October 2015 Volume 15, Issue 6
Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker 
News from the Oakland City Attorney's Office
In This Issue
About Us
Join Our Mailing List
In our monthly newsletter, we provide important information about the work of the Oakland City Attorney's Office, plus updates on legal issues and matters that impact Oakland residents and businesses.
This issue: Oakland pursues case against the federal government to defend the City's right to regulate and license medical marijuana; Oakland recovers money from JPMorgan in antitrust case; California Supreme Court Chief Justice presents State Bar Public Lawyer of the Year Award to the City Attorney; and as always, City Attorney in the Community.

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
Like us on FacebookFollow us on Twitter
Oakland Pursues Case against Federal Government to Uphold City's Right to Regulate Medical Cannabis

In October 2012, I filed a complaint in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General to stop the federal government's attempts to seize a building that one of Oakland's permitted medical cannabis dispensaries rents.

At the time, the federal government was aggressively cracking down on medical cannabis in Oakland and elsewhere, despite assurances by federal officials that the government would not pursue licensed dispensaries that are in compliance with state law. Just a few months earlier, agents from the IRS and other agencies had raided Oaksterdam University, one of the pioneers of the medical cannabis industry in Oakland, an action that ultimately devastated the business.

A lot has changed since in the three years since Oakland challenged the U.S. Attorney's forfeiture action, which asks the Court to seize the building in which Harborside Health Center operates its dispensary under California law and Oakland's strict licensing regulations.

Recreational marijuana is now legal in a number of states. Congress's 2015 Appropriations Act prohibits the Department of Justice from expending funds in connection with the enforcement of any law that interferes with California's ability to implement its own state law that authorizes the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana. And in October, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer ruled that Congress's action prohibits federal law enforcement authorities from taking actions to shut down medical cannabis businesses that are complying with state law.

I wholeheartedly endorse Judge Breyer's decision. Although it is not clear how the decision will affect Oakland's case against the federal government or whether the government will appeal Judge Breyer's decision, it is a just and major legal victory for the countless patients who rely on this medicine.  

In our lawsuit, we advised the federal trial and appellate courts that Oakland relied on numerous assurances by federal officials, including statements by President Obama and the U.S. Department of Justice, that the government would not interfere with dispensaries complying with state law. The District Court ruled in 2013 that it had no jurisdiction over the City's complaint, despite the unique and serious harm to legitimate medical patients, Oakland taxpayers and the City's regulatory rights that would result from the federal government's action. 

However, the District Court granted the City's request to stay forfeiture proceedings as to Harborside and its sister dispensary in San Jose pending appeal. As a consequence of the litigation and the stay, these two dispensaries have remained open since the date the federal government filed its forfeiture complaint in July 2012.

In August, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's dismissal of Oakland's case. The Court of Appeals three-judge panel ruled that Oakland does have standing because the City would be injured by the closure of Harborside, but the City has no right to proceed under the forfeiture statute because we have no interest in the real property.
On October 5, we filed a Petition for Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc asking for a hearing before 11 of the judges on the Ninth Circuit bench. We also sent a letter to the Court apprising the appellate judges of Judge Breyer's recent decision.

On October 30, the Ninth Circuit denied our petition for rehearing. We are evaluating our options.

Whatever the ultimate outcome of our case, the federal government is fighting a losing battle. The war against marijuana has empowered psychopathic drug cartels south of the border, and it has fueled the massive expansion of incarceration of poor people and people of color in our country. But it has not stopped the widespread use medicinal cannabis by many Americans.

Given the evolution of the law and changes in public opinion and national politics on this issue, it is particularly disheartening that the U.S. Attorney's Office continues to focus so much of its attention and scare resources on denying patients with cancer or other conditions access to the legitimate benefits of medical marijuana.

The U.S. Attorney should heed the direction of Congress, President Obama's pronouncements and the will of California voters and end this pointless waste of law enforcement resources.

I want to again thank attorney Cedric Chao, senior partner at DLA Piper, for handling this case on a pro bono basis, i.e., at no cost to the City.

City of Oakland Has Recovered more than $1 Million from Financial Institutions in Municipal Derivatives Antitrust Litigation 

On October 20, the City Council approved a $200,000 settlement of antitrust litigation with JPMorgan. 

