- Cruz Reynoso
Associate Justice/Public Servant
Sacramento State University
Cruz Reynoso was the first Hispanic to serve on the California Court of Appeal and on the California Supreme Court. From humble beginnings in Orange County as a farm worker in the orange fields, Mr. Reynoso early on exhibited a sense of fairness and concern for his community. Observing that the barrio where his family moved did not receive mail service, even though non-minority families living nearby did, he persuaded the U.S. Postal Service to start delivering the mail; he also later challenged the school board to desegregate the elementary school he had attended.
After high school, he persuaded his parents to let him attend college. He received an associate of arts degree from Fullerton College and a bachelor's degree from Pomona College. He then joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Counterintelligence Corps. After completing his service, Mr. Reynoso attended the University of California, Berkeley, and received his law degree. He also served as a professor of law at the University of New Mexico. He began his law practice in El Centro, California, and subsequently served as director of California Rural Legal Assistance, the first Latino to hold the position. He gained national recognition as one of the country's leading provider of legal services.
A former Associate Justice of the California Supreme Court, Mr. Reynoso is recognized for his leadership in civil rights, immigration, refugee policy, government reform, administration of justice, legal services for the indigent and education. He has been honored with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation's Hispanic Heritage Award in Education and the American Bar Association's Robert J. Kutak and Spirit of Excellence Awards for his significant contributions to increase cooperation among legal education, the practicing bar and the judiciary. He is the recipient of the Hispanic National Bar Association's highest honor—the Lincoln-Juarez Award—named after Abraham Lincoln and Benito Juarez, the presidents of the United States and Mexico, contemporaries and lawyers who fought injustice.
The U.S. Senate appointed Mr. Reynoso as a Commissioner on the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. For his lifelong dedication to public service, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Clinton. In 2001 he began teaching law at the University of California, Davis, where he now is a professor emeritus. A film on the story of his life, Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice, was released in 2009.
In recognition of his distinguished public service and legal scholarship, the California State University Board of Trustees and California State University, Sacramento are proud to confer upon Cruz Reynoso the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.