Volume 23, Issue 3 | Fourth Quarter 2023 Newsletter (December 2023)


News from Oakland City Attorney

Barbara J. Parker


  • Looking Back on More Than Twelve Years of Serving as Oakland’s City Attorney

  • Recent Legal Highlights

  • City Attorney Team Spotlight: Executive Assistant Jamie Smith

Dear Friends and Fellow Oaklanders:

As my decision that this is my final term as City Attorney begins to sink in, I’ve been reminiscing about my career with the City and feeling awash with gratitude for all the people I’ve worked with – members of my office, City leaders, City employees, our partners from other organizations, and most of all, my fellow Oakland residents. On your behalf I have provided legal counsel, advocating for the interests of our great city, protecting and advancing the rights of all Oaklanders and rooting out discrimination. The people of Oakland have been my inspiration. As I head into the sunset at the end of 2024, I know that my excellent, diverse team of top-notch legal talent will continue my mission.

Speaking of my stellar team, I am pleased to share the news that Governor Newsom, with the advice and consent of the California Senate, has appointed our own Chief Assistant City Attorney, Maria Bee to the California Law Revision Commission. Maria will bring her wisdom and keen legal eye as the Commission fulfills its responsibility to study existing laws to identify defects and anachronisms and recommend legislation to make needed reforms. Maria’s nearly 25 years of experience as a litigator, manager, executive and policy maker equip her to make unique and critical contributions to this work. I recognize Maria for enthusiastically serving on the Commission in addition to her 24/7 commitment to our Office. Congratulations, Maria!

This issue of our newsletter touches on my August 2023 decision not to seek a fourth term, shares some recent legal victories, and closes with a spotlight on my Executive Assistant, Jamie Smith, my extraordinary and indispensable superheroine.

I hope you have enjoyed a rejuvenating and uplifting holiday season.

Looking Back on More Than Twelve Years of Serving as Oakland’s City Attorney

Throughout this coming year, I’ll be reviewing my time in office, with an eye toward celebrating our team’s achievements as well as setting a high bar for my successor! As I’ve said before, launching and building the Affirmative Litigation, Enforcement and Innovation Division has been one of my proudest achievements as City Attorney. This Division has made a top priority of affirmative litigation and other actions to fight discrimination and to secure justice and equity for everyone who lives and/or works in Oakland. In just six years since I launched the Division, we have secured more than $48 million for the City through affirmative litigation. We shut down many human trafficking sites and secured millions of dollars to protect public health through lead paint abatement, provide housing justice, clean up toxic chemicals in our waterways, and remediate the devastating impacts of the opioid epidemic. I am excited about the work our team will accomplish in the coming years.

Recent Legal Highlights

People of the State of California and City of Oakland v. Fellowship of Humanity

On behalf of the People of the State of California and the City of Oakland, our Office recently reached a long-awaited settlement with the owner of a local business, Fellowship of Humanity. During the early days of the pandemic, the Neighborhood Law Corps filed a complaint against the business and its owner for operating an ongoing public nuisance at their event space, Humanist Hall, where they were hosting large parties in violation of state and county health orders during the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The settlement imposes injunctive terms requiring that Humanist Hall seek appropriate permits and notify the City of its event calendar and requires that the defendant pay the City $115,000 in attorneys’ fees and fines. We are continuing to closely monitor Humanist Hall’s compliance with the settlement and will take whatever actions are necessary to protect the public from nuisance activity.

Lacy et al. v. City of Oakland

A group of petitioners from Orange County dismissed their lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Measure S, a ballot measure approved by Oakland voters in November 2022 that would allow non-citizen parents and guardians of school-age children in Oakland public schools to vote in Oakland School Board elections if the Oakland City Council adopts an ordinance authorizing them to do so. To date the Council has not adopted such an ordinance. Recently a California Court of Appeal upheld the legality of a San Francisco ordinance that grants non-citizen parents the right to vote in local school board elections.

This dismissal is a positive development for all Oakland residents, who no longer face a challenge to the rights of parents and guardians, regardless of citizenship status, to have a voice in their children’s education.

City of Oakland v. BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Shell

We recently received some great news from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the climate justice lawsuits Oakland and San Francisco filed against the five largest publicly traded fossil fuel companies in the world (“Big Oil”) to protect our residents, workers, and businesses from the harms of climate change Big Oil knowingly visited upon our communities. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the 2022 ruling by a federal trial court judge to send Oakland’s and San Francisco’s climate justice lawsuits back to the state courts where we originally filed them in 2017. This is the second time the Ninth Circuit has concluded that Oakland’s and San Francisco’s lawsuits belong in state court.

We are optimistic that the Ninth Circuit’s ruling will clear the way for the City of Oakland and San Francisco to move forward with our lawsuits against Big Oil in state court. As we continue to witness escalating climate catastrophes around the globe on a nearly daily basis, we are unrelenting in our resolve to hold these oil giants accountable for the public health, environmental, and economic damages they have caused to our communities.

City Attorney Team Spotlight:

Executive Assistant Jamie Smith

Jamie Renee Smith has served our Executive Team as the Executive Assistant to City Attorney Parker since 2012. She is responsible for providing executive level administrative support to the City Attorney, Chief Assistant City Attorneys and City Attorney staff.

“Jamie is one of a kind, a consummate public servant; she works tirelessly on behalf of our Office and the City and the people of Oakland to handle the very challenging work we perform in an exemplary manner. Jamie is invariably available to provide assistance on urgent and complicated assignments and willing to help with any task, large or small, at any hour. She is versatile, empathetic and generous with her time. Everyone who interfaces with Jamie appreciates her courtesy, thoughtfulness and empathy. Jamie provides attention to every detail, making sure our products are works of perfection. In sum, Jamie is invaluable and irreplaceable.”– City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

Jamie began working for the City of Oakland in 1983 and joined the Office of the City Attorney in 1985. She worked as an Office Aide, Legal Secretary, and then Executive Assistant to the City Attorney. Jamie returned to her hometown of Stockton for several years, but in 2012, the year City Attorney Parker began her first full term as Oakland's elected City Attorney, Jamie returned to our office and has been an indispensable member of our team ever since. Jamie also has served as President of the Confidential Employees Management Association (“CEMA”) and has led CEMA’s negotiations with the City for years.

Jamie holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from Holy Names University and an Associate of Arts in Liberal Studies from Vista Community College (now Berkeley City College).

Visit our Website