UC Law School Sued By Namesake’s Descendants Over Name Change

The school's name was changed to the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco, following a process that found Serranus Hastings organized the killing of Native Americans.
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  • The law school's board of directors voted unanimously to remove "Hastings" from its name late last July.
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed a bill changing the school's name to the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco.
  • Hastings' heirs are challenging the change saying there is no evidence that Hastings took part in the killings of Native Americans.

Descendants of the first dean of the oldest law school in the University of California (UC) system are suing to stop the state from dropping the Hastings name.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on Assembly Bill 1936 in September, officially renaming UC's Hastings College of the Law as the College of the Law, San Francisco.

Serranus Hastings was a California Supreme Court justice who founded the school in 1878. In the 1850s, he was involved in the mass killings of Yuki people in the Round Valley and Eden Valley region of California, according to the findings of the Hastings Legacy Review Committee created by Chancellor David L. Faigman.

However, the lawsuit contests findings showing Hastings' participation in atrocities against Native Americans, blaming "modern-day cancel-culturalists" and "poorly sourced opinion pieces."

"There is no known evidence that S.C. Hastings desired, requested, or knowingly encouraged any atrocities against Native Americans," according to the lawsuit.

"The State's decision to erase ‘Hastings' from the College's name and remove the family's Board seat constitutes an unconstitutional impairment of the State's contractual obligations to S.C. Hastings and his descendants."

In a statement posted on the school's name-change FAQ, Faigman called the lawsuit "disappointing."

"The College remains committed to moving forward with the name change and to continuing our restorative justice efforts with the support of the campus community," he said.

The full name change was scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, Faigman has previously said.

The law school's board of directors voted unanimously to remove "Hastings" from its name last July. The recommendation required approval by both houses of the California State Legislature and the governor.

The bill permitting the name change passed the California Senate and Assembly without a single "no" vote, according to Faigman.

The college's rebranding effort dates back to 2017 when Faigman appointed a committee to examine the history of its namesake.

As the Hastings Legacy Review Committee examined Hastings' involvement in the genocide, the college built a relationship with Round Valley Indian Tribes who consulted on the decision to change the school's name.

According to the announcement, the law school also received letters from stakeholders regarding the potential change, 78% of which supported removing Hastings' name from the school.