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In a highly unusual move, U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins, a life-tenured federal judge in San Francisco, is prepared to give up his seat and has applied for an opening on the state court of appeal bench. Jenkins, 54, a moderate Democrat and former state trial court judge in Oakland, was appointed by President Clinton a decade ago. He confirmed rumors that he has submitted an application with Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for the vacancy. Jenkins declined to discuss his plans further or reasons for his willingness to go from the federal court to state court, where he would face periodic confirmation votes by California voters. Those close to him have indicated his practice of working long hours and meticulous attention to detail in a large federal caseload has taken a toll. His reputation on the bench has been as a first-rate judge known for courtesy and sensitivity to litigants and criminal defendants. “Judge Jenkins is a wonderful judge and one of the hardest working I have ever met,” said David Shapiro, former U.S. attorney in San Francisco and currently with Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Oakland. “It is only speculation, but sometimes people prefer the appellate work to the trial work,” he said. Jenkins’ application must be selected by the governor as a finalist with others for further review and ultimately if he is selected his confirmation would be before a three-member Commission on Judicial Appointments. Jenkins, a former player with the Seattle Seahawks in 1977, went on to serve as a deputy district attorney in Alameda County and a civil rights attorney in the Department of Justice from 1983-1985. He is one of five African-American judges currently serving on the Northern District bench. If he were selected for the state appellate court, it would open a vacancy on the federal court in San Francisco for President Bush, who has made only one other appointment to the Northern California court. Pamela A. MacLean is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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