May 10, 2021

Justice Cruz Reynoso's Rural Life

By Lisa Pruitt

Cruz Reynoso, former California Supreme Court Justice and my colleague at UC Davis School of Law for two decades, died a few days ago at the age of 90.  Many are offering remembrances of Reynoso -- who the faculty and staff at the law school knew as just "Cruz"-- and it's interesting for me as a ruralist to see the number of references to "rural" in his life's story.  

Of course, Reynoso famously led California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), the "first statewide, federally funded legal aid program in the country."  That was during the heyday of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta's organizing in the 1960s.  CRLA provides free legal services to farmworkers.  In California, "rural" is largely conflated with agriculture in the popular imaginary (though there are far less densely populated and more remote California locales than its agricultural valleys), and the organization's website articulates its mission as helping “rural communities because those communities were not receiving legal help.” 

The tumultuous history of that organization under Reynoso's leadership is recounted in a Los Angeles Times story

Then-California Gov. Ronald Reagan repeatedly vetoed federal funds for the California Rural Legal Assistance while Reynoso headed the office and even signed off on an investigation that accused the nonprofit of trying to foment murders and prison riots (the investigation went nowhere).

Among other achievements during his leadership, Reynoso "oversaw eventually successful efforts to ban the short-handled hoe, which required farmworkers to stoop and led to debilitating back problems, and DDT, the deadly agricultural chemical."  

The Sacramento Bee reports on one of CRLA's big litigation victories under Reynoso's leadership, Diana v. California State Board of Education:  


It centered on Latino children who were incorrectly assessed by their school and labeled mentally challenged. The pupils were funneled into special education classes when, in reality, they were simply new English learners. CRLA lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of students in the Monterey County town of Soledad.


“CRLA won a consent decree that allowed non-Anglo children to choose the language in which they would respond on IQ tests,” wrote the Salinas Californian in 2016. “It banned verbal sections of the test. It also required state psychologists to develop an IQ test appropriate for Mexican Americans and other non-English-speaking students.”

This column by Gustavo Arellano in the Los Angeles Times recounts Reynoso's childhood -- including early activism -- in Orange County, which then included significant rural stretches: 

[Reynoso's] family lived in a rural part of La Habra, where the Ku Klux Klan had held the majority of City Council seats just a decade earlier and Mexicans were forced to live on the wrong side of the tracks. Reynoso’s parents and neighbors had to travel a mile to the post office for their mail because the local postmaster claimed it was too inconvenient to deliver letters to their neighborhood.


Reynoso didn’t question this at first — “I just accepted that as part of the scheme of things,” he’d tell an oral historian decades later, in 2002.


But one day, a white family moved near the Reynosos and immediately began to receive mail. The teenage Cruz asked the postmaster why they were able to receive mail, but his Mexican family couldn’t. If you have a problem with this, the postmaster replied, write to her boss in Washington D.C.

And write a letter to the U.S. Postmaster General is exactly what Reynoso did.  According to a story released by UC Davis on the occasion of Reynoso's death: 

He wrote out a petition, gathered signatures, and successfully lobbied the U.S. Postmaster General in Washington, D.C., for rural mail delivery.

The obituary in the Los Angeles Times notes that Reynoso continued to live a rural life, even while working in Sacramento and Davis.  He "had a 30-acre spread in the agricultural Sacramento County town of Herald," population 1,184.The L.A. Times also reports that, as children, Reynoso and his 10 siblings worked summers in the fields with their parents. 

But the rural fact that leapt out at me most prominently was this line from the UC Davis story about what Reynoso did after finishing law school at UC Berkeley:

Justice Reynoso and his wife, Jeannene, moved to El Centro, in California’s Imperial Valley, where he started his own practice.


Today, Imperial County and El Centro, its county seat, are legal deserts--and they probably were back then, too.  Just imagine a UC Berkeley Law or UC Davis Law grad going to El Centro and hanging out a shingle in 2021?  It's nearly unthinkable, though a few probably go there each year to work for legal aid organizations like CRLA.  If it were more common to follow such a career path -- and for legal educators to prommote and honor those paths -- the Golden State would not be facing a rural lawyer shortage, with impoverished communities of vulnerable workers like the Imperial Valley suffering most as a consequence of that deficit.    


