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Now a 3L student fast approaching graduation, Noah Engelhart of Keeseville, N.Y. is on the verge of fulfilling his longstanding dream of serving as a prosecutor.
“I can pinpoint the moment when I decided on going to law school and becoming a prosecutor,” reminiscences Engelhart. “It was in third grade, when our class put on a production of ‘The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf’ and I got to play the role of the prosecutor. I was only seven or eight years old when I won my first 'case,' but that was when I decided that I wanted to be a prosecutor when I grew up. I've been tailoring my education towards that goal ever since.”
Years after “The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf,” Engelhart participated in the Clinton County Youth Court Program — a tool of the criminal justice system, where first-time youth offenders with minor infractions of the law, like vandalism and petty theft, are diverted into a youth court system where they are tried by, and in front of, their peers.
“I got to be a prosecutor and an attorney, a judge and part of the jury,” Engelhart said. “It was a whole court system experience for middle-school students.”
Engelhart continued his education at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., where he received a dual major in Political Science and Philosophy with a minor in History. “I went into my undergraduate education planning on going to law school afterward, so I focused my studies in law and government with a definite interest in contemporary government, political theory, and political philosophy.”
"It was a very powerful moment when I got to introduce myself to the court as 'Noah Engelhart, for the People of the State of New York."
arrival at Albany Law, Engelhart had a clear vision of what he wanted out of law school and believes that this helped him navigate his way through life as a first-year student.
“It's definitely an interesting experience coming into law school as a 1L. It's a completely different style of learning than what you are typically accustomed to, and just getting through classes is a full-time job. It's kind of nice that you don't have much freedom to choose your own courses for that first year because there are just so many options available, and without a clear idea of what you are interested in, it can be overwhelming.”
Student organizations are a great way for first-year students to get involved on campus outside of work and internships. “I was involved with the Criminal Law Society my first year. They put on excellent networking events and had many guest speakers come through campus — there were federal judges and high-level state personnel as well as high-profile attorneys. One speaker that I remember distinctly was Terence Kindlon, the defense attorney on the Christopher Porco murder trial. He gave a talk on what it was like defending in the spotlight — it was a really interesting event.”
The summer following his 1L year, Engelhart interned at the New York Attorney General's office, where he had the opportunity to practice his legal research and writing, “which is great experience for a 1L,” laughed Engelhart. “Law school is a lot of research and writing!”
It all paid off in a huge way in the fall of his 2L year, when he did a clerkship for U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence Kahn. “I was putting together some top-notch examples of writing and I was tasked with writing a judicial decision on a social security disability appeal which went through many, many rounds of editing, but eventually was approved by Judge Kahn's clerks, as well as Judge Kahn himself. Ultimately my work did find its way into an officially published opinion from Judge Kahn and the Northern District of New York court, so it effectively did become law, and it is a published opinion on a general ruling in a particular case. It was really cool to see my work transformed into an actual judicial decision while I was working there.”
Another highlight of Engelhart's time here at Albany Law came in the spring of his 2L year, when he participated in the
Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic at the
Law Clinic & Justice Center. The clinic allows students the opportunity to learn from classroom simulations and then apply their skills hands-on during a part-time field placement. For the clinic, Engelhart worked under a student practice order at the Saratoga County District Attorney's Office in their domestic violence bureau.
“I got to prosecute my first case, granted it was just a traffic ticket, but I basically did it all myself. It was a very powerful moment when I got to introduce myself to the court as 'Noah Engelhart, for the People of the State of New York,’” he said. “It was a profound moment for me, and I left the court knowing that I was exactly where I was supposed to be and doing precisely what I was meant to do.”
This semester, Noah is working for the Albany County District Attorney's Office in the Albany City Court and is assigned to the Town of New Scotland Justice Court, where he is responsible for tasks similar to those that would be assigned to a newly hired assistant district attorney. He is also an executive editor for notes and comments for the Albany Law Review. He assists and mentors 2L students with their end-of-year paper, which needs to be publication worthy and is generally a yearlong process.
Engelhart has his sights set on being a prosecutor for the entirety of his career and has officially accepted an assistant district attorney position with the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, where he will start work in September 2016 after graduating and taking the bar exam.
“My longtime quest to become a prosecutor is finally complete!”