John Burris

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For the politician, see John Burris (politician).
John Burris
Born (1945-05-08) May 8, 1945 (age 71)
Vallejo, CA
Education University of California, Berkeley (B.A., J.D)
Occupation Attorney
Spouse(s) Cheryl Amana-Burris

John Leonard Burris (born May 8, 1945)[1][2] is an American civil rights attorney, based in Oakland, California, known for his work in police brutality cases representing plaintiffs. The John Burris law firm practices employment, criminal defense, DUI, personal injury, and landlord tenant law.

He briefly represented Rodney King in his suit against the Los Angeles Police Department[3] and is most recently noted for filing a civil suit over the BART Police shooting of Oscar Grant.[4] Burris also represented controversial basketball star Latrell Sprewell. Burris has appeared as a legal commentator on MSNBC, CNN, and other cable and local television networks.[1][5]

Early life and education[edit]

Burris was born in May 1945 in Vallejo, California. He graduated from Vallejo High School in 1963.[6][7] He attended Solano Community College in the mid-1960s and later earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from Golden Gate University.[6] Burris graduated from UC Berkeley School of Law in 1973 as a juris doctor, worked for the Chicago law firm Jenner & Block out of law school, and became a member of the California bar in 1976.[1][8]


Burris's work in police brutality cases began in 1979 when he was an investigator in the district attorney's office working on the case of the killing of 14-year-old Melvin Black.[9] Burris's 1999 book, Blue vs. Black, is about the problem of police brutality against African-Americans.

Burris "has earned millions of dollars" in filing hundreds of police brutality and high-profile lawsuits, including a $3.8 million verdict for Rodney King and a $42,000 settlement in a suit brought on behalf of Tupac Shakur.[4] He won a number of large settlements against the city of Oakland, California, including the city's largest settlement, $10.9 million for planting evidence in the "Oakland Riders" case.[4]

In re Brandon T.[edit]

In 1996, Burris defended pro bono Brandon T., a six-year-old Richmond, California boy accused of and prosecuted for attempted murder of an infant, in a crime that made national news.[10][11]

Legal troubles[edit]

Burris's license to practice law was suspended for disciplinary reasons for thirty days in 1996.[4][12]

In 1996, Rodney King sued Burris and two other attorneys, accusing them of trying to defraud King out of his rightful share of recovery from a multimillion-dollar jury verdict against Los Angeles; a court ruled that King's suit was not brought within the statute of limitations.[3]

In 2005, Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker fined Burris $10,800 for filing a meritless lawsuit without adequately investigating the claims of his clients, but the State Bar of California took no disciplinary action in response to the Judge's referral.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Burris has been married three times and lives in Oakland Hills, Oakland, California. As of 2008, Burris has fathered five children.[7][13] He is married to Cheryl Amana-Burris, his third wife, a law professor at North Carolina Central University.[9][13]


External links[edit]