John Russo
Oakland City Attorney



John Russo was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His parents, a construction worker and a dressmaker, arrived in the United States from Europe five months before he was born. He graduated with honors in Economics and Political Science from Yale University and earned his law degree from New York University School of Law.

After a two-year stint as a Legal Aid attorney in St. Louis, Missouri, John moved to Oakland in 1987. For the next seven years he was deeply involved in the life of his new community. Among his many volunteer activities, he served as president of Friends of Oakland Parks and Recreation, Treasurer of the East Bay League of Conservation Voters, and pro bono attorney to many neighborhood associations and non-profits.

In June 1994, John was elected to the Oakland City Council, where he became the Council's leading advocate for fiscal accountability and government reform. In his six years on the Council, John implemented community policing, developed the first truly balanced budget in a generation, and authored Oakland's open government law called the "sunshine" ordinance.

In March 2000, John won the voters' nod as Oakland's first elected City Attorney and was re-elected in 2004. In 2002, John served as President of the League of California Cities spearheading initiatives to protect local tax revenues from state fiscal mismanagement and amend California's Constitution to ensure public access to government records and decision-making. His ability to work 'across the aisle' earned him a seat on the Board of the National League of Cities, an organization which represents more than 18,000 towns and cities, in December 2003.

In the fall of 2003, John received the California First Amendment Coalition's prestigious Beacon Award for his dynamic leadership in promoting public access to government and going "beyond the norm to assure government transparency." California Lawyer Magazine honored John as well by naming him California's Government/Public Policy "Lawyer of the Year".

In 2004, the League of California Cities gave John the "Champion of Local Democracy" award for his work to strengthen democracy at the local level. In addition, the California Minority Counsel Program (CMCP) awarded the Office of the City Attorney the John Essex and Guy Rounsaville In-House Diversity Counsel Award for demonstrating superior commitment to diversity; it was the first time a public agency had received the honor in the thirteen-year history of the program.

In August 2005, John was voted a Northern California Super Lawyer by his peers and the independent research of the Law & Politics publication. His Neighborhood Law Corps program also topped 146 other cities as the Grand Prize Winner of the League of California Cities 2005 Helen Putnam Award for Excellence and won a national Award of Municipal Excellence from the National League of Cities in 2006.

John Russo accepts the mantle of leadership as Oakland's first elected City Attorney in a ceremony on the steps of City Hall on September 12, 2000. He is flanked by Major Jerry Brown and City Councilmembers.

John Russo receives the Award for Muncipal Excellence with Neighborhood Law Corps staff and National League of Cities Representatives in 2006