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July 17, 2018 Asked and Answered

Lived and Learned: Ask those in power to fulfill their obligations, civil rights lawyer says

By Stephanie Francis Ward

There are some issues that people with opposing views may never agree on, particularly when one group has significantly more power than the other. But sometimes when an issue is brought to authority figures’ attention, they can be convinced to do the right thing, says Cruz Reynoso.

A California lawyer and former justice of the Supreme Court of California, Reynoso built his career representing farmworkers with California Rural Legal Assistance. He had a personal connection to the work, having been raised in a family of agricultural laborers.

“Realize that sometimes those in authority haven’t done the right thing simply because the issue has not been brought to them,” says Reynoso, now an emeritus law professor at the University of California, Davis. “When brought to them properly, very often public officials will respond affirmatively.”

Reynoso’s career includes saving CRLA from almost $2 million in federal budget cuts. He became the first Latino justice on the Supreme Court of California in 1982, but was voted off the bench in a 1986 election that targeted him and two other justices for their perceived liberal records.

He went on to be a special counsel at Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler, and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. In 2000, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, from President Bill Clinton.

This is an episode of a special series of the ABA Journal’s Asked and Answered podcast, titled Asked and Answered: Lived and Learned.

In This Podcast:

Stephanie Francis Ward
Cruz Reynoso is a professor emeritus at the University of California Davis School of Law and was the school’s inaugural holder of the Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality. A former associate justice of the California Supreme Court, Reynoso is recognized for his leadership in civil rights, immigration and refugee policy, government reform, the administration of justice, legal services for the indigent and education. Reynoso has served as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, as well as a member of the Select Commission on Immigration and Human Rights. In 2000, President Bill Clinton honored Reynoso with a Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, for his lifelong devotion to public service. Reynoso has also been honored with the American Bar Association’s Robert J. Kutak and Spirit of Excellence Awards.

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