As a young girl, future Supreme Court of California Associate Justice Kelli Evans was more excited about the bookmobile coming through her Denver neighborhood than the ice cream truck.

“I was a voracious reader,” the first out lesbian on California’s highest court told Out in the Bay Queer Radio + Podcast. Evans says she read an entire set of encyclopedias from A-Z and again from Z-A bought for her by her grandmother, who “probably paid a usurious amount” for them, along with countless more books while a child.

Sworn in January 2, 2023, Evans joined Associate Justice Martin Jenkins as the second out LGBTQ person on the state’s high court. Jenkins, a gay man who joined the high court in late 2020, spoke with Out in the Bay in 2021. They are both Black.

At her swearing-in ceremony, Governor Gavin Newsom noted that Evans was raised by her grandmother and highlighted that she was raised in public housing.

“I understand what it’s like to live in poverty. I understand what it’s like to be raised by a single parent – by a grandparent. I have a perspective and an experience that not a lot of lawyers have, not a lot of judges have,” Evans told Out in the Bay.

“I think that may have stood out to the governor,” said Evans, as well his recognition “that there are lots of brilliant, extremely hard-working, ingenious poor people.”

Evans said she buried her original U.C. Davis law degree original with her grandmother “because it belonged to her.” Evans said she and her family members are “direct manifestations of her [grandmother’s] deliberate, intentional actions to make sure we had opportunities that she was denied.”

She knew she wanted to be a lawyer from the age of 6 or 7.  “I used to watch ‘Perry Mason’ with my grandmother. I don’t know if that was the spark or not, but in my child mind I thought being a lawyer had something to do with fairness.  And lawyers got to argue! Maybe I was an argumentative child, I don’t know.”

But Evans did know at that young age that her grandma, other relatives, friends and neighbors were “incredibly smart, incredibly funny, incredibly hard-working, [yet] didn’t have the opportunities or creature comforts that I saw on TV and in movies and that so many other people in society had.” The inequality “didn’t sit right” with her, so she aimed to do something about it.

Find information on the Supreme Court of California and upcoming cases on its website,

Please help us keep bringing queer air to your earsOut in the Bay is an independent non-profit production. We receive no funds from podcast platforms nor from radio stations that air Out in the Bay weekly. Your gift will help keep LGBTQ voices and stories coming to you and others who might not be able to give. 

(Donate tabs on our website will take you to a Media Alliance interface. Media Alliance is our non-proft 501(c)3 fiscal agent. Your gift will be earmarked for Out in the Bay.)

Many employers match donations! Will yours?

In the past year, we’ve received gifts from employees of Levi Strauss & Co. and Apple that have been matched by their companies. Thank you, Apple and Levi’s!
     Maybe your employer will help pay for queer radio too! On popular donation match service Benevity, search “Out in the Bay” or look for us under Media Alliance, our non-profit 501(c)3 fiscal agent. If your employer doesn’t use Benevity, please ask your Human Resources department how your company can match your donations.

This episode was produced by Kendra Klang, with sound design and editing by David Kwan.

Comments are closed.