Saying Goodbye to Justice Cruz Reynoso

It is with profound sadness that the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation (CRLAF) family mourns the loss of an ally and an inspiration in the fight for civil rights and justice for California’s farmworkers and rural poor, Justice Cruz Reynoso. Justice Reynoso was many things to many different people. To some, he was a civil rights icon. Others saw him as the first Latino on California’s highest court. To others, he was a law professor and a trailblazing public interest lawyer who led one of the first federally-funded legal services programs in California. To his adversaries, he was a gentleman rabble rouser who never raised his voice, but relentlessly pursued justice for his clients, overcoming the economic and political power of growers and local officials with the power of the law and his humanity. To California’s farmworkers he was the embodiment of hope. To the rural poor, he was a vehicle of equal representation, equal access to the courts, and equal justice for all. To the marginalized and the overlooked, he was compassion; he was a voice. To those long entrenched in the battle for civil rights, social justice, and equality, Justice Reynoso was a friend, a mentor, an advocate, and a steadfast compatriot, who believed that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

For a man whose feats stretched to the heights of human achievement, Justice Reynoso remained rooted in humility—never focused on his own greatness, but solely concentrated on serving the needs of others. Justice Reynoso’s humble character stemmed from his modest origins as the son of migrant workers and a farmworker himself in California’s agricultural fields. His commitment to protecting the rights of farmworkers and the rural poor persisted as a lifelong mission, which he carried out as an advisor to CRLAF and in gifting the Cruz Reynoso Access to Justice Fellowship, providing opportunities for young Raza lawyers to serve their communities. Justice Reynoso never neglected his obligation to serve those most in need, and his selfless commitment to advancing the public’s interest has inspired generations of lawyers, community advocates, and policymakers. We will always remember Justice Reynoso as a humble man, relentlessly guided by an unwavering moral compass.

Since its founding, CRLAF has not only shared Justice Reynoso’s commitment to the safeguarding of the civil rights and the interests of California’s farmworkers and rural poor, but has adopted this commitment as its core mission. CRLAF’s history is deeply intertwined with Justice Reynoso’s legacy of service to those most in need. We stand on the shoulders of a legal giant, who championed the rights of the rural poor, was the embodiment of justice, and set the example for excellence in the provision of legal services. His faith in humanity, respect for others, and dedication to truth, fairness and the application of the law to ensure justice for all serve as examples for how we carry out our daily work. As we say farewell to our beloved friend and hero, we aim to carry forward his legacy of service, defending human rights and advancing legal justice for generations to come. As a permanent tribute to Justice Reynoso, CRLAF has designated May 2nd, Justice Cruz Reynoso’s birthday, a CRLAF holiday.

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