The oldest law school west of the Rockies has been in the news a lot lately, legally speaking. In fact, they got to go to the big show—as a defendant at the United States Supreme Court (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 08-1371).

UC Hastings in flattering evening light

University of California, Hastings College of the Law is not only one of the longer names of a law school; it also is a party to a suit in which the Christian Legal Society says it should be deemed an official campus organization. They insist that the school’s refusal—because the Society will not agree to abide by the school’s nondiscrimination policy—is a constitutional violation.

The argument was this morning. You can read about it here.

The legal issues are fascinating. The Court must decide (as the New York Times reports) “whether a law school can deny recognition to a Christian student group because it won’t let gays join. [It is] a case that could determine whether college nondiscrimination policies trump the rights of private organizations to determine who can—and cannot—belong to their ranks.”

What’s of even more interest to me—as an alum of that esteemed law school—is hearing the Justices talk about the “campus” of Hastings.


UC Hastings, The Dark Tower, in unflattering 1950s-era light

The two—OK, three—buildings that comprise the “campus” are at the butt end of what San Franciscans call the “Tenderloin.”

And sure, it’s possible that law students skipping class could engage in a little hacky-sack or Frisbee (do students still play hacky-sack or Frisbee anymore? I wouldn’t know, being such old caselaw myself). The place they would do that is termed, hilariously, “the beach,” a strip of concrete mounded with concrete benches and concrete planters. Sounds very garden-spot, doesn’t it?

Despite its sad-sack location, I and many of my fellows came to enjoy the surroundings. It wasn’t just the easy access to pool halls and watering holes we liked. It also had amazing Vietnamese food close by, the great public library was down the street, and access to courthouses (federal and state) that other law school denizens can only dream about.

Eating a Vietnamese sandwich as you walk to the Ninth Circuit to watch oral arguments? It’s hard to get a better law school experience than that.

And when we tired of proletariat surroundings, we would ride Muni (SF public transit) out to the UC Medical School, where we would commandeer conference tables in its beautiful library. Even then, we learned, doctors know how to live.

So good luck to the Justices in determining what’s acceptable among school clubs. For the rest of us, think about a visit to San Francisco’s lesser-visited neighborhoods, like the Tenderloin. To get you started on Tenderloin tourism, read this New York Times article, from a reporter who did just that.