Former Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso Named to Chair Task Force on Pepper Spray Incident

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In a strong signal that this incident will not simply be swept under the rug, UC President Mark Yudof announced today that former California Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso will chair the task force formed to address the pepper spraying of UC Davis students.

Justice Reynoso, a UC Davis Law Professor Emeritus, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, will be “absolutely fair,” President Yudof said.

According to the President’s press release, “The task force is part of UC’s efforts to address policing issues in the wake of the Nov. 18 pepper spraying of UC Davis students and other incidents involving law enforcement officers and protesters.”

In a phone interview with the Vanguard, Justice Reynoso told the Vanguard that he would be reviewing the report expected to be released within 30 days by former Los Angeles police chief William J. Bratton.

“The task will not be to investigate, the task will be to review the report that will be made and to give our own reactions,” the former Justice told the Vanguard.

Last week, President Yudof announced that Chief Bratton would lead an independent fact-finding of the pepper spray incident, and report back the results to him within 30 days.

According to the release, Chief Bratton’s report also will be presented to the task force that Yudof is forming, at Chancellor Katehi’s request. The task force will consist of a cross-section of students, faculty, staff and other UC community members.

Justice Reynoso is the first member named to the task force. The task force will review the report and make recommendations to Ms. Katehi on steps that should be taken to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters on campus. She will present her implementation plan to Yudof.

“It will be a representative group of mostly UC Davis folk,” he said, “including students, professors and staff.”

This is seen as a signal that the President, who reiterated his support for protecting the right to peaceful protests on campus, intends this to be a fair and independent process.

“The ultimate goal that he has, obviously, is to have the reaction of the university community including the students, to review the report, and we’re free to make any and all observations,” he said.

Cruz Reynoso was approached by an assistant to the President to inform him that the President was going to ask him to chair this committee.

“I confess that I expressed reluctance,” he told the Vanguard, “But when he [President Yudof] called he persuaded me it was the right thing to do.”

The Vanguard spoke with Eric Lee, one of the student protesters who did not know much about Cruz Reynoso, but was strongly opposed to William Bratton being named to head up the investigation.

“The fact that Bill Bratton is on that committee is terrifying,” he told the Vanguard.  “This is a man who led militarized police on working class neighborhoods in Los Angeles to round up indigent people under the assumption that they would be committing criminal acts.”

“He is the father of one of the most classist political theories… the broken windows theory,” he said.  “If this guy is on the task force, I frankly don’t care who else is.”

He added, “More importantly it doesn’t matter who is on the task force, because the task force itself is a joke.  We don’t want a task force – we want Chancellor Katehi to resign.  Anything less than that is not anything that we’re interested in being a part of.”

Yolo County ACLU Chair Natalie Wormeli was strongly supportive of the move.

“Any Californian should know from Cruz’s years on the bench as well as his work on different non-profits that he’s a very fair and thorough worker and he will bring his experience and his brain and his heart in a way that no one else can,” she said.

“I’m confident that he’ll do what everybody needs at this point, which is a fair analysis and provide some excellent recommendations as to [how] we can all move forward,” Ms. Wormeli added.

According to the release from the University of California Office of the President, Justice Reynoso, a farmworker’s son, rose from an Orange County barrio to become the first Latino to serve on the California Supreme Court.

He has a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College and a law degree from UC Berkeley. His distinguished career includes serving as director of the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, as a UCLA law school professor and as vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

He joined the UC Davis law school faculty in 2001 as the inaugural holder of its Boochever and Bird Chair for the Study and Teaching of Freedom and Equality.

