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Descendants of UC Hastings College of the Law’s founder sued California on Tuesday to block a scheduled name change that was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month.
The state’s first law school was founded by Serranus Clinton Hastings in 1878 after he served as the first chief justice on the California Supreme Court. But in 2020, a commission report explained how Hastings arrived in California during the Gold Rush, paid for and promoted expeditions in the Eden and Round Valleys of Northern California that resulted in the deaths and displacement of hundreds of Yuki Indians, whose land he later took for himself.
Hastings donated $100,000 in gold coins to the state to establish the law school in San Francisco and required that the college bear his name in perpetuity and one of his relatives sit on the board of directors. While the law school’s board of directors voted to change its name in 2021, it was bound by law to the conditions set during the school’s establishment. Circumventing those contractual obligations would require legislative action, according to lawmakers.
On Sept. 23, Newsom signed into law Assembly Bill 1936, which allowed California to sever its ties from Hastings’ legacy and allow the school to change its name to UC College of the Law, San Francisco. The bill was co-sponsored by Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) and James Ramos (D-Highland), who is the first Native American elected to the state assembly.