Charles ‘Chuck’ Morton, Jr. steps away from successful career as Broward’s Chief Assistant State Attorney
Chucky, as he was known as a young man growing up in Broward County during the 1960’s, decided to forgo a career in education and pursue a career in law after having a “man to man” talk with his father, long time Broward educator officially stepped down as the Chief Assistant State Attorney for the 17th Judicial Circuit in Fort Lauderdale on June 28, 2013.
By Charles Moseley
From the early days of television many of us grew up watching the likes of television lawyers Perry Mason and Matlock. Both grew to become familiar names among television audiences. Folks have been fascinated by these larger than life legal characters. Those who actually practice law will attest that in reality actually being a part of the criminal law community is a tireless job with real consequences affecting real people. Only a select few individuals actually know what it’s like to be on the frontline in a courtroom battlefield. One segment of these special breed of lawyers is comprised of prosecuting attorneys. They spend each day representing society against individuals who have been charged with committing crimes against society.
The role of a prosecuting attorney not only impacts the lives of those accused of committing crimes but impacts the lives of those who are victimized by criminal acts. Charles “Chuck” Morton was one of those individuals who made a lifetime commitment in the service to society. As the Chief Assistant State Attorney in Broward County’s 17th Judicial Circuit, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Morton was responsible for bringing those charged with major crimes such as robbery, rape, and murder to justice.
Morton represents those special breed of lawyers who built quite a reputation among his peers for being one of South Florida’s top prosecuting attorneys. Several members of Broward’s legal community shared their thoughts regarding the role Chuck Morton has played as a pillar in society.
“I am sorry he retired. He was a tremendous asset to this office. He’s a terrific human being. I really enjoyed working with him. I think he had a tremendous impact on our community. He’s very conscientious. He was a very fine lawyer and more importantly he’s just a fine man,” said former boss Chief State Attorney Michael Satz.
“Chuck has been one of the smoothest and most effective prosecutors I have met in my 30 plus years. He consistently demonstrated his talent and skill as a fierce, but compassionate, homicide litigator. There have been countless serious criminals, especially homicide defendants, that were brought to justice by his hard work. Chuck deserves a rest and the privilege of hitting a few more golf balls. I wish him the best,” said criminal defense attorney Johnny L. McCray, Jr.
“Chuck is a “Lawyer’s Lawyer” and a consummate professional. Broward County and young attorneys, including myself, are truly indebted for his mentoring and leadership,” said State Representative Perry Thurston, who is also a practicing attorney.
Morton shared some of his experiences during his career in a recent interview with The Westside Gazette Newspaper.
Westside Gazette (W.G.): What was it like for you, a Black youth, growing up in Broward County during the 1960’s?
A: The 60’s held many challenges here in Broward County for a Black youth as I’m sure it did across the nation. Civil rights and equal opportunity were foremost in the minds of the Broward County Black com-munity and in Black communities nationwide. Those issues are still prevalent today. I vividly remember – White and Colored water fountains, segregated beaches, and not being allowed to sit at a counter in Royal Castle in Dania Beach. It was very clear to me that the struggle for equal opportunity for Blacks – Negroes back then – presented challenges to both the white and Black communities alike and somehow we managed to make progress in what was back in the 60’s a small and growing Broward County community.
W.G.: What role did your parents who were both educators play in your growth and development and what were their thoughts of you practicing law as a career?
A: No doubt having parents who were educators gave me advantages and inspiration that other Black youth may not have had during my generation. But on a personal note, I loved my parents and I knew they loved me. I did not want to disappoint them after everything they had provided for me and fought for themselves. I had a choice at the end of my college education to either follow in their footsteps as educators or to seek other careers. It was my dad who, in a very personal man to man conversation, talk-d me into pursing law as a career when the opportunity presented itself.
W.G.: What led to your choice of a career as a prosecutor?
A: The opportunity to practice law as a trial lawyer, that is, presenting cases in a court of law was my primary motivation in seeking a job with the Bro-ward County State Attorney’s Office. None of my peer graduating Black law student friends and acquaintances had ever talked about or, as far as I knew, desired to pursue jobs as prosecuting attorneys. But I felt that prosecutors serve and play an extremely important role in our criminal justice system and I wanted to be a part of it. I did not know and neither did the elected State Attorney who hired me, Mike Satz, know that I was going to be the first Black person sworn as an Assistant State Attorney in Broward County.
W.G.: Who have been your biggest influences throughout your career?
A: My parents, wife and children, of course. And two very close friends of mine, Mark Springer and Kelly Hancock. Mark Springer and Kelly Han-cock were trial colleagues of mine in the State Attorney’s Office. Mark retired from the office a few years ago and now lives in North Carolina. Kelly is still practicing law here in Fort Lauderdale and is a partner in a successful middle size law firm – Krupnick, Campbell, et. al.
W.G.: What has been your biggest challenge in your career?
A: Very tough question to answer. There was no one “biggest challenge” so to speak. Many of the toughest challenges involved trying cases or making decisions on cases that were not high-profile media cases at all. Nevertheless, the final results would have either a positive or negative impact on the lives of victims and defendants or their families and friends forever.
W.G.: What do you think has been the most defining moment of your career?
A: Trying my first case. I knew then that I loved my job.
W.G.: As you look back on your career what would you like people to remember most about you?
A: As being a fair, honest and reasonable human being.
W.G.: What do you foresee as the next chapter in your life now that you’ve decided to step down from public of-fice?
A: Spending more time with family and being a productive citizen in the Broward County community.