Cruz Reynoso, professor emeritus of law at the University of California-Davis, will be assisting in President-elect Barack Obama's transition to the White House.
Reynoso was appointed as a member of the administration's agency review team, one of several leaders in a justice and civil rights sub-team. He and other experts from across the country will review the current departments, agencies and commissions and advise the president-elect on future policy decisions.
"I've been dealing with these kinds of issues all of my life," said Reynoso, who has served as vice chair of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights. "To be able to make a difference in the policy of the administration will be an honor."
In addition to his position on the Commission of Civil Rights, Reynoso was also the first Latino to sit on the California Supreme Court. He received the presidential Medal of Freedom from President Clinton in 2000 and joined the staff at UCD in 2001.
"It shows the status of UC-Davis to have somebody with such a critical role in President-elect Obama's policies," said Kevin Johnson, dean of the UC-Davis King School of Law. "He is a national civil rights icon. We're very lucky to have him."
The Justice and Civil Rights agency review team will congregate in Washington D.C. in early December to begin their review. The team will write a report on the issues they feel are the most pressing. The report will then be presented to the co-chairs of the entire transition project, who will in turn present the report to Obama, with the corrections they feel necessary.
Reynoso suspects the group will recommend Congress conduct an annual review of human rights, which may include an evaluation of the treatment of undocumented workers, as well as same-sex rights and potential programs for prisons.
"There's much to be done - not just in civil rights, but in human rights also," Reynoso said. "For example, Obama will not argue in favor of same-sex marriage, but same sex people should have the same legal rights as everyone else. So a lot needs to be done to conform those rights."
Though a transition team is standard for all president-elects, this particular team is much larger than those in the past. Very often, the public doesn't know who is on the team and there aren't as many different groups - now there are 10 different teams, dealing with a wide range of issues such as energy, the economy, the arts, technology and government operations.
"President-elect Obama is bringing a greater representation of people together to help make this country better," Reynoso said. "That's one step beyond what most president-elects have done in the past."
In addition to his influence in national government with civil rights, Reynoso's colleagues also admire his influence within the law school.
"He's a role model in the real classic sense," said Diane Amann, professor of law at UC-Davis. "He brings to faculty and students an incredible perspective because of his experience as vice chair on the Commission on Civil Rights and his experience in the California Supreme Court."