UC Hastings founder’s descendants sue California to block school name change

Descendants of the founder of UC Hastings College of the Law sued California on Tuesday to block a proposed name change signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month.

The state’s first law school was founded in 1878 by Serranus Clinton Hastings after he served as the first Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. But in 2020, a commission report explained how Hastings arrived in California during the gold rush, paying for and sponsoring expeditions in the Eden and Round Valleys of northern California that resulted in the deaths and displacement of hundreds of Yuki Indians whose lands he later conquered for himself.

Hastings donated $100,000 in gold coins to the state to start the San Francisco law school and requested that the college bear his name permanently and that a relative of his be on the board of directors. While the law school board voted to change its name in 2021, it was legally bound by the terms set during the school’s inception. In order to circumvent these contractual obligations, legal measures would have to be taken, according to the legislator.

On September 23, Newsom signed the Legislative Act of 1936, allowing California to sever its ties to the Hastings legacy and allowing the school to change its name to UC College of the Law, San Francisco. The bill was co-sponsored by Reps. Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and James Ramos (D-Highland), the first Native American elected to the state assembly.

“AB 1936 ensures that the history and suffering of the people of Yuki and Round Valley are not dismissed,” Ramos said in a written statement. “This is a critical step in healing a traumatic history and correcting mistakes.”

But on Tuesday, the Hastings descendants sued the state in the San Francisco Superior Court, the law school and its board, alleging that the state had an obligation to honor its contract with Hastings and that the state’s actions “heap contempt and punishment upon SC Hastings.” , his descendants, and indeed by association, of all tens of thousands of living and deceased graduates of Hastings law.

The lawsuit was filed by the alumni under the name of the Hastings College Conservation Committee. They were accompanied by Stephen Hastings Breeze and several other relatives. They are represented by Dhillon Law Group and the Berkeley-based law firm Michael Yamamoto.

The Family Strifes Serranus Hastings was responsible for or complicit in atrocities against Native Americans by funding raids by state militias attempting to drive out tribes.

“While AB 1936 in the public opinion court convicted Serranus Hastings of murdering Indians, this is false,” Scott Hastings told Breeze in a written statement.

In their complaint, the Descendants argue critics attacked Serranus Hastings in an October 2017 New York Times article written by journalist Thomas Fuller.

The complaint said the story “falsely, maliciously, and without any basis, alleged that SC Hastings ‘directed’ the murder of hundreds of Native Americans, including the Yuki.”

Hastings’ descendants argue that they did not have an opportunity to respond to the claims in the story when the school board called an emergency meeting to address the name change, the complaint says.

In a statement, UC Hastings College of the Law said it was aware of the lawsuit filed in court.

“We are disappointed that these plaintiffs are attempting to prevent the college’s name change, which was made official by Assembly Bill 1936 with no votes in the State Assembly and Senate and signed by the governor,” the law school said. “The passage of the bill was the result of a lengthy, considered and transparent process at the college that included years of diligent research, multiple public hearings and input from a variety of community stakeholders. The College remains committed to moving forward with the name change and continuing our restorative justice efforts with the support of the campus community.”

Under AB 1936, the school will also label a law library with an indigenous name and acknowledge its founder’s story at both convocation and inaugural events. Along with its restorative justice efforts, the law school will also provide free legal counseling to Native California tribes and establish permanent memorials on college campuses.

It’s unclear if the lawsuit will delay the name change, which is scheduled to take effect on January 1.

The college counts Vice President Kamala Harris and US Representative Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) among its notable alumni.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-10-05/hastings-descendants-sue-california-to-block-law-school-name-change-native-americans UC Hastings founder’s descendants sue California to block school name change

Alley Einstein

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