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Lawsuit Challenging UC Hastings Name Change Dismissed

A lawsuit over UC Hastings name change has been tossed.

The University of California College of the Law, San Francisco successfully defended against a lawsuit aiming to overturn its 2023 name change, prompted by an investigation into allegations that its former namesake, Serranus Hastings, was involved in the deaths of Native Americans on land he owned.

A San Francisco judge dismissed the suit after determining that the 1878 legislation establishing the University of California Hastings College of the Law was not a contract, as asserted by the family of Serranus Hastings, Reuters reports.

Attorney Gregory Michael, who represented the Hastings descendants along with Harmeet Dhillon, stated that despite the ruling, his clients remain “undeterred” and plan to appeal.


Serranus Hastings was a former California Supreme Court justice who founded the law school in 1878 with a $100,000 donation. In 2022, the law school announced that it would drop the Hastings name after an extensive review revealed that Hastings orchestrated killings of Native Americans in order to remove them from ranch land he purchased.

In October 2022, a group of law school alumni and six Hastings descendants sued the state and school officials arguing that the name change violated the 1878 agreement between California and Hastings, when he gave money to start a law school under his name.

Ultimately, Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer found that the Hastings descendants did not present enough factual allegations to establish their claims.

“The upshot of these descendants’ argument is that the governance of a public institution can be bought and sold,” Eduardo Santacana, a partner at Willkie Farr & Gallagher, which represented the law school pro bono, tells Reuters.

Sources: Reuters, Superior Court of California, ACLU

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