Burnadette Norris-Weeks secures city attorney job again
The attorney who led the fight to reinstate Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes heads up the firm that Opa-locka has hired to defend it.
Burnadette Norris-Weeks represented Snipes when then-Gov. Rick Scott removed her from her post at the end of November. Norris-Weeks took Snipes’ case all the way to federal court.
A partner at Burnadette Norris-Weeks Professional Association, Opa-locka’s new legal counsel is more than familiar with the city.
The all-female team of Black attorneys is experienced in governmental relations law. The other attorneys include state Rep. Dotie Joseph, Michelle Austin Pamies and Lisa Crawford.
Norris-Weeks Professional Association represented the city a decade ago before calling it quits.
Although the commissioners had some concerns, they selected the firm at a special commission meeting on Monday, May 6.
“You ran out on us last time,” said Commissioner Alvin Burke. “It’s hot sometimes. Are you going to stay with us this time if you get selected?”
The question was addressed to Burnadette Norris-Weeks, the shareholder of the firm. She sat on the dais in 2008, for two years, before taking an exit out of the city.
“That was a very different dynamic at the time,” said Norris-Weeks, who said she liked the direction the city was going now. “And we are back now.”
As the city attorney, Norris-Weeks and her team will have to shuffle through the more than 40 pending cases against the city of Opa-locka. However, Norris-Weeks convinced the Commission that she was prepared. The commissioners voted five to one for her to be the city’s legal eagle with Sherlean Bass voting against.
Burnadette Norris-Weeks P.A. was chosen as the top firm out of two other finalists. The frontrunners were The Barrister Firm P.A. and Greenspoon Marder LLP. Joe Geller of Greenspoon Marder also previously served as Opa-locka’s city attorney.
Attorney Stephen Hunter Johnson, who served as Opa-locka’s legal consultant in the search, will negotiate with the newly hired firm and present terms and conditions of the retainer agreement to the Commission for approval. Burnadette Norris-Weeks was the lowest bidder in the process, according to Vice Mayor Chris Davis and Joseph Kelley.
Norris-Weeks comes with more than 23 years of experience in governmental relations. She said about 80 percent her practice is dedicated to representing governmental entities.
“When I was here as your city attorney before, I put in a lot of policies and procedures in that I think really aided the city at the time,” said Norris-Weeks, who is the firm’s partner.
Norris-Weeks said she started out in the field of municipal law in 1993. She has served as legal counsel for other Florida municipalities, and has represented the state Legislature and has represented the state attorney’s office in civil litigations.
Joseph practices civil litigation, employment, personal injury and commercial litigation and municipal law. She has also served as an interim city attorney for North Miami Beach.
Austin Pamies has also worked as an assistant city attorney for other Florida municipalities. Her practice includes corporate, commercial real estate and intellectual property transaction litigation.
Crawford was an assistant prosecutor in Cincinnati. She is an associate attorney at the firm.
Norris-Weeks said that they are ready to review the current regulations of the city and take on the caseload.
“We would be more than happy to dive into the policies and procedures,” she said. “We would be happy to work on some of the litigation you have pending. That’s what we do. I’m a litigator, and I am very successful at it.”