Written By: Nicholas Marasco
Shortly after arriving at Syracuse University College of Law, Adam Katz realized that he wanted to become an Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA), and that he wanted to serve in upstate or central New York. He credits this entirely to the late Norman A. Mordue, himself a College of Law alumni and United States District Judge for the Northern District of New York, for whom Adam spent two years working as an intern while in law student. Judge Mordue, Adam says, had a profound impact on the direction of his career, on his decision to commit his own career to public service, and on his decision to make it a goal to settle down in upstate New York even though he grew up in Miami and didn’t purchase his first jacket until freshman year of college. It also helped that his now-wife, and former law school classmate, grew up in Albany.
Adam attended the University of Maryland to complete his bachelor’s degree in government and politics. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Maryland in 2001, and immediately continued his education at Syracuse. At the time he knew that he wanted to go to law school, but what first drew him to Syracuse was the master’s in public administration (MPA) offered through the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Desiring a career in public service, Maxwell made a lot of sense, but Adam quickly found out that Syracuse was one of a few places where he would be able to get both his MPA as well as his juris doctorate (JD) in three years. Adam jumped at the chance and enrolled at Syracuse as a joint degree student.
While at Syracuse, Adam was active in student government and served as class president for a year at the College of Law. He was also a senior editor of the Labor Lawyer Journal as well as an associate editor for the Syracuse Law Review, both of which he credits with helping him develop his editing skills and reinforcing the need to be detail-oriented. Adam wrote his law review note on issues surrounding the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, which was later published. Adam considers his note advisor, Professor Wiecek, to be one the most influential professors he had while at Syracuse.
A particularly memorable moment was when Professor Wiecck walked into the first day of his early-morning property class a few moments late. Adam remembers the professor apologizing very quietly, and asking for indulgence because he had just delivered a child on the side of the road. That day Adam learned that in addition to being a professor of law, Professor Wiecck was also a volunteer medic; highlighting a work ethic that Adam found very influential.
After graduating in 2004, Adam spent two years as a staff attorney for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York City. In this position he drafted bench memos and proposed orders for various judges, primarily involving criminal, civil, and agency appeals, with a focus on pro se matters. Following his time with the Second Circuit, Adam moved to Washington D.C. where he spent two years in private practice at McDermott Will & Emery. Following his time there, Adam transitioned back into public service as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, where he handled environmental litigation in both district and appellate courts nationwide. All the while, however, Adam kept his eye out for an opportunity to come back to upstate New York. In 2012 he did just that, becoming an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, in the Albany office, where he has been able to work on large-scale civil fraud investigations, mostly involving financial fraud against the federal government.
If Adam could give advice to his former self, it would be to take classes that teach him how to apply the law in practice. Since moving to Albany, he has taught as an adjunct professor at both Sage Colleges and Albany Law. From this teaching experience, Adam has gained an appreciation for the importance of a practitioner’s perspective in the classroom and the overarching need to ensure that students understand the real-world impact of abstract legal principles.
Adam notes that to be successful in the legal profession, preparation and hard work are critical. “Even if you are relatively junior, if you’re the most prepared lawyer in the room and the one who never says ‘no’ to an assignment, others will take notice,” Adam said.
In addition, Adam advises law students who hope to become AUSAs to do their best to develop a reputation of being hard working, ethical, and passionate about public service. When asked about his most proud moment in public service, Adam said it was when he was recognized by a non-profit last October with an award entitled the “Honest Abe Integrity and Government Award,” which is presented to one government official each year who has devoted their career to fighting fraud and promoting openness and cooperation in government. The recognition serves as both an affirmation for what he does on a daily basis and a carrying forth of the values which Judge Mordue imparted onto Adam while he was still in law school.