A Sacramento Bee column about Reynoso by Marcos Breton on the occasion of Reynoso's death features several remarkable photos.  These include one of Reynoso at the Herald property in 2000 with his then-young grandchildren; Reynoso was wearing overalls, a signifier of his rural authenticity.  The photo was taken by a Bee reporter the year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and previously published as part of the paper's reporting on that honor.  


Speaking of that authenticity, I always appreciated Cruz's frequent use of the word "folk" to refer to groups of people, or the populace generally. Indeed, I see the Spanish translation is "la gente," meaning "people, town, dweller."  For me, his use of "folk" provided implicit permission to use that word and its plural, both terms I'd grown up with but later excised from my professional vocabulary becuse I had thought them too colloquial.  


Cruz was as approachable to students as he was to faculty and staff.  We often saw him walking to the Silo (an eatery on campus) with a group of students for lunch.  And in my first year at UC Davis, 1999-2000, when Cruz was visiting from UCLA's law school, he gamely agreed to participate in a student-sponsored moot court event called "Battle of the Giants," which featured two professors playing the role of advocates in a mock appellate argument.  It took a while for the student organizers of the event to get someone to agree to be the opposing "giant" (eventually, I reluctantly agreed), but Cruz had not hesitated to take on this time-consuming task, one little valued by the law school administration.

 

Cruz was very gentle in how he engaged and educated people, which I believe often rendered him particularly persuasive. Many years ago, I heard him say to a group of students, in his typical, soft-spoken way, "No human being is illegal." This was at a time whne the phrases "illegal alien" and "illegal immigrant" were still widely used. Expressed in his calm, avuncular, matter-of-fact way, I'm sure he won over many, got them to think about the significance of language. It's quite a contrast with the ways in which so many in our educational institutions today "call out" or "cancel" each other in shrill and judgmental fashion, a tactic that often serves primarily to aggravate divisions.   

 

Given Cruz's commitment to students and education, it's not surprising that his family has asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the UC Davis student scholarship fund "for legal access" that honors him and his wife

July 27, 2020

We should applaud the changes to the California bar

By Kevin R. Johnson

[Cross-posted from Daily Journal]

The global pandemic has changed all our lives. And it made the July 2020 administration of the California bar exam – in large venues filled to capacity across the state – a public health impossibility.

After several months of emergency deliberations, uncertainty for recent law graduates, and advocacy by bar applicants, law deans and others, the California Supreme Court announced a reasonable, responsible and creative testing alternative. Read more …

 

July 5, 2017

Senior Associate Dean and Professor Madhavi Sunder Appointed to Daniel J. Dykstra Endowed Chair

Madhavi Sunder, an influential scholar of law and culture and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, has been appointed as the Daniel J. Dykstra Endowed Chair at UC Davis School of Law.

Sunder joined UC Davis School of Law in 1999 and was elevated to Senior Associate Dean in 2015. She was named a Carnegie Scholar in 2006 and has been a Visiting Professor of Law at Yale Law School, the University of Chicago Law School, and Cornell Law School. Her work traverses numerous fields, from intellectual property to human rights law and the First Amendment. She has published in leading law journals including the Yale Law Journal, California Law Review, and Texas Law Review, among others. Her article "IP3," published in the Stanford Law Review in 2006, ranks among the top 25 most-cited Intellectual Property articles of the last decade and as the No. 1 most-cited International IP article of the past five years. Her book, "From Goods to a Good Life: Intellectual Property and Global Justice," was published by Yale University Press in 2012.

"Dean Sunder is a world-class scholar whose work addresses some of the most important issues in contemporary society: technology, intellectual property, and social justice," said Dean Kevin R. Johnson. "UC Davis School of Law is proud to recognize her accomplishments with the Daniel J. Dykstra Endowed Chair."

Dean Sunder succeeds Professor and Dean Emeritus Rex Perschbacher, who was the inaugural holder of the Dykstra Chair. The chair is awarded to a faculty member who demonstrates "outstanding scholarship and teaching and is committed to the ideals of founding School of Law faculty member Dan Dykstra." Dykstra, one of the first faculty members hired at UC Davis School of Law in 1965, rose to become Dean from 1971 to 1974 and remained at King Hall until his retirement. Alumni, friends, and family of the late Dan Dykstra provided funding for the the Daniel J. Dykstra Endowed Chair to honor his memory.

Madhavi Sunder

May 19, 2017

Guest Blogging on Concurring Opinions about Whiteness, Class, Rurality

I've been guest blogging for the past few weeks over at Concurring Opinions and invite you over to that blog, on "the law, the universe, and everything" to see what I've been writing.  I've done a four-installment review/commentary on J.D. Vance's Hillbilly Elegy:  A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis.  Spoiler Alert:  I'm not a big fan but, in the end, suggest that the book can help law profs better understand the low-income white students who (thankfully, yes, thankfully!) show up in our classrooms from time to time.  My posts are:

On Donald Trump, J.D. Vance, and the White Working Class

Hillbilly Elegy as Rorschach Test

The "Shock and Awe" Response to Hillbilly Elegy:  Pondering the Role of Race

On Ree Dolly, J.D. Vance and Empathy for Low-Income Whites (or, What Hillbilly Elegy is Good for)

I've also done a bit of writing about rurality, with these posts:

Rurality and Government Retreat

Local Journalism as Antidote to Echo Chambers and Fake News

Also related to rurality are these posts about spatiality and abortion access. 

Did You Hear the One About the Alaska Legislator Who Said ... 

Sanger's Tour de Force on Abortion (with a Blind Spot for Geography)

Carol Sanger of Columbia Law responded to my post about her new book, About Abortion:  Terminating Pregnancy in the 21st Century, here.  I love the fact she says I get the "last word" in our exchange over the significance of geography.

I expect to post another item or two before my term as a guest blogger expires in about a week. 

April 13, 2017

King Hall Faculty Wow the Crowd at Aokirama, Are Featured in Above the Law

Last weekend brought one of the most-anticipated student events of the academic year: Aokirama (formely Cardozorama), the law school talent show!

One of the biggest hits of the evening was the band Negotiable Instruments, featuring:

Prof. Angela Harris (vocals) as law professor
Prof. William Dodge (vocals) as law student
Prof. Rose Cuison Villazor (drums)
Prof. Thomas Joo (guitar)
Prof. Carlton Larson (piano)

Check them out here on YouTube!

Popular legal blog Above the Law took notice, soliciting submissions for its annual video contest by writing, "Hey law students - if your professors can do it, so can you!"

 

January 27, 2017

Law Review Online Launches

The UC Davis Law Review is celebrating its fiftieth volume by launching an online companion edition: the UC Davis Law Review Online. The online journal will print short, timely pieces—including essays, responses, replies, and book reviews—at lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/online.

Dean Kevin R. Johnson welcomed the online journal, remarking, “The UC Davis Law Review has a proud history of excellent scholarship and has always evolved with the times.” Dean Johnson detailed that history in the online edition’s very first piece, “Foreword: 50 Volumes of the UC Davis Law Review.”

"We are hoping that the UC Davis Law Review Online will be able to grow into a robust and active forum for engaging legal scholarship above and beyond the articles in our traditional print edition,” says Volume 50 Editor in Chief Lars Torleif Reed. For example, Dean Steven W. Bender from Seattle University School of Law spoke at the Law Review’s 2016 Symposium, Disjointed Regulation: State Efforts to Legalize Marijuana, and published his article “The Colors of Cannabis: Race and Marijuana” in the December 2016 print issue. The new online edition allowed him to reflect on the implications of the 2016 elections in a follow-up piece. It will also allow scholars to respond to pieces in both the print and online journals without the time delay of print publishing.

