Justice Cruz Reynoso: The Dawn of Justice for California’s Latino Population

by George Acero and Brian López, Photos by David Carpio

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George Acero is a partner at Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani and President of the CRBA. He can be contacted at gacero@gordonrees.com.

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Brian López is an attorney with Carson & Kyung, A Law Corporation, and the Secretary of the CRBA. He can be contacted at briananthonylopez@gmail.com

The Cruz Reynoso Bar Association (CRBA) held an inaugural reception at Sacramento City Hall honoring the group’s namesake and former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso. In attendance were many familiar faces from the Sacramento legal and political landscape, and all were in agreement that no person is more deserving of recognition for his long-time contributions to social justice and civil rights than Justice Reynoso.

Amid the sounds of live traditional folkloric music from Mexico interspersed with speeches from prominent Latino voices from the Sacramento and California community, attendees were given an opportunity to witness history in the making as the event also commemorated the name change of the La Raza Lawyers Association of Sacramento to the Cruz Reynoso Bar Association.

During his reception speech, Justice Reynoso made reference to his “justice bone.” Like the tingling of Spiderman’s “spider sense” when danger arises, whenever Justice Reynoso saw injustice, his “justice bone” would resonate and he would spring into action. Justice Reynoso recalled the first time he felt his “justice bone” resonate, at the young age of 10.

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Mariachi Los Gallos, bringing some liveliness to the festivities

At that time, the post office refused to deliver mail to the rural homes of the predominantly Latino farmworkers in the small town of La Habra, California. However, the postal service began delivery to a nearby wealthy family. He circulated a petition and wrote a letter to the U.S. Postmaster in Washington, D.C. to express his thoughts on the unfairness of the situation. After a few exchanges, the post office began the delivery of the mail to the individual homes.  

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Sacramento Superior Court Judge Steven Gevercer and Dean Kevin Johnson chatting with CRBA President George Acero and CRBA Treasurer Lance Martin

What Justice Reynoso accomplished at 10 years old was remarkable. But he did not stop there. He served as Assistant Chief, Fair Employment Practices Commission; Staff Secretary, Governor’s Office; Associate General Counsel, Equal Employment Opportunities Commission; and Director of California Rural Legal Assistance.  Justice Reynoso became the first Latino appointed to the Third District Court of Appeal (1976) and the California Supreme Court (1982). He is recognized nationally for his leadership in civil rights, immigration and refugee policy, and legal services for the poor. Among his many achievements, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and Select Commission on Immigration and Human Rights. Justice Reynoso has been on the faculty of UCLA School of Law, University of New Mexico Law School, and is currently teaching at UC Davis School of Law.

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Sacramento Superior Court Judge Emily Vasquez enjoys the festivities with others including Sacramento Superior Court Presiding Judge Kevin Culhane

CRBA is currently going through a rebirth—first renaming the organization after Justice Reynoso. The name change sets the tone of what the organization should be about: to strive to make a difference in Sacramento’s community, both as lawyers and as human beings. Recently, CRBA joined other local bar associations and wrote a well-received letter advocating for the building of a new Sacramento County courthouse. Other community projects in process include offering assistance at events for voter registration, immigration legal assistance, and legal education at public schools. 

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Retired Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso and retired Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, Arthur Scotland enjoy the humor of one of the event’s presenters

The 2016 CRBA Board of Directors consists of President George Acero (Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani), Vice President Linda González (Attorney General’s office), Secretary Brian López (Carson & Kyung, A Law Corporation), Treasurer Lance Martin (Kennaday Leavitt PC), Luis Cespedes (Luis A. Cespedes Law Offices), Jesse Rivera (Rivera & Associates), and Juan Cornejo (McClatchy Corporation).