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Former State Supreme Court Justice to Receive SpendlovePrize

March 31, 2011

Cruz Reynoso, who has spent his life fighting for immigrants' rights, will be the 2011 recipient of UC Merced's Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance

Quick Facts
  • Cruz Reynoso, a former California Supreme Court Justice and civil rights lawyer, will be the 2011 recipient of the Spendlove Prize.
  • The Spendlove Prize each year honors an individual who exemplifies the delivery of social justice, diplomacy and tolerance.
  • Reynoso in 2000 was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor.

MERCED — Former California Supreme Court Justice and civil rights lawyer Cruz Reynoso has been named the 2011 recipient of the Alice and Clifford Spendlove Prize in Social Justice, Diplomacy and Tolerance.

The University of California, Merced, will award the prize to Reynoso during an evening ceremony Thursday, April 21. The following day at 3:30 p.m. in Classroom and Office Building, Room 105, Reynoso will give an oral history that's open to the public. No RSVP is required.

The Spendlove Prize was established through a generous gift to the university from Sherrie Spendlove in honor of her parents, lifelong Merced residents Alice and Clifford Spendlove. The prize every year honors an individual who exemplifies the delivery of social justice, diplomacy and tolerance in his or her work.

“Justice Reynoso has been a lifelong trailblazer, helping those of humble beginnings have access to the legal system,” Sherrie Spendlove said. “One of the things that makes our sixth recipient so compelling is that he withstood his own adversities and disadvantages and became a champion of social justice for all people.”

Driven by his upbringing as the son of two farm workers in California's Central Valley, Reynoso pursued a career in law, advocating for immigrants' rights. He earned his law degree from UC Berkeley and was admitted to the State Bar of California in 1959.

Reynoso directed the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation from 1969 to 1972. He was appointed associate justice to the Third District Court of Appeal in 1976. In 1982, he was appointed as the first Latino associate justice of the California Supreme Court by Gov. Jerry Brown.

He was awarded in 2000 the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country's highest civilian honor, for his lifelong devotion to public service. Reynoso served as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from 1994 to 2004. He has been on the faculty, as a professor of law, at the University of New Mexico, UCLA and UC Davis.

“Cruz Reynoso's mission to advance the civil rights of California's immigrants embodies the spirit of the Spendlove Prize,” said Mark Aldenderfer, dean of the UC Merced School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Arts. “We are honored to have him come to UC Merced and share his story with the campus community and general public.”

The Spendlove Prize Selection Committee is chaired by Aldenderfer and includes a representative from the Spendlove family or a designee; an undergraduate student; a graduate student; a faculty member; and representatives from the UC Merced community.

The Spendlove Prize includes a $10,000 award. Previous recipients of the award include:

  • 2006 - Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a Merced native, professor of law and founding executive director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard University.
  • 2007 - John Y. Tateishi, a civil rights activist who led the successful redress campaign for Japanese-Americans in the aftermath of World War II internment.
  • 2008 - Sara O'Meara and Yvonne Fedderson, founders of Childhelp, a nationwide organization devoted to the prevention and treatment of child abuse. O'Meara and Fedderson have been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for their work with abused children.
  • 2009 - Faye J. Crosby, a professor of psychology at UC Santa Cruz and expert on affirmative action and inclusiveness.
  • 2010 - Jimmy Carter, a former United States president who made the global quest for basic human rights a central platform in his administration.


Scott Hernandez-Jason