Oakland, Calif. – Today Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker announced that this will be her final term in office. In July 2011 the Oakland City Council appointed Ms. Parker as City Attorney to complete the term of Oakland’s first elected City Attorney. Ms. Parker subsequently ran for and was elected to her first four-year term in 2012 with 69% of the vote – winning every precinct; ran unopposed in 2016 for a second term; and in 2020 was elected by 80.4% of Oakland voters to a third four-year term. Ms. Parker will leave office at the end of the current term. Ms. Parker is the first and only African American woman elected to city-wide office in Oakland.
“It has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life to serve the people of Oakland as City Attorney,” said City Attorney Parker. “I love our beautiful, enlightened, progressive, dynamic and diverse city. And I am proud of the work I have done using the law as a powerful tool to improve our community and to protect the constitutional, civil and other legal rights, economic interests and the quality of life of all Oaklanders.
“Throughout my tenure, I have been guided by my commitment to maintain the integrity and enhance the diversity of the Office, to provide top notch legal advice and counsel and to fight alongside our progressive City Councils, City Administrators and Mayors for Oakland. At the end of this term, I will have served as City Attorney for nearly 14 years. I am ready to begin a new chapter and know that I will leave the Office in the hands of our extraordinary, dedicated and superb team.”
Ms. Parker has lived in Oakland since 1981. She joined the Office in 1991 as a Senior Deputy City Attorney in the Labor & Employment Unit where she served as general counsel to the Police and Fire Retirement System and Board (“PFRS”), Fire Services Agency, and Oakland Housing Authority, provided labor and employment advice, and represented the City in labor and employment-related arbitrations and litigation. In 1999 Ms. Parker was promoted to supervise the Labor & Employment Unit.
In September 2000, the first elected City Attorney appointed Ms. Parker as Chief Assistant City Attorney, second in command to the City Attorney, overseeing the Advisory Division of the City Attorney’s Office, including land use and planning, real estate, labor and employment, police department counsel, code enforcement, rent and general public safety, finance and general government, and serving as parliamentarian and City Attorney at Council open and closed session meetings.
“My mission as City Attorney has been to run a professional office that provides excellent advice and counsel to every City of Oakland officer and official without fear or favor on behalf of the people of Oakland. I have worked hard to develop and enforce policies, protocols and practices to ensure every elected and appointed City officer and leader stays in their lane – from the Mayor and City Council to the City Administrator, City Auditor, and City Attorney,” added Ms. Parker.
Ms. Parker’s crowning achievement as City Attorney is launching and building the Affirmative Litigation, Enforcement and Innovation Division, which she established in 2016. The division includes the Neighborhood Law Corps, Housing Justice Initiative, and Community Lawyering and Civil Rights Units.
Ms. Parker established this division to make a top priority of affirmative litigation and other actions and initiatives to secure justice and equity for all Oakland residents and workers and to fight discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, immigration status, economic status or other protected status. Over the past six years, the division has secured more than $48 million for the City of Oakland through affirmative litigation to address issues ranging from housing justice to protecting immigrants from predatory actors, to shutting down massage parlors and hotels that are centers of human trafficking, to securing millions of dollars to remove toxic lead paint, clean up contamination from toxic chemicals that contaminate our storm water and waterways and remediate the impacts of the opioid epidemic.
“Throughout my tenure, my North Star has been ensuring Oakland’s progressive laws, the California and U.S. Constitutions and federal and state laws are working for Oaklanders,” Ms. Parker noted. “I believe strongly in the principle of leveraging public service to address inequities.”
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker will complete her third term as Oakland’s elected City Attorney, which runs through December 2024.
“It is hard to believe I have practiced law for nearly five decades,” Ms. Parker concluded. “It’s been challenging, intellectually stimulating and invigorating and rewarding – an amazing ride. I look forward to having some time to relax and reset, spend more time with my village which includes my family, extended family, and Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters, and to turning the page and beginning a new chapter. And I am comfortable leaving the Office in the excellent hands of my diverse team of top-notch legal talent.”
In an award‐winning legal career spanning nearly five decades, Ms. Parker has developed extensive expertise as an attorney at all levels of government – federal, state and local – including more than 10 years as Chief Assistant Oakland City Attorney, more than five years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of California, and serving as Chief Deputy Director of the State of California Office of Criminal Justice Planning.
