Hastings California Law School Says Free Speech Prohibits Name Change Lawsuit

  • Descendants of namesake Serranus Hastings sued to stop California Hastings College of Law from rebranding
  • School says lawsuit violates free speech protections

(Reuters) – A lawsuit to block the name change of the University of California’s Hastings College of Law violates the San Francisco school’s right to free speech, school officials said on Wednesday. to the state court judge assigned to the case.

Hastings’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit is the latest development in a five-year debate over the school’s name, which honors Serranus Hastings, a former California Supreme Court justice. Hastings, who founded the school in 1878, is accused by historians of orchestrating the killings of Native Americans in order to evict them from ranch land he purchased in northern California.

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill on September 30 authorizing the school to be renamed the University of California College of the Law, San Francisco. The following week, six descendants of Hastings and a group of elders for follow-upclaiming he was not involved in any murders and that any name change violates an agreement California made with Hastings when he gave $100,000 in gold to establish a school named after him.

The law school cited California’s “anti-SLAPP” law in its filing Wednesday.

“The plaintiffs’ claims against the College defendants arise out of classic protected activity,” he said, asserting that all of the school’s public actions regarding the name change and its interactions with lawmakers in the state are protected by free speech laws.

Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney with the Dhillon Law Group representing the plaintiffs, said on Thursday her clients will oppose the school’s motion in court and a hearing is scheduled for December.

“We’re at the start of a multi-step process here,” Dhillon said.

The law school is represented by a team of lawyers from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, led by its partner Theodore Boutrous.

The lawsuit argues that California entered into a contract with Hastings that stipulated that he would be its inaugural dean, that an heir or representative would always hold a seat on the school’s board of trustees, and that he would be called forever the “Hastings College of the Law.”

The motion to dismiss argues that Hastings and California never entered into a contract, and even if they did, the plaintiffs are not parties to it.

“The writing on which they base their claim is a law, not a contract, and that law contains nothing like the clear and unequivocal language required for a court to find that the legislation creates contractual rights,” a said the school.

Read more:

UC Hastings Law School sued by heirs of namesake over name change

Hastings Law School fight is not a typical namesake reckoning

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Jon J. Epps