Legal history sites in SF
April 8, 2008 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Legal History & San Francisco -- brainstorming for a nerdy walking tour.

I'd like to design a walking tour in San Francisco to include legal history sites. And use the project as a fun excuse for me to do some legal history research about SF places.

For example, the street address for the laundry in Yick Wo v. Hopkins. (It's listed by the California Supreme Court in 1885 as 349 Third Street, San Francisco, so I need to figure out whether the street numbers have changed.)

Or, the site of the 1977 sit-ins for the Section 504 regulations (450 Golden Gate).

Any other suggestions? Sites related to civil rights or early SF legal history are particularly good.
posted by ClaudiaCenter to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
What a very cool idea! I'd love to go on the tour once you get it done.

- The site of the I-Hotel, in Chinatown.
- City Hall, for a number of things, including same sex weddings and the HUAC hearings.
- the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals building on 7th Street has a few interesting decisions under its belt, although I don't know which ones happened in that building, or how hard it would be to find out.
- City Lights bookstore for the Howl obscenity trial

There's loads of early LGBT civil rights history locations, like the California Hall and Compton's cafeteria. The GLBT Historical Society would be a good resource for that.
posted by gingerbeer at 9:33 PM on April 8, 2008

Wong Kim Ark, of United States v. Wong Kim Ark (Wikipedia) was born at 751 Sacramento Street in San Francisco.

Chae Chan Ping, the habeas petitioner in the Chinese Exclusion Case, also lived in San Francisco, but I'm not sure where. The case only mentions that he was detained in a steamship in the harbor upon attempting to return to the United States.
posted by jedicus at 9:39 PM on April 8, 2008

These ideas are perfect, exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of ...
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 9:43 PM on April 8, 2008

Somewhere where you can get a good view of Alcatraz, so you can talk about the occupation?
posted by padraigin at 10:02 PM on April 8, 2008

Cool web site on SF's "paper sons." (Men who claimed they were US-born after City Hall burned in 1906 with birth records.)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:02 PM on April 8, 2008

Yes, Alcatraz and Angel Island both have lots of legal history.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:07 PM on April 8, 2008

Here's a good listing of all the registered historical landmarks in San Francisco, some of which may be promising.

There's also some stuff - the general strike of 1934, Japanese Americans shipped to concentration camps, the demolishing of the Western Addition for "redevelopment" - that doesn't have a specific location as much as a neighborhood (nor am I sure how specifically legal it is as opposed to political).

A good web site for labor history.
posted by gingerbeer at 10:07 PM on April 8, 2008

There are some sites relevant to the Zebra Murders from 1973-74. For the most part, it might fall more under "true crime" or "really horrific things that most San Franciscans don't know about" (soon to be remedied by a major motion picture), but there is a significant legal angle buried within the violent crime. From the wiki:
Police decided to take drastic measures. Inspector Gus Coreris gambled, dictating generic suspect "descriptions" to SFPD artist Hobart “Hoby” Nelson, who drew two sketches, based on them. The sketches were then distributed to the media and to SFPD officers, none of whom knew the sketches were generic imaginings. Police then fanned out, stopping and questioning 500 young men who resembled the description of the killer: a black man with a short Afro and a narrow chin.

This action by the police provoked criticism from the African-American community. Acting on a suit sponsored by the NAACP and the ACLU, U.S. District Judge Alfonso J. Zirpoli ruled that the widespread profiling of African-Americans was unconstitutional, and the operation was suspended.
That's a pretty important ruling.

You might be able to find some sites related to the Hell's Angels RICO trial. See also United States v. Chesher, 678 F.2d 1353 (9th Cir. 1982).

450 Golden Gate, which you mention, is pretty important as SF legal history goes, being the Federal Building and US District Court. I think that would be a fine starting or ending point for a tour, as there are countless interesting cases which were decided in that building, and many new ones to come.
posted by jewishbuddha at 11:06 PM on April 8, 2008

San Remo Hotel v. City & County of SF
... will keep thinking ...
posted by salvia at 12:07 AM on April 9, 2008

First topless and bottomless entertainment.

The Barbary Coast has tons of interest.

The slot machine was invented in San Francisco in 1895, and made illegal in SF in 1909, probably the first anti-slot machine law. (California made it illegal in 1911.)

The millionaire waitress formed SF's first waitress' union and fought for labor laws.

Carry Nation spent a night in jail in San Francisco.

SF has a sex worker's rights organization that operates a clinic (I'm figuring any entity fighting for or against legislation is of potential interest.)

The SLA bank robbery was in SF, as was Patty Hearst's trial.

The 9th Circuit gets accused of judicial activism for some decisions.

Bloody Thursday.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:05 AM on April 9, 2008

I don't know of any specific sites for the Japanese internment issues, but in an interview, Fred Korematsu said he was hanging out with his girlfriend in a park within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge when he first heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor.
posted by diggerroo at 4:19 AM on April 9, 2008

Kind of obvious, but the United Nations was born in San Francisco, the charter being drafted (? signed?) in what's now Herbst Theater (I think - one of those buildings on Van Ness). The UN ties in with international law so you could take in the UN Plaza and Herbst Theater (or whatever) on your tour.

What a great idea! Can I come? Please?
posted by Quietgal at 7:15 AM on April 9, 2008

The Belli Building, Melvin Belli's office.
posted by doctor_negative at 7:16 AM on April 9, 2008

First Amendment: Lenny Bruce's first obscenity arrest and trial was in SF.

Second Amendment: The shooting at 101 California led to all sorts of gun grabbing giddyness.
posted by okbye at 9:25 AM on April 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Broderick Terry duel which took place at Lake Merced should be on your list.
posted by Sculthorpe at 10:40 AM on April 9, 2008

These are great! Thank you, everyone -- I'll be checking every link and idea.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 4:36 PM on April 9, 2008

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