Volume 20, Issue 2 | February 2020
News from Oakland City Attorney
Barbara J. Parker
BJP new
This month:

  • City Attorney publishes Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018-19.
  • This month we argued two major cases in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit: Oakland’s climate change lawsuit against “Big Oil,” and Oakland’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo for predatory and racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices.
  • City Attorney’s Neighborhood Law Corps wins trial against illicit massage business that operated as a front for sex trafficking.

As always, we look forward to your questions and comments about the work we are doing on behalf of the people of Oakland.

Barbara J. Parker
Oakland City Attorney
City Attorney Publishes Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018-19
In February, we published our most recent Annual Report for Fiscal Year 2018-19.

Every year since the beginning of this century, my Office has published an annual report to provide the public and City leaders with a comprehensive and transparent accounting of our work.
The report details financial trends, litigation results, legal advice and special initiatives that my Office undertook during Fiscal Year 2018-19 (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019).
Highlights of this year's report include:

  • Updates on our major litigation to protect the interests and rights of Oaklanders, including our lawsuit to hold Chevron and other fossil fuel companies accountable for the massive costs Oakland taxpayers must pay to protect the city from catastrophic climate change, and our lawsuit against Wells Fargo over the bank's history of racially discriminatory lending practices against African American and Latino borrowers in Oakland and elsewhere (also see updates on these cases in the newsletter below).
  • Details about Oakland's portfolio of legal challenges to many of the Trump administration's unconstitutional, racist and malicious policies and laws, including our successful lawsuit to block the addition of a question about citizenship status to the 2020 census.
  • Financial trends including the cost of outside counsel, which was about $1 million less than the preceding fiscal year (FY 2017-2018) year, notwithstanding several ongoing, highly complex litigation matters that require retention of outside attorneys.
  • Litigation results for the year showing that about two-thirds of all lawsuits against the City of Oakland were resolved for zero dollars.
All of our work is driven by the mission of the City Attorney's Office, which I will copy below. I encourage you to read the report for a more complete picture of our work and accomplishments during Fiscal Year 2018-2019, and the work we are doing every day on your behalf. 
CAO Mission
Oakland argues major cases involving climate change and racially discriminatory mortgage lending in U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
This month, we argued two major cases against some of the most powerful companies in the world in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
At a February 5 hearing in Pasadena, we continued our fight to hold the Big Oil companies accountable for their decades of deception about fossil fuel-driven climate change and the resulting damages the City of Oakland has suffered and will suffer in the future.

In 2017 we filed a ground-breaking public nuisance lawsuit against the five largest publicly owned fossil fuel companies in the world – Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, BP and Royal Dutch Shell – “Big Oil.” Our lawsuit asks the court to hold Big Oil accountable for the costs of sea walls and other infrastructure that will be necessary to protect Oakland from the ongoing and future consequences of climate change caused by the companies’ products.
As early as the 1970s, industry scientists warned the oil companies that global production and use of fossil fuel would cause "severe" and "catastrophic" climate change. Instead of acknowledging that danger, the companies waged a massive disinformation campaign to deny the reality of climate change, undermine legitimate science and protect their astronomical profits.
California law is clear that if a company knowingly misrepresents the danger of its product, and the product causes harm, the company must pay. In this case, Oakland will have to pay billions of dollars for measures such as sea walls to protect lives and property in our city. Under California law, the oil companies should be liable for those costs.
Unfortunately, the federal district court dismissed our lawsuit last year. We appealed, asking the Court of Appeals to send the case back to state court, which is the appropriate court to decide a case about state law.
On February 11 in San Francisco, we presented arguments opposing Wells Fargo’s appeal of a ruling in our ongoing lawsuit to stop the bank’s predatory and racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices against African American and Latino borrowers.

