On January 19, 2022, President Joe Biden announced his intent to nominate Lara Montecalvo to a seat on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to the seat vacated by Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson. A public defender for nearly two decades, Ms. Montecalvo was appointed to the position of Public Defender of Rhode Island by then-Governor Gina Raimondo in 2020.
Lara Montecalvo was born in Syracuse, New York in 1974 and moved to Rhode Island in second grade. Ms. Montecalvo received her B.A. from Swarthmore College in 1996 and earned her J.D., magna cum laude, from Boston College Law School in 2000. During law school, she interned at the East Bay Community Law Center and was a Managing Editor for the Boston College Law School International and Comparative Law Review.
Ms. Montecalvo has spent nearly her whole career at the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office. At the Office, where she has been in positions of increasing responsibility since 2004, she represents indigent individuals in criminal matters.
After working as a trial lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division for four years after law school, she joined the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office as a trial attorney. As a trial attorney, Ms. Montecalvo represented individuals charged with a wide range of misdemeanors and felonies and appeared in court nearly every day. In 2010, Ms. Montecalvo moved to the Office’s Appellate Division and in 2014, she was promoted to Chief of the Appellate Division. In the Appellate Division, she briefed and argued appeals in over 65 Rhode Island Supreme Court cases and supervised more than 80 additional appeals. Ms. Montecalvo also litigated habeas matters in federal court, which are petitions for incarcerated individuals who claim that their incarceration is unconstitutional.
Ms. Montecalvo has argued successful appeals before the Rhode Island Supreme Court on numerous occasions. For example, in 2013, Ms. Montecalvo represented Tony Gonzalez before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Mr. Gonzalez argued that his conviction should be overturned because police officers’ warrantless search of his home and bedroom violated the Fourth Amendment. The Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed that Mr. Gonzalez hadn’t consented to the search and that the search was unconstitutional; the Court reversed Mr. Gonzalez’s conviction and remanded the case for re-trial. In another example, in 2015, she represented Victor Arciliares before the Rhode Island Supreme Court. Mr. Arciliares argued that his conviction should be overturned because the trial court committed reversable error when it prevented defense counsel from cross-examining a detective on a critical topic. The Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed that the trial court had committed reversable error, reversed the conviction, and remanded the case for re-trial. In the new trial, the jury found Mr. Arciliares not guilty.
In 2020, Ms. Montecalvo was appointed to the position of Chief Public Defender. As Chief Public Defender, she continues to litigate cases, supervises a staff of nearly 100, and manages the Office’s legal, policy, and programmatic strategy. For example, the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office spearheads an innovative medical-legal partnership with the Lifespan Transitions Clinic that provides intensive health services to people re-entering the community from prison.
PROFESSIONAL ACTIVITIES AND ACCOLADES
Ms. Montecalvo has been deeply involved with addressing criminal legal issues in the Rhode Island community. She has been a Board Member for the Rhode Island Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Criminal Justice Policy Board for the State of Rhode Island. She is currently a member of the Rhode Island General Assembly’s Special Legislative Commission to Study Justice Reinvestment Proposals and Provide Recommendations for Reducing the Incarceration of Women.
Ms. Montecalvo has also been an engaged community member outside of criminal legal matters. She has served as a Board Member for Common Cause Rhode Island, provided legal advice to veterans during Rhode Island’s yearly Operation Standdown program, and volunteered in the United Methodist Church Soup Kitchen Outreach Program.