New Zealand Law Society - The American public defender practising at 100

The American public defender practising at 100

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Public defender Morton Katz, who fought in the Second World War, spent his 100th birthday in a Connecticut court.

The Hartford Courant reports that Mr Katz represented a criminal defendant unable to afford a lawyer. The newspaper says Mr Katz is likely to be the oldest serving public defender in the United States.

As a special public defender, attorneys are paid by the case by the state to represent destitute clients.

“I like what I’m doing and I think I’m doing a decent job. When I get up in the morning, I have that thought that somebody needs me, and that gets you to court. You feel good when you’re working,” the centenarian told the Courant.

Mr Katz says he is still involved in the law because he loves the profession, particularly sticking up for people unable to help themselves. He was a soldier fighting the Nazis in Europe, and on his return, was admitted as a lawyer specialising in protecting victims of scams and abuse, standing by veterans in need of a hand, and, since 1997, representing indigent criminal defendants.

To mark reaching 100 years, the state judicial branch honoured Mr Katz with a Lifetime of Public Service Award. Chief Justice Richard Robinson presented him with a certificate and a new straw boater hat.

It is believed that two other lawyers were still working at the age of 106.