New public defender, Noel Waters, is former DA | NevadaAppeal.com
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New public defender, Noel Waters, is former DA

by F.T. Norton
ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com

Carson City’s newest public defender is one of the city’s longest serving criminal attorneys.

Former District Attorney Noel Waters joined the State Public Defender’s Office as chief trial deputy in September.

After 25 years as a prosecutor, the irony is not lost on this jurist.

“We’re not on the side of the angels, so to speak,” he said Thursday in typical Waters fashion – straight and to the point.

A 1966 graduate of Carson High School, Waters’ path into the courtroom came by way of a stint in the Air Force, service in Korea, gaining degrees in journalism and political science, work as a federal firefighter and as a highway patrol dispatcher.

He began law school in his 30s and his first job was as a deputy district attorney with Carson City.

In 1985, after then-DA Bill Maddox was named Nevada’s U.S. Attorney, Waters was appointed district attorney. He was re-elected five times before launching an unsuccessful bid for district court judge in 2007.

He tried his hand at private practice, joining Lionel Sawyer & Collins, one of Nevada’s largest civil law firms, where he was the firm’s principal representative in the Carson City office practicing mainly general business law matters and civil litigation. But criminal law was his first love.

When the position opened at the Public Defender’s Office, Waters, 61, jumped at the chance to get back into the courtroom.

“This is a different aspect of law,” he said. “My previous experience is really handy because I do understand the system.”

The biggest change, he said, is that as a prosecutor his client was the state of Nevada. Now, his clients are individuals who need someone on their side.

His knowledge of the other side gives him a unique insight into the way prosecutors think.

“Really it’s all a system that works together,” he said. “I’ve been around for a quite a while. I’m enjoying it.”