Awards

Abigail Price-Williams wins the 2021 Claude Pepper Award

Abigail Price-Williams

Abigail Price-Williams served as Miami-Dade County Attorney from 2015 until her retirement in 2021, after 30 years of exemplary service to Miami-Dade County government. She holds the distinction of being both the first woman and first African-American to serve as County Attorney in the history of Miami-Dade County. Ms. Price-Williams previously served as First Assistant County Attorney from 2007-2015 and held the position of Acting County Attorney in 2007. Ms. Price-Williams also served as the lead attorney for the County's Aviation Department, as well as for the County's public hospital, Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Leading the County's law office is an extremely important and substantial responsibility, given the County's annual budget of $8.9 billion and wide-ranging responsibility for providing a combination of countywide services for over 2.8 million residents and municipal services for residents of the unincorporated area. Accordingly, Ms. Price-Williams oversaw 134 employees, including over 70 lawyers. Under her supervision, the County Attorney's Office (CAO) handled extensive litigation in state and federal courts and transactional matters in a multitude of substantive civil areas, including construction and commercial litigation; real estate and commercial transactions; appeals; employment and labor law; workers' compensation; environmental, land use and zoning law; eminent domain; transportation law; bankruptcy; municipal finance; taxation; health law; tort liability and medical malpractice. In addition, Ms. Price-Williams provided legal counsel to the 13-member Board of County Commissioners, the Mayor, the Property Appraiser, the Public Health Trust, 25 County departments and numerous County boards, agencies, and councils.

During her tenure, Ms. Price-Williams directly handled many legal matters, and her advice, direction, support, sound judgment and legal acumen were integral to successful efforts or outcomes in matters that she closely supervised, including:

  • Successfully defending the sale of County land to Miami Beckham United for an MLS soccer stadium at a nominal price
  • Successfully defending the County Commission's decision to reject a deficient and misleading ballot initiative with over 130,000 signatures that would have resulted in the imposition of a new campaign finance ordinance, if approved by the electorate
  • Successfully representing Miami-Dade County officials in the four-year Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of Miami Marlins stadium financing, which was closed without charges
  • Carefully navigating the legal issues related to the County's COVID-19 responses, including issues affecting users of public transportation and inmates in the County jails and reporting of deaths from the disease, in light of state directives

As with most governmental offices, responding or initiating litigation is only a part of the role of a government attorney. Ms. Price-Williams is particularly adept at helping elected officials achieve their policy goals through legislation — often striking a balance between difficult to near impossible circumstances. One such issue was a hallmark of her tenure. In 2005, as requested by the client, Ms. Price-Williams authored a controversial ordinance which prohibited convicted sexual offenders and predators from living within 2,500 feet of specified locations within Miami-Dade County. Ultimately, the ordinance survived legal challenges during her tenure as First Assistant and County Attorney. The Third District Court of Appeal upheld the legality of the ordinance on appeal defeating a claim that it was pre-empted or in conflict with a less restrictive state law regulating where sexual predators could reside or gather. Recently, the constitutionality of the ordinance was upheld in federal district court [4] and by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, defeating a claim that the law on its face violated the constitutional prohibition against ex post facto laws.

Ms. Price-Williams' brilliance as a lawyer and innate leadership capability are only exceeded by her exceptional character. In a public meeting on October 20, 2020, she was recognized by the County's Mayor and each County Commissioner, as well as the CAO. Described as “one of the finest people I know,” “an uncommon human being, who is passionate about helping everyone,” “smart, brave, valiant, fair, humble, tireless, incredible and professional,” “a mentor and a role model," “a defender of the most vulnerable,” “the finest lawyer that I know,” “persuasive” and a lawyer who “simplifies things and makes them easier to understand,” it is clear that Ms. Price-Williams' service to the County is praiseworthy and worthy or replication as a model of leadership for any law office or firm, including a governmental law office. She is, quite simply, beloved by County officials and staff, as well as CAO staff, and she has served the public faithfully. Certainly, there is no doubt that Ms. Price-Williams' character and accomplishments exemplify the highest ideals of government service and that she is a well-rounded lawyer, whose importance to Miami-Dade County is irrefutable.