The California Supreme Court on June 2 honored the life of Justice Cruz Reynoso, the first Latino state Supreme Court justice in California history, during a special program following oral argument. Justice Reynoso passed away on May 7 at 90 years old.
Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said Justice Reynoso was a "revered member of our court, an incredible mentor in the legal profession as well as a distinguished voice in law."
Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar recounted Justice Reynoso’s upbringing as one of 11 children, who picked oranges alongside his farmworker parents during hot summers in Orange County. He would attend a segregated elementary school, serve in an Army counterintelligence unit, and become one of very few lawyers representing Spanish-speaking farm workers in the Imperial Valley.
On the California Supreme Court, Justice Reynoso authored the landmark People v. Aguilar, where the court found non-English speaking people accused of a crime have the right to a translator during their entire court proceeding.
In that opinion, Justice Reynoso wrote:
“In the ethnic richness of California, a multiplicity of languages has been nurtured. Historically, many peoples speaking diverse tongues have formed large portions of our population. The people of this state, through the clear and express terms of their Constitution, require that all persons tried in a California court understand what is happening about them, for them, and against them. Who would have it otherwise?”
Guest speakers included retired Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Grodin; Judicial Appointments Secretary Luis Céspedes; UC Davis School of Law Dean Kevin R. Johnson; and Len ReidReynoso, Justice Reynoso’s son, who is also an attorney.
ReidReynoso recalled an interview with his father when he was asked his favorite job during his career. He answered: sitting on the California Supreme Court.
“Dad had worked on social justice issues for eight decades, but the job he enjoyed the most was a job that he was able to help and serve the most. Dad continued to teach us the value of helping others,” ReidReynoso said.
Watch the tribute below: