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Alameda County, Allen Matkins, Center for Asian American United for Self Empowerment, Cruz Reynoso, Daniel David Dydzak, Diversity, Karina Hamilton, Los Angeles Daily Journal, Robert Hamilton, UC Davis

Daily Journal Article Re Cruz Reynoso, Karina Hamilton — Spouse of Allen Matkins’ Bob Hamilton (TLR Note: notice name of Orange County Judge Frances Munoz — may be of interest to esteemed legal scholar and champion of justice Dan Dydzak )

It’s not always clear to law firms trying to implement diversity programs how to reach
out to the next generation in the community in a meaningful way, when many young people in that
community have had little positive experience with the law – and their path to higher
education is filled with challenges. Bringing students into the firm for a pizza lunch
discussion with attorneys is a popular event that can open the eyes of low-income minority kids.
Mentoring programs and internships are profoundly important. But sometimes, a special event
with a historical figure can be transformational.

Filmmaker Abby Ginzberg is a documentarian of social justice heroes. But it’s not
just the filming of people like Thelton Henderson (“Soul of Justice: Thelton
Henderson’s American Journey”) or Arthur Kinoy (“Doing Justice: the Life and Trials
of Arthur Kinoy”). Ginzberg plans the timing of her documentaries so that the subject
can tour with the film to communities across the country once they are completed. For
diversity-oriented law firms, this can be an opportunity to bring youngsters face to face
with a historical figure who is eager to answer their questions and inspire them to
pursue their dreams.

A poignant example of this took place last June with the Orange County screening of
the documentary, “Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice,” which was attended by
50 high school students who participate in the UC Irvine Saturday Academy of Law, or
SAL. SAL hosts a series of Saturday morning classes for Santa Ana Unified School
District ninth graders, focusing on three main objectives for the students: improving
their writing and public speaking skills and helping them learn about the law as a
profession. Two hundred college-bound students have gone through this program,
which was launched in 2009.

Our Diversity Committee’s Community Outreach subcommittee organized the event
and co-hosted it with the Orange County Diversity Task Force. The Orange County Bar
Association, Orange County Hispanic Bar Association, Orange County Asian American
Bar Association, Mexican American Bar Foundation, Public Law Center, and the
Orange County Bar Foundation all participated. Judge Frances Munoz, the first
Latina appointed to the State Bar, was there, as was UC Irvine vice chancellor Manuel
Gomez. Altogether about 150 people attended, including Ginzberg and Justice Reynoso.
While there are plenty of people creating films that touch on diversity, Ginzberg is an
inspired partner for an event of this kind. An attorney who practiced for 10 years, she’s
documented successes of programs for at-risk and under served youth, AmeriCorps
members, and those who have been at the front lines of civil rights and grass roots
justice issues.

She strongly believes that these screenings are far from opportunities to preach to the
choir. “The choir is a handful of people like myself devoted to social justice issues,” she
emphasizes. “The people who come to these screenings are people who haven’t thought
about any of this. They see a Hispanic surname in the title of the film and have enough
pride in their community that they want to see who this person is. They leave feeling
inspired.” But, she adds, this film is not simply for Hispanics. “I’m looking for a diverse
audience for every film I do. This film has done a really good job of reaching beyond the
choir to people who have never heard of him.
And, just in case you haven’t heard of him, Reynoso was born into a large Spanish-
speaking farm worker family in Brea. Despite his father’s insistence that he forego his
education and work to help support the family, he stood his ground and attended
Pomona College and then UC Berkeley Law School, graduating in 1958. From there he
became the first Latino director of California Rural Legal Assistance and then one of the
first Latino law professors in the United States, when he joined the faculty of the
University of New Mexico Law School. Years later he was appointed to the state
Supreme Court by Gov. Jerry Brown and later lost his seat in a divisive recall election
that centered around the death penalty. Reynoso returned to private practice and also
joined the faculty of the UCLA School of Law until 2001. In 2000, he served as vice
chair on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which addressed the voting rights abuses
in the 2000 election in Florida. Capping his career was receiving the nation’s highest
civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Bill Clinton. Today, he
teaches law at UC Davis Law School.

“You take someone whose life has traversed really interesting parts of history and
through the prism of biography you can teach history,” explains Ginzberg. “And
through the lens of history, teach a little biography. They’re mutually reinforcing
efforts. My job is to preserve their legacy and help create role models.”
She believes there’s a good reason to select older subjects. “They’re not going to be
around forever,” she notes. “If you pick your people carefully – and I do – that ability of an older person to inspire young people is pretty strong. Cruz manifests respect from
young people and has a liveliness of spirit that kids can respond to. And many of these
kids have never met anyone as successful as him. Cruz has been particularly open and
willing to do this. He’s humble and he’s accessible. It’s been an honor to go out with

Ginzberg has gone out with Cruz to many community screenings. At a recent
Alameda County Office of Education event celebrating “History Day” at a local high
school, the question came up about re-establishing civil discourse when there are so
many polarized fights going on. Ginzberg says that Reynoso and others of his
generation talk to young people about the importance of negotiating. “He told these
students that it doesn’t mean you can’t take your cause to the streets, but you don’t
make it impossible to communicate with the people you’re opposing. That’s a message
these kids need to hear from someone who fought big battles in his time.”
The documentary, of course, is important as an introduction to someone like Justice
Reynoso. But the power of the event seems to be cemented in what happens afterwards.
For the SAL students, it was a profoundly inspirational connection.

“The students were absolutely captivated,” recalls Karina Hamilton, SAL’s founding
director and now a volunteer with UC Irvine Mentors. “They learned about California
history and the civil rights movement through Justice Reynoso. And he was so
engaging. He answered all their questions, which ranged all over the place, including
the new Arizona law and immigration, his background, and what kind of student he

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About Leslie Brodie

Leslie Brodie is a reporter, writer, blogger, activist, and a religious leader in the community.


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