Son of a farmworker. First Latino executive director of CRLA. Served on California Supreme Court.
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The Honorable Cruz Reynoso was born in 1931 in Brea California, as one of 11 children of a farmworker. After graduating from Fullerton Union High School, he attended Fullerton College, a community college, where he received an associate of arts degree in 1951. He received a scholarship to attend Pomona College, where he graduated with an A.B. in 1953. After serving in the U.S. Army for several years, he attended the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, where he graduated with an LL.B. in 1958. He then received a Ford Foundation fellowship to study Advanced Mexican Constitutional Law in 1958-59. After completing his legal studies, Mr. Reynoso served as a legislative assistant in the California State Senate from 1959 until 1960. He then opened his own law firm and was in private practice until he ran for public office in 1964 and lost. In 1965, he was appointed by California Governor Pat Brown to be assistant executive officer of the Fair Employment Practices Commission and then he became a staff secretary in Sacramento. Then in 1967 Reynoso served as Associate General Counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a year and a half. He then served as deputy director of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA) in 1968. Shortly thereafter, internal problems at CRLA lead to Reynoso becoming the first Latino executive director of CRLA. Mr. Reynoso served as the Director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, from 1969 until 1972. He was a Professor of Law at the University of New Mexico, from 1972 until 1976. California Governor Jerry Brown appointed Mr. Reynoso as Associate Justice of Third District Court of Appeals in California in 1976 as the first Latino appointed to the court. Mr. Reynoso served in this position until 1982 when he was appointed as an Associate Justice on the California Supreme Court. He served on the Supreme Court of California until 1987. After leaving the Supreme Court due to political opposition from death penalty advocates, Reynoso worked as Special Counsel with the law firm of Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler from 1988 until the present day. Mr. Reynoso worked as a Professor at the UCLA School of Law from 1991 until 2001, where he was faculty adviser for the Chicano-Latino Law Review. In 1994, Reynoso was appointed as the Vice Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He served in this position until he resigned in December 2004 along with Commission chairwoman Mary Frances Berry after President George W. Bush’s staff announced that their six-year terms had expired. The Commission had previously released a draft report criticizing the Bush administration’s civil rights record. In 2009, President Obama appointed Justice Reynoso to his transition team. Cruz Reynoso’s has received many awards and honors, including the 2000 award of the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Clinton.