Vito de la Cruz is Yaqui and Chicano. He attended Yale and the University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law. After receiving a Juris Doctorate degree in 1985, he worked for California Rural Legal Assistance primarily in the area of employment discrimination, farm labor issues, migrant worker housing, health, and education issues.
From California Rural Legal Assistance, he worked for the Monterrey County Public Defender’s Office and later with the Federal Public Defender in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was one of the original staff attorneys for the Federal Defender’s of Eastern Washington. In 1998, he returned to Nevada when he joined the staff of the Reno branch office of the Federal Public Defender. He is now in private practice in Eastern Washington.
He was a regular faculty member with the National Criminal Defense College (NCDC) and has been a supporting member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). He teaches at the National Judicial College’s Tribal Court program in the areas of federal Indian jurisdiction, Constitutional law, trial practice, and procedure. He was recently added to the faculty of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy in the Tribal Advocacy program.
Vito’s outside interests include hiking, cooking and music. De la Cruz plays guitar, native flute and mandolin. He regularly gives motivational speeches and lectures to Native American and Latino youth in the areas of self-esteem, educational achievement, and diversity. The greatest influences on his life have been his grandmother, auntie, family, and growing up as migrant farm worker. The Reno Gazette-Journal recently named him one of Northern Nevada’s Most Watched Men. De la Cruz published a regular column with the Gazette-Journal and the Spanish-language newspapers, La Voz and Ahora. He was a guest essayist in Borderlines, a publication of the Latino Research Center, the University of Nevada, Reno.