Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Family of UC Hastings’ Namesake Files Suit to Stop Name Change—University Motions to Dismiss


The following is a press release from the UC Hastings Law:

The Round Valley “Welcome” sign [Picture from the UC Hastings website]

UC Hastings College of the Law filed a motion today seeking immediate dismissal of a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs who want to stop the renaming of the College, after Governor Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1936 on September 23. The lawsuit was filed last month by a small group of Hastings’ alumni and some distant descendants of the law school’s founder, Serranus Hastings. 

Pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP statute, the College has requested that the court dismiss this lawsuit because the decision to change its name was based on activity that is protected under the United States and California Constitutions, including the First Amendment. The plaintiffs cannot show that any of their claims against the College will succeed. The anti-SLAPP statute prevents the filing of strategic, meritless lawsuits that prevent the exercise of the rights to freedom of speech and petition—such as the lawsuit plaintiffs have filed here.

“The College engaged in a thoughtful, deliberate and transparent process as we examined the historical record of our founder,” said David Faigman, Chancellor & Dean of UC Hastings College of the Law. “The name change is a critical and public aspect of the College’s restorative justice efforts. Today’s motion for dismissal is an important step in keeping our community moving forward as we transition toward a new and exciting chapter for the school.”

“Plaintiffs’ lawsuit is exactly the kind of strategic, meritless lawsuit that California’s anti-SLAPP statute is designed to prevent,” said Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., partner with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP and counsel to the College.  “What Plaintiffs want to do is prevent the College from exercising its rights to free speech and to petition the Legislature, but those rights are enshrined in both the California and federal Constitutions.  And importantly, Plaintiffs’ claims are legally and factually meritless and doomed to fail in any event.”   

In August, Assembly Bill 1936 successfully passed in both the California Senate and Assembly with zero “no” votes and was signed by Governor Newsom the following month. The Legislature took that action after the College’s Board voted last November to remove the Hastings name from the College, and then asked the Legislature to amend the California Education Code to conform to the new name. The Legislature did so, passing AB 1936, which renames the law school University of California, College of the Law, San Francisco. 

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The decision to change the College’s name was the result of a lengthy public process that included extensive research, public hearings, and input from a wide range of the law school’s constituencies. That process began in 2017, when Dean Faigman formed the Hastings Legacy Review Committee (HLRC) to investigate the history of the law school’s founder, after learning of his involvement in mass killings of Yuki People in the Round Valley and Eden Valley region prior to founding the College. 

Over the course of the College’s five-year investigation into Hastings’ conduct, and its impact on the law school’s community, there was overwhelming support to pursue numerous restorative justice efforts, including changing the College’s name. Since the formation of the HLRC, the College developed and put in place several other important restorative justice initiatives, including: 

More information about the College’s continued commitment to restorative justice can be found on its Recognition and Reconciliation web page

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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