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Umeka "UA" Lewis
Civil Rights Attorney for
Harris County Attorney

Shaped by the values instilled by her union worker mother, Alice Marie Sanders Lewis, and a retired naval officer and military war veteran father, Cary Lewis, Umeka, a civil rights attorney has evolved into a dedicated advocate for the community. Umeka has consistently fought for community rights, expecting no rewards in return. She has an unwavering commitment to bettering the lives that her dad and other veterans fought for when they put on their uniforms each day. Umeka's efforts have led to multiple appearances before the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where they have argued against unconstitutional practices by the government and opposed qualified immunity an astonishing seven times in her career.

Umeka's work involves lifting the veil of government secrecy and ensuring public access to open records. They have tirelessly advocated for the release of body camera footage following critical incidents and the provision of autopsy reports to grieving families. This has allowed the public to stay informed about the actions of local governments, even those that the authorities might prefer to keep hidden.
​Umeka's commitment to public service is well documented. Upon witnessing people struggling in court due to procedural barriers, they volunteered to represent several tenants who were being illegally evicted. The experience led Umeka to become a fierce advocate for tenants' rights and against forced homelessness, making them one of the few private tenant rights attorneys outside of Legal Aid.

Umeka's first civil rights clients were the parents of Jesse Jacobs, a young man who tragically died in jail due to the denial of basic medical care. Since then, Umeka has fought tirelessly for the rights of many others, including Angela, a transgender woman who was victimized by her landlord, and another transgender woman who was forced to prove her gender to Harris County's pre-trial services.

Umeka fought with the Harris County County Attorney when she sued on her behalf. No man or woman should be forced to display their genitals during a pre-trial for urinalysis. It is demeaning and an illegal search and seizure, a violation of bodily integrity, resulting in severe emotional distress. Umeka has fought for the rights of individuals throughout the state from abuse by judges, officers, and those with power who chose to abuse it. 

The former and current Harris County Attorneys have won many of the fights against Harris County Citizens using their strongest weapons against the Constitution...qualified immunity. 

Qualified Immunity is an anti-constitutional doctrine. It is a judge-created basis to deny the guarantees of the Constitution and promises under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is used as an escape from liability when a government official violates a person's rights when there is no excuse for the violation.
​Despite the challenges, Umeka continues to fight against violations of constitutional rights, even in the face of a formidable weapon of qualified immunity.

​Umeka is committed to not silently tolerating the injustices faced by not only Black and Brown communities but also the disenfranchised, voiceless abused by those with unchecked power, poor and disabled.
Umeka refuses to uphold these injustices under the guise of a duty. She questions which duty holds more weight: the duty to the people who have entrusted her with their representation or the duty to a legal code that, as an attorney, she knows can be interpreted in a way that also protects the people without being violated, but not without the effort.

​Outside of her professional life, Umeka holds several cherished roles. She is a loving wife to Mr. Piccolo, an admiring mother to Meisha and Anna, and a doting grandmother to Gabriel and King. She is also a caring big sister, a supportive aunt, a beloved niece, and an admired cousin among her extensive family of more than 34 first cousins. Furthermore, she is a cherished friend to many, a member of her beloved St. Stephens Church, and a faithful visitor to many other churches when possible. She has worked as a special education advocate and instructor, as a communications worker, and CWA union member, as well as in the banking industry.

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Umeka's Story

Although not a native of Harris County, Umeka is deeply rooted in this community. Her parents first met in Houston after Umeka's mother, Alice Sanders Lewis, relocated from East Texas. Umeka's mother had a respected job at Methodist Hospital, working for Dr. Debakey. Umeka's father, Cary Lewis, on the other hand, was brought up in Fifth Ward, Texas, by way of Kilgore and Lufkin, Texas, and at the age of 16, he decided to follow in his father, J.C. Lewis, and three of siblings' footsteps by joining the military, where he rose up the ranks and retired as a naval officer two years before he died at the age of 41. Umeka's parents built and raised their family in California, but something drew her back to Houston. It was the people and the opportunity for the then-single mother. Her paternal grandparents instilled Christian values in their 15 children and 21 grandchildren, with an emphasis on the Golden Rule.  

Her grandmother, aunts, uncles, and cousins welcomed her to Houston with open arms and their support allowed her to earn her bachelor's degree from Texas Southern University and return to receive her J.D. law degree from Thurgood Marshall School of Law at TSU in 2010 to start a second career as a lawyer. She met her husband, Normon Piccolo, a Third Ward native, after graduating from TSU, and has enjoyed life as a mother to Meisha and Anna (bonus), and as a young grandmother to her two grandchildren, Gabe and King, big sister, "auntie", and godmother to Cevina.

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