Barbara J. Parker is the second, elected City Attorney of Oakland, California.
In July 2011, the Oakland City Council appointed Barbara to complete the term of the first elected City Attorney of Oakland, and in November 2012, Oakland voters overwhelmingly elected her to a full four-year term; Barbara won every precinct and 69% of the vote. Voters overwhelmingly re-elected Barbara to a second four-year term in 2016; Barbara ran unopposed. And in 2020 Barbara was elected to a third term with 80.4% of the vote. Barbara is the first and only African American woman elected to citywide office in Oakland.
Since taking the helm of the Office of the City Attorney, Barbara has demonstrated a deep and steadfast commitment to maintaining the integrity of the Office and of all City officers.
The City Attorney’s Office provides legal advice and counsel to the Mayor, City Council, Councilmembers, City Administrator, and City departments, offices and commissions, and represents and defends the City when it is sued. In 2016 Barbara established an Affirmative Litigation, Enforcement and Innovation Division and has built an affirmative litigation practice that pursues cases on behalf of the City of Oakland and its residents to enforce the City’s progressive laws and policies. Barbara has a track record that demonstrates her abiding commitment to providing top notch advice and counsel to all City officials, without fear or favor.
The Affirmative Litigation, Enforcement and Innovation Division includes the Neighborhood Law Corps (established in 2003), Housing Justice Initiative (established in 2020), and Community Lawyering and Civil Rights Units (established in 2016). These teams are dedicated to ensuring the law is enforced equitably with an eye toward securing justice and pursuing equity. Under Barbara’s leadership, over the last six years affirmative litigation has brought more than $48 million to Oakland’s coffers to address issues ranging from climate change and pollution remediation to housing justice to protecting immigrants from predatory actors, to shutting down massage parlors and hotels that are centers of human trafficking. Barbara also has been fighting to stop racially discriminatory and predatory bank lending practices.
Barbara has authored and sponsored laws and policies that the City Council adopted, such as a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis, which requires that the City consider equity in budgeting, hiring, and policy-making; enacting a comprehensive government ethics law; and improving gun safety.
In an award‐winning legal career spanning more than four decades, 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 Deputy Director of the State of California Office of Criminal Justice Planning. Barbara also has extensive experience in the private sector as an attorney for Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corporation, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals Office of General Counsel, and Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro (now Pillsbury Winthrop) and Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison (liquidated in 2003).
In 2005, the State Bar Board of Governors selected Barbara for a three-year appointment to the prestigious Judicial Council, which oversees the operations of the California courts. Barbara has received numerous awards, including the California State Bar Public Lawyer of the Year (2015), California Champion of Choice by NARAL Pro-Choice California (2016), Ella Hill Hutch Statewide Award from Black Women Organized for Political Action (2013), and Distinguished Public Service Award from the International Municipal Lawyers Association (2013).
Barbara is a native of Seattle, Washington, where her parents migrated during the Great Migration to escape the brutalities of legalized oppression and sharecropping in the rural, segregated South. Family experiences during segregation, Barbara’s parents’ fierce commitment to education, and their struggles as union workers ignited Barbara’s determination to fight for equal opportunity and equal rights for Black, Indigenous, and other people color.
Barbara and siblings, Josephine, Betty, and James Jr., are the first generation in the family’s history that had the opportunity to go to college. Barbara 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. Barbara graduated from Harvard in 1975 determined to use the law as a tool to help Black, Indigenous, and other people of color gain access to education, assets, and secure rights to education and equal opportunity.
Barbara is the proud parent of daughter Savannah Ain Williams, a 2012 graduate of Spelman College, the proud 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 over her “granddogs,” Moo Moo, Ruby Bridges, and Juicy Couture. Barbara has resided in Oakland’s Haddon Hill neighborhood near Lake Merritt for 34 years and has lived in Oakland since 1981.