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News from:
City Attorney Barbara J. Parker

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Oakland City Attorney announces major reorganization

New divisions reflect priorities for the Office, including filing litigation to protect and advance the rights and interests of all Oaklanders, and enhancing coordination of labor/employment advice and counsel to the Oakland Police Department and other City departments

OAKLAND, CA – City Attorney Barbara J. Parker today announced a major reorganization of the City Attorney’s Office to focus on priorities including affirmative litigation and other efforts to secure economic and social justice for Oakland residents.

Previously, the City Attorney’s Office had two divisions – the Advisory and Litigation divisions.

The reorganization adds two new divisions.

The Labor & Employment Division will advise the City on labor and employment matters with a special focus on advice and counsel to the Oakland Police Department. The division will include Departmental Counsel for the Oakland Police Department to enhance coordination of the Office’s handling of police matters, including police department policies and personnel/discipline cases. Special Counsel Ryan Richardson heads this division.

The Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division will include affirmative litigation, community lawyering, civil rights enforcement, code enforcement, general public safety and the Neighborhood Law Corps (“NLC”).  The NLC is an award-winning program that in recent years has focused on preventing illegal dumping, suing abusive landlords who violate the rights of Oakland tenants and shutting down hotels, massage parlors and other businesses that collude in human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors. In addition to the NLC, the division will include two units: a General Code Enforcement and Public Safety Unit and a Community Lawyering and Civil Rights Enforcement Unit that will focus on proactive lawsuits and other actions to protect and advance the rights and interests of Oakland residents with a goal of economic, environmental and social justice. Special Counsel Maria Bee heads the division.

“As City Attorney I continuously strive to improve our legal services to the City Departments and elected officials and our service to the people of Oakland,” City Attorney Parker said. “In keeping with my goal, I am committed to expanding and deepening our focus on affirmative litigation and other innovative actions to protect and advance the rights and interests of our community – for example our current lawsuit against Monsanto seeking damages related to PCB contamination in Oakland’s storm water and our lawsuit against Wells Fargo for racially and predatory mortgage lending practices against African American and Hispanic borrowers.”

“I also want to highlight the importance of labor and employment matters, including handling arbitrations, civil service and Public Employment Relations Board (“PERB”) hearings and providing advice and counsel regarding labor negotiations with a special focus on police discipline and OPD personnel matters,” Parker said. “The establishment of a new Labor & Employment Division that includes general counsel for the police department will enable us to enhance coordination and strengthen our work in this critical area.” 

In the decade between 2003 and 2013, the City Attorney’s Office lost more than one third of its staff to budget cuts. During that period, the City Council cut 19 attorneys and 14 support staff positions. In recent years, the Council restored some of those positions, allowing the Office to begin to rebuild our Labor & Employment practice and renew our focus on community impact litigation.   

“This is an exciting time for our Office,” Parker said. “We have one of the most highly skilled, dedicated and diverse public law practices in the state, and this reorganization helps us to continue to meet our own high standards for the services we provide.”

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