By Jueseppi B.
I knew about Ms. Kamala Devi Harris & her brilliant career, and now I will introduce those of you who didn’t know about her, to Ms. Kamala Devi Harris.
Twenty-first in The “One A Day” Black History Month Series: Ms. Kamala Devi Harris.
Kamala Devi Harris (born October 20, 1964) is an American attorney. She is the 32nd and current Attorney General of California following the 2010 California state elections. Harris has worked as an author and a politician and has served as District Attorney of San Francisco since 2004. First elected in 2003, defeating incumbent district attorney Terence Hallinan, she was re-elected in 2007. Harris is the first female, African-American, and Asian American attorney general in California and the first Tamil American attorney general in the United States.
That is a lot of first.
Harris was born in Oakland, California. She is the daughter of a Tamil mother, Dr. Shyamala Gopalan – a breast cancer specialist who immigrated to the United States from Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India in 1960– and a Jamaican American father, Stanford University economics professor Donald Harris. She has one younger sister, Maya Harris. While the Harris sisters grew up in a household that blended Hindu and Baptist teachings, she is currently a practicing Baptist.
Harris attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she was initiated into Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and received her Juris Doctor (JD) from University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1989.
Harris served as Deputy District Attorney in Alameda County, California, from 1990 to 1998. She then became Managing Attorney of the Career Criminal Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. In 2000, San Francisco City Attorney Louise Renne recruited Harris to join her office, where she was Chief of the Community and Neighborhood Division, which oversees civil code enforcement matters. Recognized by The Los Angeles Daily Journal as one of the top 100 lawyers in California, Harris serves on the board of the California District Attorney’s Association and is Vice President of the National District Attorneys Association.
In 2003 Harris was elected District Attorney of San Francisco by defeating two term incumbent Terence Hallinan and was reelected when she ran unopposed in 2007.
She was called a front-runner in her campaign being nominated to be California Attorney General in 2010, and on June 8, 2010, she received the Democratic nomination for California Attorney General.
In 2009, Harris wrote Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer. Harris looks at criminal justice from an economic perspective, attempting to reduce temptation and access for criminals. The book goes through a series of “myths” surrounding the criminal justice system, and presents proposals to reduce and prevent crime.
She has been outspoken on the need for innovation in public safety, particularly with respect to reducing the recidivism rate in San Francisco. One such program, “Back on Track” was signed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger as a model program for the state. Initially, there were issues with removing illegal immigrants from the program, including an incident involving Alexander Izaguirre, who was later arrested for assault. However, before the program was named a state model by Governor Schwarzenegger, it was revised to address this concern.
On November 12, 2008, Harris announced her candidacy for California Attorney General. She was immediately seen as the front runner and was endorsed by such prominent Californians as Senator Dianne Feinstein and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. In the Democratic Party primary she faced Chris Kelly, former Chief Privacy Officer of Facebook; Assemblyman Alberto Torrico; Assemblyman and former military prosecutor Ted Lieu; Assemblyman Pedro Nava; Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles; and Mike Schmier.
In the June 8, 2010, primary, she was nominated with 33.6% of the vote and her closest competitors, Torrico and Kelly, had 15.6% and 15.5% respectively. In the general election, she faced Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley. On election night, November 2, 2010, Cooley prematurely declared victory, but many ballots remained uncounted.
On November 24, as the count advanced, Harris was leading by more than 55,000 votes, and Cooley conceded. On January 3, 2011, Harris became the first woman, African-American, and Asian American attorney general in California and the first Indian American attorney general in the United States.
Harris is opposed to the death penalty but has said that she would review each case individually.
As San Francisco District Attorney, Harris has raised the overall felony conviction rate from 52% in 2003 to 67% in 2006, the highest in a decade, secured an 85% conviction rate for homicides, and increased convictions of drug dealers from 56% in 2003 to 74% in 2006.
Harris created a special Hate Crimes Unit as San Francisco District Attorney. She focused on hate crimes against LGBT children and teens in schools. She convened a national conference to confront the “gay-transgender panic defense”, which has been used to justify violent hate crimes. Harris supports same-sex marriage in California and opposed both Proposition 22 and Proposition 8.
In interviews with Matt Lauer on The Today Show and local KGO-TV, Harris argued for treating “habitual and chronic truancy” among children in elementary school as a crime committed by the parents of truant children. She argues that there is a direct connection between habitual truancy in elementary school and crime later in life. She has received the endorsement of the California Federation of Teachers.
During her time as San Francisco District Attorney, Harris created the Environmental Justice Unit in the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office and has prosecuted several industries and individuals for pollution, most notably U-Haul, Alameda Publishing Corporation, and the Cosco Busan oil spill. She has also advocated for strong enforcement of environmental protection laws.
Harris has prosecuted numerous financial crimes throughout her career, particularly those affecting elders, those involving use of high-technology, and identity theft. She has indicated that as attorney general she would crack down on predatory lending and other financial crimes.
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Attorney General of California
Father: Donald Harris (Stanford economist)
Mother: Shyamala Gopalan Harris (breast cancer researcher)
Sister: Maya Lakshmi Harris (attorney)
Boyfriend: Willie Brown (Mayor of San Francisco, ex-)
Boyfriend: Phil Bronstein (San Francisco Chronicle editor, together 2004)
Attorney General of California (2011-)
California State Official District Attorney, San Francisco (2003-11)
California State Official Deputy City Attorney, San Francisco (2000-03)
California State Official San Francisco DA’s Office, Career Criminal Unit Mgr (1998-2000)
California State Official Deputy District Attorney, Alameda (1990-98)
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
Aspen Institute Fellow
California District Attorneys Association
Democratic National Committee
John Kerry for President
Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Co-Chair
Leakey Foundation Advisor to the Board of Trustees
National District Attorneys Association Board of Directors
Obama for America
San Francisco Foundation Community Leadership Awards Committee
San Francisco Bar Association Board of Directors
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Children’s mentor
Campaign Finance Violation
Wedding: Jerry Brown and Anne Gust (2005)
Jamaican Ancestry Paternal
Tamil Ancestry Maternal
Author of books:
Smart on Crime: A Career Prosecutor’s Plan to Make Us Safer (2009, non-fiction)
Next in the “One A Day” Black History Month Series……Ms. Maya Angelou.