first gay elected leader who was killed in 1978 less than a year into his first term as a city supervisor. Forty years after Milk was sworn into office, Leno is aiming to become the city's first gay mayor.

A former state lawmaker and city supervisor, first appointed to the board in 1998, Leno was elected to Milk's former supervisor seat in 2000 when he ran to represent District 8 at City Hall. The supervisors that year reverted back to being elected by district rather than citywide.

Down the street at Hamburger Mary's (531 Castro Street), next to his campaign headquarters, Jeff Sheehy, the current holder of the District 8 supervisor seat, will be watching to see if he becomes the first known HIV-positive person to be elected supervisor in the city. A gay married father and longtime AIDS activist, Sheehy was appointed in 2017 by the late mayor Ed Lee to the vacant seat.

Running against him is gay attorney Rafael Mandelman, a member of the City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees. They are seeking to serve out the remainder of former supervisor Scott Wiener's term through early January. Wiener resigned in late 2016 after being elected to the state Senate; whoever wins Tuesday will need to run in November for a full four-year term as District 8 supervisor.

Mandelman is widely seen as the frontrunner in the race, and if he wins in a landslide Tuesday, it could prompt Sheehy to drop out of the fall race. He will be spending Election Night at Cafe Du Nord, located in the basement of the Swedish American Hall at 2174 Market Street.

The two leading female mayoral candidates will both be in South of Market Tuesday night. Board President London Breed, who represents District 5 and is part of the current 6-5 moderate majority on the board, will be watching the results come in starting at 8:30 p.m. at the Delancey Street Foundation, 600 The Embarcadero.

District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim will be at the Folsom Street Foundry, 1425 Folsom Street, starting at 8:30 p.m. Part of the progressive minority on the board, Kim teamed up with Leno to take advantage of the city's ranked-choice voting system. They appeared together in online ads asking their voters to mark the other candidate as their number two choice on their ballot.

Should no one secure a majority of the votes in the first round Tuesday, then the candidates with the least votes are eliminated and their supporters' third and second choices are tabulated until a candidate emerges with 50 percent plus one of the vote. With eight candidates running in the special mayoral election - called due to Lee's sudden death in December - it is expected it will take five to six rounds of voting, and at least several days, to declare a winner.

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Got a tip on LGBT politics? Call Matthew S. Bajko at (415) 829-8836 or e-mail [email protected].