Public Defenders Take Center Stage At Senate Judiciary Committee 

Press Release


Press Contact


Zack Ford
zack.ford@afj.org
202-464-7370

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 25, 2022 – With over one hundred vacancies remaining on our federal courts, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing today to consider four more nominees — two for the circuit courts and two for the district courts. These nominees will bring essential professional diversity to the justice system. 

Judge Sarah A.L. Merriam, nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, has served as a U.S. District Court Judge since last year and as a U.S. Magistrate Judge for seven years before that. In addition to her years on the bench, Judge Merriam spent eight years in the Office of the Federal Defender for the District of Connecticut as an Assistant Federal Defender. 

Lara Montecalvo, nominated to the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, has dedicated almost her entire career to serving as a public defender. She has worked in the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office since 2004, rising from a trial attorney all the way up to Chief Public Defender, a position she has served in since 2020. Her extensive courtroom experience includes 65 cases that she has briefed and argued before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. 

The two district court nominees the Committee heard from today were Nina Nin-Yuen Wang (District of Colorado) and Tiffany M. Cartwright (Western District of Washington). Ms. Cartwright notably dedicated her career to civil rights litigation — in particular, cases in which the state government has unlawfully burdened citizens for exercising their constitutional rights, as well as employment discrimination and wrongful conviction cases. 

Alliance for Justice President Rakim H.D. Brooks issued the following statement: 

“Today the Senate Judiciary Committee heard from four brilliant women who will bring important professional diversity to the bench. Public defenders and civil rights attorneys are still underrepresented among federal judges, so Judge Merriam and Ms. Montecalvo’s experience as public defenders will be invaluable to our justice system. We likewise cannot underestimate the importance of the nominees’ experiences with civil rights litigation and how crucial it is to have judges who understand what’s at stake when people cannot exercise their rights. This is another win for a nation committed to equal justice under law. We look forward to the Committee advancing these stellar nominees and continuing the important work of filling every federal court vacancy before the end of the year.”