Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Renaming UC-Hastings Law School Sparks $1.7 Billion Legal Fight That Shows How Hard It Is To Ditch Donors’ Names

Chronicle of Philanthropy, Renaming Calif.’s Hastings Law School Sparks $1.7 Billion Legal Fight That Shows How Hard It Is to Ditch Donors’ Names:

UC Hastings (2022)Six descendants of Serranus Clinton Hastings, California’s first chief justice, and a group that says it represents alumni are suing the state of California over its decision to rename a nearly 150-year-old law school. The University of California Hastings College of the Law will become U.C. College of the Law, San Francisco, in 2023 in accordance with a law state legislators passed and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed on September 23, 2022.

The lawsuit also targets David Faigman, the school’s dean and chancellor, along with all of its trustees — who voted for this change after learning about Serranus Hastings’s role in the slaughter of Native Americans in the mid-19th century. Rebranding is one way that the school is actively seeking reconciliation with the Yuki people, whose communities were harmed at that time. It filed a motion to dismiss the suit on November 2, 2022.

The lawsuit cites an 1878 agreement with the state of California to create and fund the law school, which promised Hastings’ heirs $100,000, plus interest, should the school ever “cease to exist.” One hundred forty-four years later, that would amount to $1.7 billion, the San Francisco Chronicle has reported. The lawsuit also disputes the evidence about Hastings’ ties to the slaughter of Indigenous people and says this change would waste tax dollars.

The Conversation U.S. asked nonprofit law scholar Terri Lynn Helge to explain why it’s so hard to sever prior arrangements with donors — even when more than a century has elapsed.

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