Political Notebook: Newsom elevates gay justice to lead appellate division

  • by Matthew S. Bajko, Assistant Editor
  • Wednesday March 13, 2024
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Justice Gonzalo Martinez. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office<br>Portland City Council candidate Mike Marshall. Photo: Courtesy the candidate<br>
Justice Gonzalo Martinez. Photo: Courtesy Governor's office
Portland City Council candidate Mike Marshall. Photo: Courtesy the candidate

Less than a year after joining California's 2nd District Court of Appeal bench, gay Justice Gonzalo Martinez is poised to oversee its Division Seven. If confirmed as expected, he would be the fourth out presiding justice on an appellate court in the state.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced his decision to elevate Martinez into the judicial leadership role Tuesday, March 12. The Commission on Judicial Appointments will need to confirm the appointment before Martinez can assume the position, which comes with an annual salary of $272,902.

The oversight panel had confirmed Martinez to his appeal court seat last July. Earlier in the year Newsom had tapped Martinez to fill the vacancy.

Martinez had been serving as Newsom's deputy judicial appointments secretary, for which he was first hired in 2019. He helped vet more than 400 applicants seeking to be named to vacancies on the state courts.

While the governor's office noted Martinez is from Los Angeles County, he and his husband, tax attorney Raul A. Escatel, had long called Oakland's Trestle Glen neighborhood home. The couple have been together for more than two decades.

Martinez grew up the oldest of four children in the San Joaquin Valley where his non-English speaking immigrant parents worked as farm laborers. He lost a sister to leukemia, having translated for his parents during her doctor appointments.

The first in his family to attend college, Martinez graduated from Harvard in 1998 and later earned his law degree from the Ivy League school in 2003. Accepted into the bar a year later, Martinez worked at several law firms before becoming a partner in the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice Group at Squire Patton Boggs from 2007 to 2017.

He spent two years as a deputy solicitor general in the California Attorney General's Office. Martinez then returned to the law firm until joining Newsom's administration.

The 2nd District Court of Appeal covers the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. It is composed of eight divisions with four justices each.

Martinez is one of two gay men serving on it. Associate Justice Luis A. Lavin is a judge on its Division Three.

There are currently six known out Court of Appeal members in the state. Gay Associate Justice David Rubin joined the 4th District Court of Appeal's Division One last year.

The other three, two lesbians and a gay man, are all presiding justices on their benches. Laurie M. Earl presides over the 3rd District Court of Appeal, and Therese Stewart presides over the 1st District Court of Appeal's Division Two. Jim Humes serves as the presiding justice for the 1st District Court of Appeal, which covers the Bay Area region.

Portland City Council candidate Mike Marshall  

Gay former SF leader Marshall ramps up Portland council campaign
Mike Marshall, a gay man who was a longtime leader in San Francisco on LGBTQ rights and environmental issues, is ramping up his bid for a seat on the Portland City Council. He moved to Oregon in 2013 and lives in northeast Portland with his husband Rob and their hound, Ava, according to his profile on the website of advocacy group Oregon Recovers that he co-founded and directs.

Marshall has been in recovery himself since 2008 "from alcohol and meth and any other drug that was available," as he told Treatment magazine in 2021. Drug policy is sure to be a top topic in his campaign as Beaver State leaders just rolled back a decriminalization law that voters approved in 2020.

While advocates have argued the state failed to properly implement the substance abuse treatment services called for in the ballot measure, many residents have pointed to its passage as why streets in cities like Portland have been taken over by people sleeping in tents and using drugs.

In a March 12 email confirming his plans to run for a council seat, Marshall addresses the city's drug crisis head on.

"We don't just have a homeless problem or an addiction problem or a crime problem — we have a 'can't-get-it-done' problem. I want to change that," wrote Marshall. "Equally troubling, the city that used to take pride as 'the city that works' has come down with a wicked case of negativity. Truth be told, as a city, we've lost our mojo — and it's hurting our businesses, our tax base, and our families."

Marshall has long been willing to take on controversial issues and deal with the blowback from doing so. While in California, he oversaw the losing battle in 2000 against Proposition 22, the statewide ballot measure that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

He briefly served as interim director of the city's LGBT Community Center. In 2006, he resigned as executive director of nonprofit Under One Roof less than a year in the role. The charity, which is now defunct, had operated a retail store in San Francisco's Castro District to funnel the proceeds toward numerous Bay Area HIV/AIDS organizations.

He went on to be executive director of Restore Hetch Hetchy, whose goal is to return to its natural state the valley in Yosemite National Park where San Francisco has stored its drinking water for more than 100 years. City voters rejected a ballot measure aimed at doing so in 2012.

The following year Marshall became the campaign manager for Oregon United for Marriage and in 2014 helped then-governor John Kitzhaber win reelection only to see him resign three months later amid an influence-peddling scandal. He also led the City Club of Portland, one of the country's oldest civic engagement organizations, as its executive director, but left two years later following a "choppy tenure," according to Willamette Week.

Over the past year he has sparred with various state leaders over drug and alcohol issues. He reportedly behind the scenes pushed lesbian Governor Tina Kotek last summer to fire Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission Director Steve Marks.

In January, Kotek removed Marshall from a state panel overseeing alcohol taxes due to criticism he received for a Facebook post about the death of a brewery owner critics called insensitive. It led to media coverage about Marshall arguing with the governor's office about its asking him to resign.

Now Marshall aims to be one of three people elected from Portland's District 2 and fight for the needs of his neighbors at City Hall.

"Portland is embarking on an exciting and transformative redesign of our democratic system. Each Portlander will now elect three of their neighbors to represent them in City Hall which affords us the opportunity to reconnect our elected officials to the day-to-day problems Portlanders face," wrote Marshall.

Web Extra: For more queer political news, be sure to check http://www.ebar.com Monday mornings for Political Notes, the notebook's online companion. This week's column reported on new vote counts in various California primary races with out candidates.

Keep abreast of the latest LGBTQ political news by following the Political Notebook on Threads @ https://www.threads.net/@matthewbajko.

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

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