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Oakland councilwoman seeks damages from city

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Oakland city councilwoman Desley Brooks is seeking monetary damages from the Oakland City Attorney’s Office over its defense of a lawsuit brought by former Black Panther Elaine Brown, who said Brooks assaulted her.

Brooks’ attorneys called the city attorney’s office “incompetent” and filed a claim that was then distributed to news outlets. The claim, typically the precursor to a lawsuit, seeks unspecified damages, not only for Brooks’ personal loss in the lawsuit but due to harm to her reputation and emotional distress.

The city agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle Brown’s suit last year. A jury had originally awarded Brown $3.75 million in compensatory damages plus $550,000 in punitive damages, but Judge Paul Herbert later reduced the award, calling it excessive.

The $2.2 million paid by the city included $1 million for Brown’s attorney, Charles Bonner. Separately Brooks had to pay $75,000.

Herbert also accused Brooks of lying during her testimony in the trial. Alex Katz, a spokesman for the Oakland City Attorney’s Office, today reiterated the accusation that Brooks was lying, saying that the judge ruled she had committed perjury.

Katz said:

“Frankly, we are very surprised to receive this claim from Desley Brooks given this office’s professional and diligent defense in this case … It is unfortunate that her claims are full of inaccuracies and falsehoods.”

Brown’s lawsuit stemmed from an incident in 2015, when she and Brooks got into an argument at the Everett & Jones BBQ restaurant downtown about Brown’s plan to build affordable housing on a lot in West Oakland.

The suit alleged that Brooks punched brown with two fists, sending her crashing backwards over a stack of folding chairs. Brown allegedly hit her head on a chair and suffered a rotator cuff injury that required surgery.

In her claim, Brooks alleges that Brown was drunk and had threatened her and then poked her several times in the chest before Brooks pushed her away, acting in self-defense.

Brooks also alleges that Brown had gone to her car to get a pipe to escalate the fight after Brooks pushed her.

Brooks alleges that the city attorney’s office did not introduce evidence of Brown’s drinking, evidence supporting her self-defense claim and did not adequately challenge the extent of Brown’s injuries.

Attorney Dan Siegel, who is representing Brooks, said in a statement:

“Our findings make the case that City Attorney Barbara Parker and her staff, through a pattern of negligence, poor preparation, and/or lack of competence, caused an unjustified award of significant money damages against the City of Oakland and grave harm to her reputation and emotional stress to Desley Brooks.”

The incident has been fodder for Brooks’ opponents in the upcoming election and the claim comes as ballots are being mailed out for the election on Nov. 6. Four challengers are seeking to unseat Brooks, who has represented District 6 since 2002.

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