Wells Fargo is the largest mortgage lender in our nation. In 2015, we sued Wells Fargo to stop the bank's predatory and racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices against African American and Hispanic applicants. These practices violate the federal Fair Housing Act and have devastated individuals, families and entire communities in Oakland and across the country, drastically reducing or wiping out their assets. We seek compensation for damages the City of Oakland has suffered as result of the bank's violations of federal law.
Evidence shows that Wells Fargo routinely issued predatory loans to African American and Hispanic borrowers while the bank offering better loans to similarly-qualified white borrowers. When Wells Fargo issued racially discriminatory loans, the bank knew that many of those loans would result in foreclosure. Yet Wells Fargo simply ignored this reality and continued to issue toxic, discriminatory loans because they generated significant revenue.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied Wells Fargo’s motion to dismiss our lawsuit in 2018, ruling that the City provided sufficient evidence to show that the bank’s racially discriminatory practices may have resulted in a spike in foreclosures and massive reduction in property tax revenue. Wells Fargo appealed.
We will provide updates regarding these important cases in future newsletters.
Neighborhood Law Corps wins trial against massage business that operated as a front for sex trafficking
This month, the City Attorney's Neighborhood Law Corps won a lawsuit against an illicit massage business that operated in East Oakland as a front for sex trafficking.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evelio Grillo's February 10 final judgment permanently bars the owners and operators of the former Oak Massage Spa on Edgewater Drive from running any business in Alameda County that offers massage or "adult" services, and further orders the defendants to pay the City a total of $484,966.20 in civil penalties, abatement costs and attorney’s fees.
We sued the Oak Massage Spa in January 2017 after police investigations determined that the business was in reality a brothel. In addition, one person reported to police that he was sexually assaulted at the business.

The business closed almost immediately after we filed our lawsuit. Typically, the individuals running illicit massage businesses agree to settle lawsuits in order to avoid a trial. In this case, defendants decided to go to trial, and lost decisively.
Over the years, my Office has filed numerous civil lawsuits against businesses that are part of the criminal sex trafficking industry – and against the property owners who rent to those businesses. We have worked with the City Administrator’s Office and OPD to close about 25 illicit massage businesses where police found evidence of trafficking, and we have collected more than $1 million in penalties, fees and settlements from the owners, operators and landlords profiting from this industry of abuse (not counting the above judgment). Sadly, the sexual exploitation of women and girls remains a crisis in our city.
Police say women working in these businesses often are brought to the U.S. from overseas with limited financial resources, speaking little or no English, and are then coerced into becoming sex workers in places like the Oak Massage Spa.
One of the owners of the Oak Massage Spa, an Orange County man named  Hiroshi Odashima , has an extensive history of opening illegal massage parlors in Oakland and across the state. We have named Mr. Odashima as a defendant in two other lawsuits we filed to shut down illegal massage businesses. Those two lawsuits resulted in settlements of $267,500 and $200,000, respectively. Mr. Odashima is now personally liable for paying about $700,000 to the City as result of our lawsuits.
In his Statement of Decision , Judge Grillo noted that this was the first case brought to trial under the Oakland Massage Ordinance, and that the public benefit of the verdict is considerable.
"As was established during this case and at trial, human trafficking through the subterfuge of illicit massage parlors was and remains a serious problem throughout the City of Oakland and in other municipalities," Judge Grillo wrote. "Investigating and prosecuting these types of cases required extraordinary effort and results are hard to achieve ... this type of case provides substantial health, safety and welfare benefits to members of the public generally, and to the women who are brought into illicit massage parlors, many of them from overseas, and who become entrapped in a criminal enterprise."
Judge Grillo also acknowledged the skill of the attorneys who handled the case: Neighborhood Law Corps attorneys Jax Harris and David Gomez , Deputy City Attorney Malia McPherson and former Neighborhood Law Corps attorneys Farrah Hussein and Patrick Bears .
I am grateful and wish to thank these attorneys and the other members of my team who worked on this case and our other anti-trafficking cases. We will continue to do everything in our power to disrupt and shut down this criminal industry in our town.
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