The Law Review launched its online edition along with its completely redesigned website, lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu. Reed, Projects Editors Parnian Vafaeenia and Andrew Aaronian, and Managing Editor Markie Jorgensen developed the online journal and website along with the School of Law’s Senior Graphic Designer Sam Sellers and Web Application Developer Jason Aller. The editors and members of the UC Davis Law Review will staff both the print and online editions.

Authors who wish to publish in the UC Davis Law Review Online should submit through Scholastica or by emailing lawreview@law.ucdavis.edu. (Scholastica is strongly preferred.)

 

November 4, 2016

Presenting a Paper on the Future of Legal Education

Earlier this week, I visited Loyola University Chicago law school and presented a paper to faculty and students on the future of legal education.

The paper, titled "Some Thoughts on the Future of Legal Education: Why Diversity and Student Wellness Should Matter in a Time of 'Crisis,'"was originally presented as part of the Mitchell Lecture series at Buffalo law school last spring. My paper, in a nutshell, contends that in this time of economic "crisis" for law schools, we should not forget the fact that much remains to be done (1) to improve faculty and student diversity (as well as the diversity of the legal profession); and (2) to ensure that law schools do all that they can do to ensure student wellness during and after law school.  In talking about these issues, I mention recent positive developments at UC Davis School of Law.

March 11, 2016

Professor Peter Lee Receives 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award

Congratulations to Professor Peter Lee, recipient of the 2016 Distinguished Teaching Award! The honor, made possible through the generosity of Bill and Sally Rutter, was presented at the "Celebrating King Hall" event last night at the ARC Ballroom on the UC Davis campus.


Professor Lee receives the award from Dean Kevin R. Johnson.


Professor Lee addresses attendees at "Celebrating King Hall."

For more photos from the event, visit the School of Law's Facebook album and Instagram.

February 5, 2016

UC Davis Law Review, Volume 49, Issue 3

The editors of the UC Davis Law Review just sent this message to the law faculty. The new issue looks outstanding. Congratulations to the UC Davis Law Review!

Dear King Hall Faculty,

We invite you to read the UC Davis Law Review, Volume 49, Issue 3, at http://lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/issues/current-issue.html. Please see the linked table of contents below. We are particularly fortunate that Professor Donna Shestowsky contributed our lead article, which is also featured on our home page, lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu.

We hope that you will consider submitting your manuscripts to us when we open later this month, and that you will encourage your colleagues to submit theirs. Thank you for all of the support you give us!

Sincerely,

The UC Davis Law Review

UC Davis Law Review • Vol. 49, No. 3, February 2016

Articles

Note

 

 

 

January 8, 2016

King Hall Faculty at AALS Annual Meeting 2016

I am at the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Annual Meeting at the New York Hilton Midtown.

Here is a rundown of the panels in which King Hall faculty members are speakers or moderators.

"The ADA at 25: Implications for People with Mental Disabilities"
Speaker from a Call for Papers: Jasmine E. Harris
Topic: "I take up the question of what remains to be done in an area that the ADA has not (and perhaps could not) reach: state regulation of sexual expression of people with mental disabilities."

"Service: Challenge, Opportunity and Passion" and "Teaching and Outsider Status"
Plenary Session at the Workshop for Pretenured Faculty of Color
Speaker: Kevin R. Johnson

"Indian Tribes, Same-Sex Marriage, and LGBT Families"
Speaker: Rose Cuison Villazor
Topic: Marriage Equality in American Samoa

"Animal Rights: From Why to How"
Speaker: Angela P. Harris
Topic: "What can the animal rights movement learn from other social movements seeking racial equality, rights for women, LGBT individuals, indigenous peoples, and individuals with disabilities?"

"Transactional Lawyering and Contractual Innovation"
Moderator: Afra Afsharipour

I just posted an entry about these and other King Hall-related activities at AALS (including an alumni reception and our faculty members in leadership positions) over on the Dean's Blog.