February 7, 2024

Willkie achieved a significant pro bono litigation victory for the Board of U.C. Law San Francisco in a lawsuit challenging the decision by the Board to remove Serranus Clinton Hastings from the name of the law school due to atrocities he committed on native peoples of California in the 1800s. On February 6, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer, Jr. dismissed all claims against the Board and the State of California with prejudice, resulting in a complete victory for Willkie’s client. 

The case was originally brought by the Hastings College Conservation Committee, alumni and descendants of the law school’s founder and first dean, Mr. Hastings, contending that the name can’t lawfully be changed because in 1878 the state agreed, by statute, that the college “shall forever be known and designated as the Hastings College of the Law,” and that he or his heirs would have a seat on the college’s Board. Hastings donated $100,000 at the time to help found the school. The Willkie team successfully argued that the 1878 legislation that created the college was not a contract and that the legislation codifying the name change was not a bill of attainder and did not violate the ex post facto clause of the California Constitution. Simona Agnolucci, Managing Partner of Willkie’s San Francisco office, serves as Chair of the Board of Directors of U.C. Law San Francisco, and is named as a defendant in the case. 

The Willkie team was led by San Francisco-based partners Benedict Hur, Eduardo Santacana and Joshua Anderson and included associates Julia Marenkova and Nadim Houssain.

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