The descendants of the founder of the University of California Hastings College of the Law sued California on Tuesday to block the state from changing the name of the institution, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The college is the state’s first law school and was founded in 1878 by Serranus Clinton Hastings, the first chief justice on the California Supreme Court, the Times reported. According to a 2020 report reviewing his legacy, Hastings arrived in California during the Gold Rush and “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,” the Times reported.
Governor Gavin Newsom last month signed into law Assembly Bill 1936, which allowed California to sever its ties from Hastings’s legacy and change the name of the law school to University of California College of the Law, San Francisco.
“AB 1936 ensures that the history and suffering of the Yuki and Round Valley people are not dismissed,” James Ramos, a Democrat and the first Native American elected to the State Assembly and a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “This is a critical step toward healing a traumatic history and rectifying wrongs.”
According to the Times, Hastings’s descendants dispute the allegations that he “was responsible or involved in atrocities against Native Americans.” They sued the state, the law school and its Board of Directors in state court on Tuesday, “claiming that the state is obligated to honor its contract with Hastings and that the state’s action ‘heaps scorn and punishment upon S. C. Hastings, his descendants, and indeed, by association, upon all of the tens of thousands of Hastings law graduates living and deceased.’”
Under AB 1936, the school will also give a law library an Indigenous name and offer free legal services to California Native tribes, among other restorative justice measures, the Times reported.