This settlement means that to date we have secured more than $1 million in settlements with big banks and financial companies in this case, and the litigation continues against other institutions.
Oakland and other government entities filed this class action against a number of banks and financial institutions for egregious antitrust violations. 

The defendants engaged in bid rigging and price fixing in the municipal derivatives industry. The banks' conspiracy gouged cities across the country, literally stealing millions of dollars -- money that the cities would not have paid under normal market conditions. 

In 2012, attorneys for the nationwide class settled with JPMorgan for $45 million, to be split among some 65,000 potential claimants. Oakland opted out of the class settlement, and continued to pursue individual negotiations with JPMorgan for a larger settlement. Those negotiations led to the $200,000 settlement approved by the Council -- nearly 300 times the $692 Oakland would have received under the nationwide class settlement.

Oakland previously has secured settlements with other defendants including but not limited to a $281,750 settlement with GE Funding Capital Market Services and its subsidiaries and a $200,000 settlement with Wachovia.

Collusion among these competitors is a clear and flagrant violation of federal and state antitrust laws, which prohibit any agreement by companies to fix prices and rig bids.
The settlement amounts that individual plaintiffs secured are not large considering these entities' earnings; however, the class settlement amounts are significant. And the lawsuit sends a message to these companies that Oakland and other municipalities will not tolerate predatory schemes, and we will invoke the legal remedies available to us to ensure these institutions are held accountable. 

More info  

City Attorney Accepts Public Lawyer of the Year Award 
On October 9, I was deeply honored to accept the Public Lawyer of the Year Award from the State Bar of California. I accepted the award during the State Bar's Annual Meeting in Anaheim on behalf of the attorneys and support staff of the Oakland City Attorney's Office, my late parents and all of the public lawyers of California. 

It was truly an honor and an inspiration to receive this award, and to be introduced by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cantil Sakauye (see photo). 
At the awards ceremony I had the opportunity to speak about my outlook on public law, which is the result of my parents' experiences, and my own experiences as a child, in segregated Arkansas and my hometown of Seattle.
I described the progress our country and the law have made in my lifetime, and emphasized how far we have to go to ensure equality, justice and a level playing field in our country and our legal system. A link to the full speech is included below.
Thanks again to the State Bar for this extraordinary recognition.     
City Attorney in the Community
City Council Honors Lives of Public Service of City Attorney Employees
On October 6, the City Council recognized the exemplary service of two retired members of the City Attorney's Office: former Chief Assistant City Attorney Randy Hall and former Legal Administrative Services Manager Yvonne Hudson-Harmon.

Randy retired in July 2014 after 29 years as an attorney and a leader in the City Attorney's Office. He started his career with the City in 1985 as a Senior Trial Attorney and worked his way up to become head of the Litigation Division. Over the last three decades he handled many of the most complex, challenging and high profile cases involving the City of Oakland, and he did so with the highest level of professionalism and skill. I have no doubt that his work has saved the City and the people of Oakland many millions of dollars.

Yvonne retired as head of operations for the City Attorney's Office in August of this year. She served the employees and citizens of Oakland for 10 years in this office and as a Human Resources Manager in the Office of Human Resources. Her 46-year career in municipal government began in 1969 when she joined the L.A. County Department of Hospitals as a stenographer. In her career as a public servant, Yvonne worked for the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland in departments of social services, libraries, employee relations and human resources, and always did so with distinction, expertise and the highest level of integrity.  

I congratulate my friends Randy and Yvonne on their retirements, and I salute them for their invaluable contributions. I will miss their knowledge, dedication and wise counsel.

From left to right: Janie Hall, former Chief Assistant City Attorney Randy Hall, City Attorney Barbara Parker, Sam Thompson, Special Counsel Maria Bee and Executive Assistant to the City Attorney Jamie Smith (photo from Oakland North)
From left to right (foreground): Paul Harmon, former Legal Administrative Services Manager Yvonne Hudson-Harmon, City Attorney Barbara Parker and Deputy City Attorney Celso Ortiz.

Phone: (510) 238-3601

Email: info@oaklandcityattorney.org


Like us on Facebook


Follow us on Twitter