Oakland, CA – On Thursday, January 23rd, the Alameda County Bar Association (“ACBA”) honored Chief Assistant City Attorney Maria Bee with the Government Attorney Distinguished Service Award.
The ACBA selected Maria Bee as the recipient of this year’s award for her volunteer service and her work as the head of the affirmative and defense litigation divisions of the Oakland City Attorney’s Office.
Maria Bee has more than 25 years of experience practicing law. Throughout her career, she has fought to protect the rights of and secure justice for vulnerable populations.
Maria Bee’s superb judgment and imperturbability under pressure make her an exemplary attorney and a consummate public servant,” City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said. “Thank you to the ACBA for recognizing Ms. Bee for her distinguished service in the City of Oakland and her long history volunteer service.”
At the awards ceremony on Thursday, Ms. Bee thanked the ACBA and the City Attorney team.
“This award is a testament to the skill and creativity of my colleagues,” Bee said. “I am so proud of the work we are doing and will continue to do on behalf of the residents of our city.”
This is Ms. Bee’s second tour of duty in the City Attorney’s Office. Ms. Bee joined the Office in 2000 as a Deputy City Attorney prosecuting civil hate crimes lawsuits and handling various litigation matters including dangerous conditions of public property, breach of contract and alleged constitutional violations. She also handled high profile jury trials including a wrongful death case and a six-week trial in Bari v. City of Oakland, a Fourth Amendment lawsuit that two environmental activists filed against the City challenging their arrests after a bomb exploded in the car they were driving through Oakland.
In 2006, Ms. Bee left the Office to serve as Chief of the Victim Services Division and a member of the executive management team of then San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris. Prior to her first tour of duty in the City Attorney’s Office, Ms. Bee also served as an Assistant District Attorney in the SF District Attorney’s Office, where she tried twenty misdemeanor and felony jury trials and prosecuted a wide range of crimes, including hate crimes, robberies and felony assaults, and one case in which several protestors hit Mayor Willie Brown in the face with pies.
In 2014, Ms. Bee returned to the City Attorney’s Office as a Supervising Attorney in the Litigation Division. In 2016, the City Attorney appointed her to lead the newly established Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division, which focuses on social, racial, economic and environmental justice for Oakland residents and the people of California.
In 2018, City Attorney Parker appointed Ms. Bee to oversee affirmative and defense litigation for the City Attorney’s Office, including the Affirmative Litigation, Innovation & Enforcement Division and the General & Complex Litigation Division (Defense).
Under Ms. Bee’s supervision, the Affirmative Litigation Division has prosecuted a number of major cases, including but not limited to Oakland’s climate change lawsuit against the five largest publicly owned fossil fuel companies in the world, Oakland’s lawsuit against Monsanto chemical corporation seeking damages for the company’s pollution of Oakland storm water with toxic PCBs, and Oakland’s lawsuit against Wells Fargo Bank for racially discriminatory and predatory mortgage lending practices against African American and Hispanic borrowers. The Division, which includes the City Attorney’s award-winning Neighborhood Law Corps program, also has prioritized litigation and legislation to protect tenants from predatory landlords and to shut down massage parlors that are fronts for sex trafficking.
Ms. Bee’s distinguished service includes her work as Chairperson of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Lawyer Referral Service committee and as former Chairperson of the Board of Directors of La Casa de Las Madres, an advocacy program for survivors of domestic violence. Ms. Bee is a native Oaklander who graduated from Skyline High School. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in French History from the University of California, Berkeley and graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law.
In 2018, the ACBA awarded the Oakland City Attorney’s Office the Distinguished Service Award for Law Firm of the Year. And last year, the ACBA gave the Government Attorney Distinguished Service Award to former Supervising Deputy City Attorney Colin Bowen, who was appointed as Alameda County Superior Court Judge in December 2018.