Ms. Parker also has extensive experience in the private sector as an attorney for Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Office of General Counsel, Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro (now Pillsbury Winthrop) and Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison (liquidated in 2003).
In 2005, the State Bar Board of Governors selected Ms. Parker for a three-year appointment to the prestigious Judicial Council, which oversees the operations of the California courts.
Ms. Parker has received numerous awards, including: California State Bar Public Lawyer of the Year (2015), Alameda County Bar Association’s Law Firm of the Year (2018), California Champion of Choice by NARAL Pro-Choice California (2016), Ella Hill Hutch Statewide Award from Black Women Organized for Political Action (2013), and the Distinguished Public Service Award from the International Municipal Lawyers Association (2013).
Ms. Parker is a native of Seattle, Washington, where her parents, James and Savannah Parker, migrated during the Great Migration to escape the brutalities of legalized oppression and sharecropping in the rural, segregated South. Family experiences during segregation, Ms. Parker’s parents’ fierce commitment to education, and their struggles and advocacy as union workers ignited Barbara’s determination to fight for equal opportunity and equal rights for Black and other people color.
Ms. Parker and siblings, Josephine, Betty, and James Jr., are the first generation in the family’s history that had the opportunity to go to college. Ms. Parker earned an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Washington and was one of the very few African Americans and women accepted at Harvard Law School in the early 1970s. Ms. Parker graduated from Harvard determined to use the law as a tool to help Black and other people of color gain access to education, assets, and secure rights to education and equal opportunity.
Ms. Parker is the proud parent of daughter Savannah Ain Williams, a 2012 Spelman College graduate, the bursting with pride grandparent of Koda Paris Williams, born in 2011, and Kairo Paris Williams II, born in 2020. She’s also the proud mother in love to Savannah’s hubby, Kairo Paris Williams. She enjoys doting on her “grand-dogs,” Moo Moo, Ruby Bridges, and Juicy Couture and hiking in Oakland’s parks and redwood forest. Ms. Parker has resided in Oakland’s Haddon Hill neighborhood near Lake Merritt for 34 years and has lived in Oakland since 1981.
- One of the leaders who organized the non-supervisory attorneys’ union in the Office of the City Attorney in 2000 (Deputy City Attorney I-IV)
- Led the establishment of the Confidential Management Employees’ Association (CMEA).
Additional Highlights of Ms. Parker’s City of Oakland Service
- Civil Protection of the People Ordinance – Crafted and co-sponsored the Civil Protection of the People Ordinance which the City Council unanimously adopted. This law provides the City Attorney clear and comprehensive authority to equitably enforce Oakland’s progressive laws to protect Oakland residents’ rights. The City’s local laws include numerous protections for Oaklanders, from the right to dignified housing conditions and work environments to safe and healthy neighborhoods. (2023)
- Climate Justice Lawsuit against “Big Oil” – Continuing prosecution of the separate climate justice, public nuisance lawsuits that Oakland City Attorney and San Francisco City Attorney filed in 2017 against the five largest publicly owned fossil fuel companies in the world. These companies knew for decades that their products caused climate change and posed a catastrophic risk but lied to consumers and continued to make enormous profits. The lawsuits ask the courts to hold these companies responsible for the costs of sea walls and other infrastructure necessary to protect Oakland and San Francisco from ongoing and future consequences of climate change and sea level rise caused by the companies’ production of massive amounts of fossil fuels. (2023)
- Opioids Litigation – In 2018 the Oakland City Attorney and the Los Angeles County Counsel joined the landmark lawsuit the Santa Clara County Counsel and the Orange County District Attorney filed in 2014 against leading manufacturers of opioids to hold them accountable for their role in creating the opioid epidemic of abuse and addiction, including in Oakland and Alameda County. After years of litigation the lawsuit proceeded to a multi-month trial in 2021. Evidence indicated that the epidemic has disproportionally impacted Oakland’s African American and homeless populations. Despite a trial court loss, the litigation contributed significantly to pushing several national opioid corporations into a settlement posture and resulting in Oakland’s and other local governments’ participation in multiple national settlements. The City Attorney has already negotiated agreements that will bring more than $10 million in opioid abatement funds to Oakland, and likely will bring at least $5 million more through other anticipated settlements.
