How can a former juvenile delinquent foster kid graduate from Yale University and become a successful civil rights attorney?
Pamela Y. Price graduated from Yale University with a B.A. in Political Science in 1978. She came to California where she attended Boalt Hall School of Law and received her J.D. and an M.A. degree in Jurisprudence & Social Policy in 1982. She was admitted to practice law in California in 1983. She is a survivor of the Ohio juvenile justice and foster care systems, and was emancipated at age 16.
Title IX Pioneer – Alexander v. Yale
In 1977, Price joined the landmark case of Alexander (Price) v. Yale, 459 F.Supp. 1 (D.Conn. 1979), 631 F.2d 178 (2nd Cir. 1980), the first case to challenge sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination in education. The Court’s dismissed all five other plaintiffs and Price was the only plaintiff to proceed to trial in January 1979, in the U.S. District Court in New Haven, Connecticut. In June 1979, the Court rendered a verdict in favor of Yale. In September 1980, the Second Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision in favor of Yale. Nonetheless, the case established that sexual harassment in education constitutes illegal sex discrimination. In 2012, in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Title IX, Price and her co-plaintiffs in Alexander were acknowledged by the National American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) as one of Nine Most Influential Actors in Title IX’s History (“the Nine”).
Alexander remained the only federal case on the books to challenge sexual harassment in education until 1993. In 1992, as lead counsel for plaintiffs in Patricia H. v. Berkeley Unified School District, et al., 830 F.Supp 1288 (N.D. Cal. 1993), Price mounted a second legal challenge to sexual harassment in education. On July 21, 1993, in the first decision to squarely address the issue, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, per Hon. Judge William H. Orrick, ruled that Title IX also prohibits a sexually hostile educational environment. In August 1994, the case settled for $800,000, with a total value of the structured settlement to the minor plaintiffs of $1.8 million.
Sexual Harassment Cases
Price established her own civil litigation practice in June 1991. Since 1991, Price has specialized in racial and sexual harassment cases. In 1993, Price tried a sexual harassment case against the California Department of Corrections, representing a female correctional Sergeant, who worked at San Quentin for sixteen (16) years. After a six (6) week court trial, the judge ruled that Price’s client had been sexually harassed by two of her supervisors and awarded compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $1.3 million. The case was the largest verdict for sexual harassment ever against the CDC at that time. In 1999, Price obtained the largest settlement for a sexual harassment case ever against the City of Oakland for $825,000 on behalf of a young female employee identified only as Alice A. In February 2001, Price settled a second sexual harassment case against the City of Oakland for $750,000 on behalf of a minor victim identified only as Tonsa B.
In December 1999, Price won the largest sexual harassment verdict ever recorded in the County of Amador for approximately $629,000, on behalf of another female correctional officer in the case of Pesce v. CDC. In April 2003, Price won another $600,000 verdict for sexual harassment on behalf of another female correctional officer, including punitive damages against the Warden and two Associate Wardens of Pelican Bay State Prison in the case of Freitag v. CDC. As a result of the Judgment in Freitag, CDC implemented a groundbreaking statewide policy to address sexual harassment of female officers by inmates. In November 2007, in Underwood v. CDC, a Solano County jury awarded $1,025,684 to Price’s client in another sexual harassment case against the CDC. In June 2015, a Fresno jury awarded $565,000 to Price’s client in a sexual harassment case against CDCR in the case of Sanchez v. CDCR.
Racial Harassment – Morgan v. Amtrak
Price made legal history in Morgan v. Amtrak, 232 F.3d 1008 (9th Cir. 2000), 536 U.S. 101, 112 S.Ct. 1516 (2002), by winning the appeal of a defense verdict first in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal and then successfully arguing her case in the U.S. Supreme Court. For her groundbreaking efforts in Morgan, Price was named the 2002 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year in Employment (CLAY Award). In May 2004, Price won a $500,000 verdict on behalf of Abner Morgan after a ten (10) year battle against Amtrak.
Price also made legal history with precedent-setting decisions in Jones v. K-Mart, et al. (1998) 17 Cal.4th 3298, Nicole M. v. Martinez Unified School District (N.D.Cal. 1997) 964 F.Supp. 1369 and Freitag v. Ayers, 468 F.3d 528 (9th Cir. 2006), cert. denied, 549 U.S. 1323, 127 S.Ct. 1918 (2007).
Small Business Entrepeneur
In May 1999, Price established the Ida B. Wells Holding Company and purchased her own office building in downtown Oakland. She has since purchased and sold a second office building in the heart of downtown Oakland, one of only a handful of women business owners to reach that milestone.
Civil Rights Leader
In 2007, Price served as the Interim Executive Director for the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco. She went on to serve two volunteer terms as the Co-Chair of the Board of Directors, and as the paid Director of Special Projects where her primary responsibilities included analysis of racial justice issues and discrimination cases, education equity issues, juvenile justice advocacy, development support and fundraising initiatives.
From 2014 to 2016, Price served as the appointed Political Education Co-Chair of the Richmond/Contra Costa Chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA). In 2014, she ran an inspiring campaign for Assembly District 15. In 2016, she was elected to a seat on the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee by a landslide over sixteen (16) other candidates.
Awards & Honors
- 2004 – 2019 San Francisco Magazine Northern California Super Lawyer
- 2018 African American Policy Forum Pauli Murray Trailblazer Award
- 2017 Assembly District 18 Woman of the Year
- 2016 National Lawyers Guild (S.F. Bay Area Chapter) Champion of Justice
- 2015 BWOPA/TILE (Richmond-Contra Costa) Ella Hill Hutch Honoree
- 2012 NAACP (Hayward-South Alameda Chapter) Annual Service Award
- 2012 National ACLU Nine Most Influential Actors in Title IX’s History
- 2011 National Bar Association’s Heman Marion Sweatt Award
- 2010 CAERP Arthur A. Fletcher Award of Achievement
- 2010 S.F. Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, 2009 Living The Dream Award
- 2005 Gamma Phi Delta Sorority Community Service Award-Excellence in Law
- 2004 San Francisco Magazine Northern California Super Lawyer Top 50 List
- 2003 CAERP Founders Award of Achievement
- 2003 Flyaway Productions’ Ten Women Campaign Award
- 2002 CABL’s 2002 Nominee for the ABA’s Margaret Brent Award
- 2002 California Lawyer Attorney of the Year in Employment (CLAY Award)
- 1993, 2001 Charles Houston Bar Association’s Clinton W. White Advocacy Award
- 1992 Conn. Women’s Education & Legal Fund Maria Miller Stewart Award
- 1980 BALSA George Benjamin Daniels Award for Community Service