A federal defender based in Atlanta, Victoria Calvert’s nomination continues the trend of public defenders being nominated for the federal bench under President Biden.
Victoria Marie Calvert got a B.A. from Duke University in 2003 and then attended the New York University Law School, graduating in 2006. Following her graduation, Calvert spent six years at King and Spalding in Atlanta where she worked in the Special Matters and Government Investigations group. Since 2012, Calvert has worked for the Federal Defender in Atlanta.
History of the Seat
Calvert has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. This seat was vacated on May 8, 2021, when Judge Thomas Thrash moved to senior status.
Calvert spent the first six years at the Atlanta office of King and Spalding. While her work here was largely focused on investigations and white collar defense, Calvert also participated in the firm’s pro bono program. For example, Calvert was part of the legal team for Nicholas Bryant, who challenged the death sentence he received for murder during an armed robbery. See Bryant v. State, 288 Ga. 876 (2011). The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the death sentence, finding that the trial court allowed inadmissible victim impact testimony regarding the nature of the crime itself. Id. at 896-97.
Since 2012, Calvert has worked as a federal defender, in which role she represents indigent defendants in the federal criminal justice system. Among the clients she represented, Calvert argued on behalf of her client, Santas Hernandez, that evidence obtained from a legally dubious traffic stop should be suppressed. The District Court agreed that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion of a traffic violation, but found a Terry stop could be justified through the “collective knowledge” doctrine indicating that the Defendant was engaging in prostitution. See United States v. Hernandez, 17 F. Supp. 3d 1255 (N.D. Ga. 2014). Calvert also unsuccessfully challenged her client’s conviction for discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, arguing that assaulting a police officer with a dangerous weapon did not qualify as a predicate crime of violence. See United States v. Bates, 960 F.3d 1278 (11th Cir. 2020).
Calvert’s youth and experience as a public defender is a recognition of President Biden’s new emphasis on drawing judges from the pool of indigent defenders. While her background doesn’t mean that Calvert is likely to rule any differently on the bench, it is nonetheless likely to draw opposition. The fact that Calvert was nominated and remains likely to be confirmed is a testament to the impact of the Georgia runoff elections on the federal judiciary.