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California law school sued by namesake’s descendants over name change

A group of alumni from the University of California Hastings College of the Law and descendants of its namesake, Serranus Hastings, filed a lawsuit against the state and the school Tuesday in response to Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a bill that authorized changing the school’s name.

Hastings, a California Supreme Court Justice, founded the school in 1878, but some historians allege he was complicit in the killings of Native Americans. 

On Sept. 30, Newsom, a Democrat, signed AB 1936, which was sponsored by Assemblymember James C. Ramos. The bill redesignates the University of California’s Hastings of the Law as the College of the Law, San Francisco. 

The law also outlined several “restorative justice initiatives” for Round Valley Indian Tribes and Yuki people whose ancestors – according to Newsom’s office – “suffered mass killings and other atrocities funded and supported by college founder Serranus Hastings in the mid-19th century.” 

AFTER 40 YEARS OF ENROLLING MEN, MISSISSIPPI UNIVERSITY FOR WOMEN CONSIDERS NAME CHANGE

Tuesday’s lawsuit was brought by the Dhillon Law Group and Michael Yamamoto LLP, in conjunction with the Center for American Liberty on behalf of Hastings’ descendants and the UC Hastings Conservation Committee. 

The lawsuit disputes AB 1936’s portrayal of Hastings, saying there is no direct evidence of him committing atrocities against Native Americans. 

“Hastings, a lifelong Democrat, was a giant in California history, our first California Chief Justice, and like many founding figures, is the latest victim of activists rewriting history to fit a contemporary agenda, with scant factual basis, no due process, and the ends justifying the means,” said Harmeet K. Dhillon, CEO of the Center for American Liberty, in a statement. 

UC Hastings College of the Law banners are seen in San Francisco, California, United States on October 27, 2021. 

“In his time, Hastings was a civil rights leader and neither he, nor his descendants or the graduates of this fine institution, deserve the smear job orchestrated by politicians for their own purposes,” the statement continued.

The lawsuit alleges that the name change breaches an agreement between the State of California and Hastings, when he gave it $100,000 in gold to establish the school. Per the agreement, Hastings would serve as its inaugural dean, an heir or representative would always hold a seat on the school’s board of directors, and it would forever be called the “Hastings College of the Law,” according to the lawsuit.  

In a statement to Fox News, the law school said it was aware of the lawsuit and was “disappointed” by the plaintiffs’ attempt to prevent the name change, “which was made official through AB 1936 without any no votes in the state Assembly and Senate 

“The bill’s passage was the result of a lengthy, deliberate and transparent process at the College that included years of thoughtful research, several public hearings and input from a wide range of community stakeholders,” the law school said. “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.” 

Fox News has reached out to Ramos’ office for comment. 

The renaming of the school is set to take effect in January 2023.

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