Political Notes: Out California justices win retention races

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Monday November 14, 2022
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Voters retained California Supreme Court Justice Martin Jenkins, left, and Justice Therese Stewart of the California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2. Photos: Jenkins, courtesy CA Supreme Court; Stewart, Rick Gerharter<br>
Voters retained California Supreme Court Justice Martin Jenkins, left, and Justice Therese Stewart of the California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2. Photos: Jenkins, courtesy CA Supreme Court; Stewart, Rick Gerharter

Voters retained the four out California justices on the November 8 general election ballot in races that were largely overlooked by the media. All 47 of the state's judges who were on ballots across the Golden State won their retention races.

Four of the seven members of the California Supreme Court had to seek approval from voters this month in order to continue serving on the state's highest court. Among the quartet was Associate Justice Martin Jenkins, appointed by Governor Gavin Newsom in 2020 as the first openly gay man to serve on the court and the third Black man to do so.

Jenkins received 69.2% of the vote, according to the unofficial returns. He will soon be joined on the bench by the first out LGBTQ woman to serve on the supreme court.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Kelli Evans, a Black queer woman, was confirmed as the court's newest associate justice November 10 and will face her retention election in 2024. She will officially join the supreme court January 2, when the justice she is replacing, Patricia Guerrero, becomes the court's chief justice.

Newsom nominated Guerrero to succeed retiring Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, and Guerrero was confirmed this fall by a judicial review commission. She also had to appear before voters this month in order to retain the chief justice position.

A first-generation Californian and the first Latina to serve on the supreme court, Guerrero netted 70.3% of the vote. She will be the 29th chief justice of the state's high court and the first Latina to serve in the position.

Also winning their retention races were Associate Justices Goodwin Liu (68.9%) and Joshua Groban (68.2%), both of whom had been appointed by former governor Jerry Brown. Liu joined the court in 2011 and won his first retention race in 2014; Groban began serving on the high court in January 2019.

Among the 43 California Court of Appeal justices who won their retention races, two were lesbians and one a gay man. Associate Justice Luis A. Lavin, who serves in the 2nd District, received 71.3% of the vote.

Associate Justice Laurie M. Earl, who serves in the 3rd District, garnered 61.5% of the vote. Newsom appointed Earl to the appellate bench last year, while Brown had named Lavin as an appellate justice in 2015.

In the First District, which includes the Bay Area counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano, and Sonoma, Associate Justice Therese Stewart received 79.1% of the vote.

She previously was chief deputy city attorney to former city attorney Dennis Herrera and helped defend then-mayor Newsom's decision to allow same-sex couples to marry in San Francisco. She has served on the appellate court since 2014 when Brown appointed her as the first out female appellate justice in the state.

Newsom recently nominated Stewart to be presiding justice of her appellate court's Division 2. Expected to be confirmed to the position November 30, she will be the first lesbian presiding justice on a California appellate court.

She will also be the second out justice to preside over a division of one of the state's six appellate courts. The first to do so was gay Justice James M. Humes of San Francisco. Brown named Humes to the state's appellate bench in 2012 and elevated him two years later to be the presiding justice of the 1st District Court of Appeal, Division 1.

"I am honored to have been nominated by Governor Newsom to be one of our court's presiding justices," Stewart told the Bay Area Reporter in a texted reply November 11. "I look forward to serving in that role if I am confirmed."

Gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who worked with Stewart at the city attorney's office and appears to have won his own November 8 race for a full four-year term having been appointed earlier this year to his board seat, joked to the B.A.R. that "Terry Stewart was my second favorite person to vote for" in last Tuesday's election.

Having served as Herrera's chief spokesman, Dorsey noted that he and Stewart were "the queer members of the city attorney's executive staff through the marriage equality battle. Our offices were next to each other's. I love her dearly; it was an honor to be on the same ballot with Terry Stewart."

Stewart's confirmation hearing will be webcast live at 3 p.m. the last Wednesday of this month on the website for the state courts.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the Political Notes column will return Monday, December 5.

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

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