Barbara J. Parker is the elected City Attorney of Oakland, CA. She is the recipient of the 2015 Public Lawyer of the Year award from the State Bar of California.
In July 2011, the Oakland City Council appointed Parker to complete the term of the prior City Attorney, and in November 2012, Oakland voters overwhelmingly elected her to serve a full four-year term.
Voters elected Parker to a second four-year term in November 2016. She ran unopposed.
Parker is the first and only African American woman elected to citywide office in Oakland.
Parker is a native of Seattle, Washington, where her parents migrated to escape the brutalities of legalized oppression and sharecropping in the rural, segregated South. Family experiences during segregation, her parents’ fierce commitment to education and their struggles as union workers ignited Parker’s determination to strive for equal opportunity and equal rights for all.
Parker and her siblings are the first generation in her family’s history to go to college.
Parker earned an undergraduate degree in Economics from the University of Washington, and she was one of the very few African American women accepted at Harvard Law School in the early 1970s. She graduated from Harvard in 1975 determined to use the law as a tool to help underrepresented communities.
In an award‐winning legal career spanning almost 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 of the Oakland City Attorney’s Office and more than five years as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of California. As an Assistant US Attorney, she represented the United States in federal court litigation involving complex matters, including but not limited to medical malpractice, civil rights and breach of contract.
Parker also has worked in the private sector for several major law firms and corporations, including the law firm of Pillsbury Madison & Sutro (now Pillsbury Winthrop), Brobeck Phleger & Harrison, Kaiser Aluminum Chemical Corporation and Kaiser Hospitals.
In 2005, the State Bar Board of Governors selected Parker for an appointment to the prestigious State Judicial Council. The constitutional agency chaired by the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court oversees the California courts and is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial and accessible administration of justice.
Parker joined the City Attorney’s Office in mid-1991 as a line attorney, was promoted to head the Labor and Employment Unit in the Advisory Division, where she handled complex advisory and litigation matters for the City of Oakland. In 2000, Parker was promoted to serve as Chief Assistant City Attorney (second-in-command), a post she held for more than ten years.
As Oakland’s City Attorney, Parker has worked to improve public safety, to secure equal opportunity and justice for all Oaklanders, and to assure that City Hall operates in a transparent, honest and fair manner.
Work and initiatives as City Attorney:
Parker has worked to keep Oakland in the strongest possible legal standing, thereby saving millions of dollars for essential services like public safety, libraries and infrastructure.
She has been a strong advocate for transparency and good government at City Hall; she sponsored and co-authored a comprehensive government ethics law adopted by the City Council in 2015.
She shut down two Oakland hotels that were centers for prostitution and the sexual exploitation of minors; in 2015 she filed lawsuits against two other motels that have been epicenters of crime and violence in East Oakland.
She won a record $15 million judgment in a lawsuit against a fraudulent immigration consultant that preyed upon Oakland families.
She launched an initiative to crack down on illegal dumping, which has resulted in thousands of dollars in fines against people who dump their trash on Oakland streets.
She has forced slumlords to improve inhumane and unsafe living conditions at Oakland rental properties.
She has taken the federal government to court to uphold Oakland’s right to regulate and license medical cannabis.
And she has filed lawsuits to hold big banks and financial institutions accountable for violating antitrust laws and mortgage lending violations, and recovered hundreds of thousands of dollars from companies like GE Funding Capital Market Services and Wachovia.
In 2015, Parker sued the giant chemical company Monsanto to hold it accountable for years of contamination of Oakland's storm water system and the San Francisco Bay.
Also in 2015, Parker filed a federal lawsuit against Wells Fargo to recover damages caused by predatory and discriminatory mortgage lending practices by the bank against African American and Latino borrowers.
In 2016, Parker co-sponsored a gun safety ordinance to reduce theft of firearms from vehicles. The law makes it a crime to leave firearms, magazines or ammunition unsecured in unattended vehicles on city streets and in other public places.
Parker co-sponsored an ordinance adopted in 2016 that prevents anti-abortion organizations from misrepresenting themselves as medical professionals or unbiased health care counselors.
The California State Bar, which licenses California attorneys and oversees the practice of law in California, recognized Parker as California’s 2015 Public Lawyer of the Year for her work on behalf of the community and her dedication to public service. The award recognizes exceptional attorneys who have dedicated a significant portion of their careers to public service and is named in honor of former California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George.
In 2016, Parker received the Woman Lawyer of Distinction Award from the Women Lawyers of Alameda County and was named a 2016 California Champion of Choice by NARAL Pro-Choice California.
In addition, Parker has received the the Ella Hill Hutch Statewide Award from Black Women Organized for Political Action (2013), the Distinguished Public Service Award from the International Municipal Lawyers Association (2013) and the Susan B. Anthony Woman of the Year Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus Alameda North Chapter (2013). In 2012, the California Diversity Counsel named Parker one of the “Most Powerful and Influential Women of California.”
Parker served as Board President of the Black Adoption Placement and Research Center, which for more than 30 years found permanent homes for children, the majority of whom were in California’s foster care system. She is co‐President of Sankofa Holistic Healing Institute, which supports holistic health and healing for cancer and depression patients. She is a member of the Charles Houston and Alameda County Bar Associations, the Berkeley‐Bay Area Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., the League of Women Voters, the National Women’s Political Caucus, Black Women Organized for Political Action and the Black Women Lawyers Association. She also served as a mentor for the East Bay College Fund which mentors college students who are the first in their families to attend college.
Parker is the proud parent of daughter Savannah Parker, a 2012 graduate of Spelman College, and the proud grandparent of Samuel Koda Clement, born in 2011. Parker resides in Oakland’s Haddon Hill neighborhood near Lake Merritt. She has lived in Oakland for more than 30 years.