Anti-SLAPP Motion Properly Denied in Suit Over Law School’s Name Change—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A judge properly denied an anti-SLAPP motion filed by the State of California in response to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Assembly Bill No. 1936 which, as of Jan. 1, changed the name of “Hastings College of the Law” to “College of the Law, San Francisco,” Div. Four of the First District Court of Appeal declared yesterday.
Protected speech is not implicated by the action, Acting Presiding Justice Jeremy M. Goldman wrote.
“We can agree that the success of plaintiffs’ claims would, at a minimum, prevent the College Defendants from expressing a new official designation for the College, but even assuming that future speech in which the College Defendants use the new name is protected activity within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute, it is not the reason plaintiffs have sued them,” he said. “Because plaintiffs’ claims are not based on the College Defendants’ speech, we conclude that the trial court properly denied the motion.”
The challenge is based on an 1878 statute providing “[t]hat S.C. Hastings be authorized to found and establish a Law College, to be forever known and designated as ‘Hastings’ College of the Law.’ ”
The naming was conditioned on the payment by Serranus Clinton Hastings (also known as “S.C. Hastings”)—California’s first chief justice—of $100,000. He paid the money and, as the plaintiff, Hastings College Conservation Committee, sees it, a deal’s a deal.
The name change was prompted by reports that Hastings was being accused of bloody reprisals against native Americans. The committee challenges the notion, pointing to Hastings’s exoneration at the time.
The suit is being maintained by alumni of the law school and descendants of Hastings.
Goldman noted in yesterday’s decision that the complaint alleges that AB 1936 “cannot lawfully remove ‘Hastings’ from the College’s name” and seeks to block enforcement of the new law.
‘Wrong Complained of’
“[T]he reasons plaintiffs contend the name’s removal would be unlawful are the same reasons they contend AB 1936 itself is unlawful—for example, that it would violate the contract clauses of the federal and state constitutions or would constitute an impermissible bill of attainder. The wrongfulness of any acts by the College Defendants depends on and derives from the wrongfulness of AB 1936 itself. In these circumstances, ‘the wrong complained of’…is the law’s enactment, not what the College Defendants do or say in conformity with it.”
“That is true even if we accept that…the College Defendants’ use of the new name is protected activity within the meaning of section 425.16, subdivision (e), and that plaintiffs’ claims would interfere with or prevent that speech. The College Defendants’ future speech is at most a consequence of the State’s enactment of AB 1936; it is the enactment itself that gives rise to plaintiffs’ claims.”
The case is Hastings College Conservation Committee v. Faigman, A166898.
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