Dan Siegel is a small business owner and civil rights attorney whose lifetime of experiences makes him a strong leader.
He was born in the Bronx and attended Locust Valley High School on Long Island. Always a fighter and organizer, as a high school senior Dan led successful demonstrations against school budget cuts and spoke out for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam.
At Hamilton College, Siegel joined the Congress on Racial Equality and fought against employment discrimination in upstate New York. In 1965, he joined civil rights activists defying the Ku Klux Klan to register African American voters in the South. After graduating magna cum laude, he moved to Boston to work briefly as a newspaper reporter before moving to Berkeley to attend U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall School of Law in 1967.
Dan Siegel is a civil rights attorney, small business owner, civic leader, community activist, husband, and father.
Activism at U.C. Berkeley
While there, Siegel became a high profile leader at Berkeley, heading the Vietnam Moratorium and Campus Draft Opposition and organizing support for the Third World Strike. Students responded by electing him overwhelmingly as campus student body president.
In retaliation for his student activism, Governor Ronald Reagan and his administration blocked Siegel's admission to the California Bar but were overruled by the California Supreme Court in 1973.
In the meantime, he worked for the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County and the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Project in Southeast Asia, where he represented service members in military courts martial. When Siegel returned home he was appointed as the Executive Director of the Berkeley Rent Control Board.
Advancing Civil Rights Through Law
Siegel entered private practice in 1973. His storefront community law collective in the Fruitvale District specialized in employment discrimination, labor law, and civil rights litigation. While at the law collective, Siegel developed an extensive practice representing pipeline workers in Alaska, shipyard workers in San Diego, casino employees in Las Vegas, and farm, cannery, factory, and office workers throughout California.
In 1987, he joined the San Francisco City Attorney's Office as Chief of Complex Litigation. There, he led the effort to settle a 14-year-old employment discrimination case against the San Francisco Fire Department, negotiating a consent decree that guaranteed affirmative action in hiring and promotions for women and people of color.
A Lawyer for OUSD
Siegel's first legal job representing the people of Oakland came when he was hired as the General Counsel for the Oakland Unified School District. As General Counsel, Dan was responsible for supervising the district's legal, labor relations, and security departments, and for successfully defending the district in several high profile trials. During his tenure with Oakland Unified, Dan helped to create comprehensive safety plans at all Oakland schools, bringing together parents, teachers, students, staff, and community based organizations to create programs to deal with campus violence and student health issues.
Representing People in Civil Rights Cases
In 1993, Siegel resumed private practice. He and Anne Weills launched their college and university law practice when they represented Jenny Harrison in her successful suit against the University of California for sex discrimination in the denial of tenure in the Berkeley Mathematics Department.
Shortly thereafter, Siegel and Alan Yee established their law partnership where Dan Siegel practices today. As a small business owner, he currently employs 14 people in his Oakland City Center practice.
Siegel and Weills have developed a nationwide practice representing college and university faculty members, athletic coaches, and students, particularly in cases involving discrimination and sexual harassment. In 2007 Siegel won the two largest verdicts ever awarded in cases brought under Title IX, the law that forbids sex discrimination by colleges and universities and requires gender equity in intercollegiate athletic programs.
He has been named a California "Super Lawyer" and "Top Lawyer in California." In April 2014, Siegel and Weills were honored as "Champions of Justice" by the National Lawyers Guild in recognition for their decades of anti-discrimination work.
Dan Siegel: Civic Leader
Dan Siegel has long served in various official and non-official capacities in city government. Most recently, in November 2011, he resigned from his position as Mayor Jean Quan's legal advisor in protest of her use of police against Occupy Oakland.
But Siegel's civic leadership far pre-dates this episode – dating back nearly 25 years.
Reforming The Oakland Housing Authority
In 1991, Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris appointed Siegel to the board of the scandal-plagued Oakland Housing Authority. As Chair, he led efforts to resolve problems created by corrupt security officers and poor maintenance, and brought together OHA staff and residents to improve living conditions in over 11,000 housing units in the City. His leadership helped elevate the OHA to one of the most respected housing authorities in the country, leading to its receipt of over $90 million in federal funds for its innovative tenant and housing modernization programs.
Leading The Way On Community Policing
Recognizing Dan's contributions to the housing authority, Mayor Harris then appointed Siegel as Vice Chair of the City's Community Policing Task Force. He helped draft the City Ordinance that remains the blueprint for community policing in Oakland. He also successfully defended another city ordinance allowing sanctions against problem liquor stores in a suit brought by the alcoholic beverages industry.
Serving On Our School Board
Siegel served as an elected member of the Oakland School Board from 1999 to 2006. He led efforts to hire Superintendent Dennis Chaconas, to raise teacher pay, and to create new, small autonomous schools in the District. Siegel also led task forces that created the District's nationally acclaimed nutrition policy and a model for providing quality preschool programs for all Oakland children.
As a school board member, Siegel advocated that the District, City, and other local agencies explore ways in which they could pool resources to share the costs of services such as payroll or landscape maintenance. As mayor, Siegel will continue to seek ways to cut the City's administrative overhead to better serve Oakland's people.
Dan Siegel and his wife Anne Weills have lived in East Oakland since 1975. They have two sons (and two grandsons). Christopher Scheer is a teacher at Skyline High School. Michael Siegel, a former Oakland teacher, is a civil rights lawyer and heads Siegel & Yee's Austin office.