June 2017 Volume 17, Issue 4
Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker 
News from the Oakland City Attorney's Office
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I am very pleased to announce that the website for my Office's new Community Lawyering & Civil Rights Unit (CLCR) is up and running.

In August 2016, I reorganized the City Attorney's Office to make a top priority of affirmative litigation and other actions and initiatives to secure justice and equity for all Oakland residents and workers regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration or economic status. As our most recent Annual Report points out, our affirmative efforts also include actions to protect rights that are being undercut and decimated on a daily basis by the Trump administration.

I established the Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division to coordinate and spearhead our work. The Division includes the CLCR and our Neighborhood Law Corps (NLC), a unit of recent law school graduates who tackle quality of life issues and public nuisances including human trafficking, illegal dumping and violations of tenants' rights.

This month we launched a new website to introduce the CLCR and provide a direct line of communication between the public and my Office regarding our advocacy for civil and human rights in our community.

This month's newsletter also includes a link to our Fiscal Year 2015-2016 Annual Report, which presents detailed information about our Office's mission and our work to protect and advance the rights and interests of all Oaklanders.

As always, I 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
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Launching the Website for the City Attorney's Community Lawyering & Civil Rights Unit

This month my Office launched a website for our Community Lawyering & Civil Rights Unit (CLCR).
I established the CLCR in August 2016 to focus and streamline affirmative litigation and other initiatives to secure social, economic and environmental justice and equity for all Oakland residents and workers regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status or economic status. The CLCR has filed a number of lawsuits to prevent abuse of tenants, uphold Oakland's Minimum Wage Ordinance and protect the rights of Oaklanders.   

In one case, we joined a coalition of civil rights organizations and attorneys in suing the owners of a Single Room Occupancy ("SRO") building in Oakland's Chinatown. The lawsuit alleges that the owners have made living conditions unbearable in an effort to force tenants out, renovate the building and make way for higher rents. The owners (1) demolished kitchens and bathrooms, gutting them and rendering them unusable for months, (2) confiscated and discarded tenants' property, and (3) generally harassed tenants to get them to leave. We are pleased to report that the court ordered the owners to fix the facilities at the property and remove surveillance cameras that violated the residents' privacy rights.

The CLCR also recently secured a court order against the owners of a 30-unit apartment building in the Fruitvale neighborhood. The court ordered the owners to fix longstanding problems including lack of heat, missing smoke detectors, bedbug and cockroach infestations, faulty electrical wiring and other major issues and set a deadline for compliance.

We are prioritizing litigation and other strategies to accomplish our mission. I invite you to check out the CLCR's website for more information about my vision for the CLCR and to contact our attorneys who are working on civil and human rights issues in Oakland.
City Attorney's Annual Report for FY 2015-16

Every year since the beginning of this century, the City Attorney's Office has published an Annual Report to show Oakland residents, businesses and taxpayers the services we provide on their behalf.

This report details litigation trends, financial results and special projects and initiatives my Office undertook during the last fiscal year. The report also provides comprehensive information about the work of each division and unit in the City Attorney's Office.

Highlights of the most recent report include:
  • The cost of outside counsel continues to be significantly less than the highest amount in FY 2012-13, the year before the City Council began to restore some of the attorneys and support staff who were laid off due to budget cuts. (During the decade between 2003 and 2013, the City Attorney's Office lost 19 attorneys and 14 support staff - more than one third of the Office - due to budget cuts.)  This fiscal year's outside council costs were $4.31 million, more than 36% lower than the high of $6.83 million in FY 2012-13.
  • Payouts for claims and lawsuits that were filed against the City were $8.57 million, more than $1.5 million less than the prior year's total of $10.09 million.
  • During this year, the City Attorney's Office recovered $3.01 million for the City - money that was available to the City to help pay for vital services such as libraries, police and fire, road repair and parks.
  • Details about special projects and affirmative litigation, including our lawsuit against Wells Fargo for the bank's racially discriminatory mortgage lending practices against African American and Latino applicants.
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Upholds Law Banning Deceptive Abortion Ads 

On June 27th, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld San Francisco's ordinance which prohibits deceptive advertising by anti-abortion centers masquerading as health care facilities. Anti-abortion activists had challenged San Francisco's ordinance on First Amendment grounds.

Last year, I co-sponsored a similar ordinance for the City of Oakland with Vice Mayor Annie Campbell Washington. The City Council unanimously adopted the Oakland ordinance in July 2016.
The Court ruled that San Francisco's ordinance does not violate the First Amendment and is not preempted by California's false advertising statute.

In recent years, it has become common for anti-choice activists to establish facilities - often called crisis pregnancy centers or limited services pregnancy centers - that are advertised as reproductive health care clinics or objective health care counselors. Women who seek reproductive health care services are instead confronted with activists whose sole purpose is to delay and obstruct women's ability to exercise their constitutional right to abortion.

The Court's ruling is an important victory. The First Amendment does not allow false advertising or fraud. Businesses that mislead and defraud pregnant women have no right to operate and in fact have the potential to cause serious harm.

The City of Oakland understands that anti-abortion centers have a right to express their views. If they truly believe in their message, they should have no problem being honest about what they do and do not offer. However, we are committed to enforcing Oakland's ordinance, which prohibits anti-abortion clinics from making false or misleading statements that they offer abortions, emergency contraception, or referrals to abortion providers, and fines them if they do so.

City Attorney in the Community
Warriors Championship Celebration
On June 15, more than a million people overflowed the streets of downtown Oakland for the parade and celebration of the Golden State Warriors 2017 NBA championship.

In Oakland's inimitable style, the celebration was jubilant, passionate, positive and bursting with pride. The Warriors are Oakland's basketball team. Oakland has supported, defended and cheered the Warriors during the many years when the team struggled. The camaraderie among the players, the team spirit and the demonstration of the team's exquisite skills are hallmarks that resonate in our great City because we are such a unique, diverse, courageous and nurturing community. We are warriors. For my part, I haven't given up hope that our Warriors will remain in Oakland, their and our home. Heartfelt and well deserved congratulations to the players and the coaches and to Oakland!
Warriors parade

California Women Lawyers 4th Annual "Elect to Run" Event
On June 9, I served as a panelist at the California Women Lawyers "Elect to Run" event.  California Women Lawyers holds this event each year to educate and encourage women to run for public office.
The panel included Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski, who was first elected to the bench in 2010, Oakland City Councilmember-At Large Rebecca Kaplan, who was elected to the Council in 2008, and San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen, who was first elected in 2010.

Each of us spoke about our path to running for office and winning our current offices; we discussed whether we had been asked to run and shared our challenges and successes.

Our country and our world will be better off when more women are elected to office. Oakland stands out: 50% of the eight City Councilmembers are women, our Mayor is a woman and our City Auditor and City Attorney (yours truly) are women. But there are 21 female U.S. senators out of 100, and that is an all-time high. The percentage of women in the House of Representatives is slightly less. There are now 83 female members of the House, or about 19% of the membership. And the percentages plummet when we count women of color in the Congress. With our struggles to balance family, home and work and community activities, and our generally more collaborative approaches to problem solving, I believe our governing style and our values would shift many debates and policies.

Thank you to California Women Lawyers for a wonderful, informative and inspiring event.  

CA Women Lawyers Panel Photo: Fresno Deputy District Attorney Sabrina Ashjian, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Victoria Kolakowski, Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker, Oakland City Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, Panel Moderator and Superior Court Research Attorney Bentrish Satarzadeh.

Phone: (510) 238-3601

Email: info@oaklandcityattorney.org


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