Last Tuesday, in a separate effort, President Yudof also appointed UC General Counsel Charles Robinson and UC Berkeley School of Law Dean Christopher Edley Jr. to lead a systemwide examination of police protocols and policies as they apply to protests at all 10 UC campuses. The review is expected to result in recommended best practices for policing protests across the 10 UC campuses.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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9 thoughts on “Former Supreme Court Justice Cruz Reynoso Named to Chair Task Force on Pepper Spray Incident”

  1. Bill Ritter

    This is wonderful news. Justice Reynoso has an impeccable reputation for fairness. His appointment to lead the task force will add needed credibility to the effort to understand the failure of leadership at UC Davis which led to the unlawful pepper spraying of non-violent, peaceful protesters exercising their Constitutional Rights of free speech and assembly.

  2. Mr Obvious

    [quote]His appointment to lead the task force will add needed credibility[/quote]

    His involvement didn’t add credibility to the “Civil Rights Commission” related to the Luis Gutierrez Navarro incident. Why would it here?

  3. Rifkin

    Has Reynoso fully regained his physical health? His mental or emotional health? He was in a very serious car accident last year ([url]http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/06/cruz-reynoso-former-state-supreme-court-justice-injured-in-viriginia-car-accident.html[/url]). Perhaps I remember this wrong, but I thought that accident caused him to quit his role in the investigation of the Gutierrez shooting in Woodland.

    I spoke with Reynoso at his office at UC Davis about 5-6 years ago and he struck me as … maybe a little slower mentally than he was at his peak when the people of California kicked him off the Supreme Court. A number of his answers were … to put it charitably … not clear. I would imagine this investigation could use a man younger that the 80.5-year-old former justice.

  4. David M. Greenwald

    “His involvement didn’t add credibility to the “Civil Rights Commission” related to the Luis Gutierrez Navarro incident. Why would it here? “

    I don’t think I agree with your premise. Even people who distrusted the rest of the people involved in that effort seemed to respect and admire Reynoso. But to the extent what you say is true, it is basically the opposite theory. You name a special investigator to the president from the opposite party in hopes that the investigation has credibility. A lot of the older liberal community who know Cruz Reynoso can’t complain now about the task force. However, what I found last night is that the occupiers don’t know who Cruz Reynoso is and therefore it doesn’t really matter.

    Rich: Cruz was on his game last night, speaking very clear and recognizing his role and the importance of his role. He was pretty sharp. He’s always been a bit soft spoken and that sound slow at times, but we had a good interview and I came away impressed.

  5. Rifkin

    [i]”He’s always been a bit soft spoken and that sound slow at times, but we had a good interview and I came away impressed.”[/i]

    Most importantly, it sounds as if he fully recovered from that car accident.

    I thought about this after I wrote the above: I only spent 45 minutes with him, one day, on a hot afternoon. He probably was just tired that day. I don’t think it is fair of me to judge him on that interview, any more than he seemed to be a bit off his game that one day. You surely know him better than I do. And I’m sure those who think he will do a good job on this investigation know him. So I fully accept he is a good choice for this position.

    I might add this, however: it’s unclear to me that any investigation will get us beyond the most likely conclusion: that Lt. Pike was mistaken to have pepper-sprayed those students and that Pike and Chief Spicuzza should be relieved of their jobs. The famous author ([url]http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Wambaugh/e/B000APXD4A[/url]) and former LAPD detective Joseph Wambaugh, in rather plain language, wrote just that in the LA Times ([url]http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-wambaugh-uc-davis-police-20111127,0,1853351.story[/url]). Maybe he comes across as too plain, too harsh. But I think the gist of what he said is true.

  6. Superfluous Man

    It is interesting that while some have expressed skepticism regarding the former LAPD chief’s investigation and findings prior to their release while concluding that former CA Supreme Court Justice’s review of said findings will bring credibility to the fact-finding mission and be fair. There’s an interesting set of assumptions tied to both, IMHO.

  7. AdRemmer

    MO noted: [quote]His involvement didn’t add credibility to the “Civil Rights Commission” related to the Luis Gutierrez Navarro incident. Why would it here? [/quote]

    That’s [b]”Self-Appointed”[/b] civil rights commission, to you sir.

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