Cruz Reynozo, who died on May 7, inspired generations of people who believe in access to justice and diversity in our justice system. He was a giant in at least four arenas.
As a lawyer and as a California Supreme Court Justice, he opened doors for Latinx people and for all who have been held back by discrimination.
He was a preeminent legal aid lawyer. He led teams who won many impact cases protecting farm workers from such abuses as the back-breaking short handled hoe and the use of cancer-causing DDT on fields while workers were present. He led California Rural Legal Assistance to victory in resisting the efforts of then-Governor Ronald Reagan to defund the program. Here he can be seen smiling on the right with CRLA Executive Director, Jose Padilla.
He was a brilliant and compassionate judge. Governor Jerry Brown said, in nominating him to the State’s Supreme Court in 1981, that he was “a man of outstanding intellect, superior judicial performance, high integrity and… rare personal qualities.” He was one of three justices recalled in 1986 in an egregious violation of the principle of judicial independence.
He became a renowned law professor at U.C. Davis Law School, where he inspired, mentored, and befriended his thousands of students.
An audio profile of Justice Reynoso is available here. Film-maker Abby Ginzberg produced a remarkable video about his life, with emphasis on the CRLA years and his dedication to access to justice. It is available on Vimeo. Clips from that film can be watched here.
I had the pleasure of meeting Cruz on several occasions. His courtesy, generosity, and warm, self-effacing humor were truly saintly. I can think of no better role model.
– Jack Londen, Executive Director