LOS ANGELES –  MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) mourns the passing of pioneering civil rights attorney Cruz Reynoso last Friday

The son of Mexican immigrants, Reynoso was born in Brea, California and spent summers working in the California fields alongside his family. After earning his law degree, he went to represent working families and eventually became the director of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA).

In 1981, he became the first Latino to serve on the state’s highest court when then-Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. appointed Reynoso to the California Supreme Court.

In 2000, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton.

Over his long career, Reynoso worked tirelessly to win and protect civil rights for all. He served on MALDEF’s board from 1973 to 1976 and again from 1987 to 1991. In 2007, MALDEF honored Reynoso with the 2007 Valerie Kantor Award for Extraordinary Achievement.

Please attribute the following statement to Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel:

“Justice Cruz Reynoso was a Latino legal lion, but a lion of abiding kindness, compassion, and unfailing courtesy.  His accomplishments as a lawyer and professor will live on through the many public interest lawyers inspired and counseled by him.  Yet, we will all miss the ready availability of his sage advice, always delivered in the most respectful and understanding manner.  The law and all of our nation suffered a palpable loss with his passing.”

Please attribute the following statement to Ambassador Vilma Martinez, president and general counsel of MALDEF from 1973 to 1982:

“Justice has lost an advocate. Cruz was a gentle giant with the heart and soul of a warrior.”

Please attribute the following statement to Antonia Hernández, president and general counsel of MALDEF from 1985 to 2004:

“I first met Cruz in 1973 while I was a summer intern at California Rural Legal Assistance. I was immediately impressed that this legal giant was so kind and gentle. I felt a deep connection to him because we had both worked in the fields. We both knew the struggles that farmworkers faced. We remained friends, and my admiration for him only grew over time. We have lost our legal conscience.”