Biden nominates public defender, advocate to Atlanta-based federal court

Atlanta's federal courthouse. (Image: U.S. District Court)

Atlanta's federal courthouse. (Image: U.S. District Court)

President Joe Biden has nominated two women to fill open seats on the U.S. District Court in Northern Georgia: a criminal defense attorney and a lawyer who works for a nonprofit that advocates for prison reform.

Victoria Calvert is set to become the circuit’s second Black female district judge and the first former federal defender to serve in the role. She is currently a staff attorney in the district court’s Federal Defender Program, and before that she was an associate at Atlanta’s King & Spalding firm.

Sarah Geraghty is senior counsel of the Southern Center for Human Rights, an organization that has been involved in lawsuits regarding the conditions and treatment of prisoners in Georgia. Prior to that, she served as a staff attorney in an appellate defender’s office in New York.

Southern Center for Human Rights lawyer Sarah Geraghty. (Photo courtesy of the Southern Center for Human Rights)

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Georgia U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock had forwarded both women’s names to Biden after receiving input from the Federal Nominations Advisory Commission, which the senators created to help review applicants for those jobs and others. Biden still must fill other positions at the federal court, including nominating three U.S. attorneys.

Don Samuel, a longtime criminal defense attorney, said the women represent a departure from the type of people nominated during President Donald Trump’s term in office. But that will be a good thing for the court and for the people who are involved in cases there, he said.

“I think these two appointments are the best thing the president could have done,” Samuel said. “And the result will be fairer sentences across the board and fairer decisions being reached because I think they will have an impact on their brethren.”

Ossoff and Warnock said that the commission’s mission was to help diversify the federal bench by ensuring people with different experiences and backgrounds are nominated to these roles. The U.S. Senate must confirm Calvert’s and Geraghty’s nominations.

“As a pastor and public servant who has long worked to strengthen justice and fairness in our nation’s judicial system, and now as a U.S. Senator for Georgia, I’m thrilled the White House followed my and Senator Ossoff’s recommendation and chose two extremely qualified nominees to the Northern District,” Warnock said in a statement. “These historic appointments would bring a rich diversity of professional experiences to the federal bench, and I look forward to supporting them through the confirmation process.”

Ossoff, a fellow Atlanta Democrat, had a similar sentiment.

“I’m glad President Biden has accepted my and Sen. Rev. Warnock’s recommendations for these judicial posts,” he said in a statement of his own. “I expect and am confident both of these historic nominees will impartially uphold and apply the law, without fear or favor, guided by their commitments to truth, integrity, and justice.”

Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this report.