- Monsanto Litigation – Filed a public nuisance lawsuit against Monsanto in 2015 to hold the giant chemical company accountable for contaminating Oakland’s waterways and the San Francisco Bay with Polychlorinated Biphenyls (“PCBs”). In 2020 Oakland joined a nationwide class action lawsuit against Monsanto and pharmaceutical giant Bayer (Bayer acquired Monsanto in 2016.) In December 2022 the City approved the $537.5 million, nation-wide class action settlement; Oakland’s recovery from the settlement is $7.5 million. (2022)
- Wells Fargo Lawsuit – From 2015 to 2021, prosecuted lawsuit against Wells Fargo for predatory and racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices against Black and Latinx applicants. In 2020 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Oakland’s right to sue Wells Fargo under the federal Fair Housing Act to recover for its racially discriminatory lending practices that contributed to widespread foreclosures. Unfortunately, in 2021 after rehearing en banc, the Ninth Circuit ruled that all of Oakland’s claims should be dismissed, ruling that the City’s damages claims (higher defaults rates, which triggered higher foreclosure rates that drove down the assessed value of properties and ultimately resulted in lost property tax revenue and increased municipal expenditures) were too attenuated to be recoverable under the Fair Housing Act. (2021)
- Strengthening Tenant Protections – Crafted and co-sponsored amendments to the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO), Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance (JCO), Rent Adjustment Ordinance, and related relocation ordinances to improve protections for tenants facing harassment, provide increased security from eviction, and ensure local ordinances conform to changes in state law. (2021)
- Gender Inclusive Policies – Crafted and co-sponsored Gender-Inclusive and Gender-Neutral Language Resolution unanimously passed by the City Council in 2020 that established a pathbreaking progressive policy ensuring that city laws, policies, and communications use terminology that accounts for all gender identities and does not assume or prescribe any specific gender. The Council placed a Charter amendment on the November 2022 ballot that voters approved, updating the Charter to be consistent with the City’s future-facing policy. (2020)
- Slavery Era Disclosure Resolution – Co-sponsored Slavery-Era Disclosure Resolution directing the City Administrator to implement and provide updates on implementation of the 2005 City’s Slavery Era Disclosure Ordinance. The Ordinance is intended to officially acknowledge the crime of African enslavement and its ongoing devastating ramifications for the descendants of enslaved Africans. In adopting the Ordinance, Oakland joined the states of California, Illinois, Maryland and five other cities in collectively highlighting how African enslavement and its legacy, beginning with Jim Crow laws, segregation, and sanctioning of brutality and murder of Black people–which continue to this very day–have been a means to build this country and its extraordinary wealth and deprive descendants of enslaved Africans of the fruits of their labor and contributions and the wealth they created and sustained. (2020)
- Warriors Litigation – As joint legal counsel with Alameda County Counsel, secured an August 18, 2020 California Court of Appeal ruling, on behalf of the Oakland-Alameda County Joint Powers Authority (JPA) which requires that the Golden State Warriors pay the $55 million balance of the debt incurred to renovate the Oracle Arena plus more than $1 million in attorney’s fees. On December 9, 2020, the California Supreme Court rejected Warriors’ petition seeking review of the decision. (2020)
- Lease vs. Sale of City Land – Crafted and co-sponsored the Council’s policy to lease rather than sell City-owned property. The policy finds that it is in the City’s best interest to retain as much City-owned property as feasible for the benefit of the public in order to preserve these precious assets which once sold can never be replaced, and will no longer be a resource for the benefit of the commonwealth, i.e., the public welfare in the future; and leasing City property allows the City to realize the benefits of increases in property value and to control the future use of the property after the expiration of the lease as well as provides the City greater ability to enforce City laws and policies. (2014)
- Kreeft v. City of Oakland Lawsuit – Won this published case as general counsel for the Police and Fire Retirement System and Board (PFRS) that saved the City more than $13 million. California Court of Appeal affirmed trial court’s determination that Fair Labor Standards Act premium pay is not “compensation attached to the rank” under the City Charter and the City and PFRS therefore properly did not include such premium pay in calculating pensions for PFRS retirees. (1998)
More information about Ms. Parker’s City of Oakland service and the City Attorney’s Office can be found on the City Attorney’s website: www.oaklancityattorney.org.