An Interview with Judge Calvo-Torres

“You were my judge, and because of you I am still alive.”

These words resonate with Judge Calvo-Torres each day as she takes the bench. The Buffalo City Court Judge and former presiding Domestic Violence Court Judge in Buffalo City Court believes those words highlight the importance of the work done in the Domestic Violence Court and Integrated Domestic Violence Court. She recognizes the fact that the decisions she makes can be life altering to both victims and defendants. It was a chance encounter with a woman who came before her in court, though, that removed any self-doubt that Judge Calvo-Torres was making a positive impact.

While running for re-election, Judge Calvo-Torres encountered “a serious-looking woman” at an event who asked if they could talk.Though she was a bit hesitant at first, the Judge realized that this was a powerful moment when the women told her these twelve words before opening up about her experience.

“You were my judge, and because of you I am still alive.”

Judge Calvo-Torres remembered the woman’s abuser. Thanks to the existence of the Buffalo City Court Domestic Violence part, Judge Calvo-Torres – who was presiding over the part – was aware of the entire family dynamics and history. The Domestic Violence Court allows all cases involving a domestic relationship to be heard in the same court. As a result, Judge Calvo-Torres was aware of the defendant’s lengthy history of manipulating women. He had abused multiple women and it was clear that his propensity toward violence was increasing. Using all the tools and resources available in the Domestic Violence part, Judge Calvo-Torres was able provide safety for the victim and accountability for the defendant. Judge Calvo-Torres was a prosecutor of domestic violence cases with the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, giving her the ability to deal with Domestic Violence cases in an empathetic and compassionate yet stern manner. When she entered private practice, the Judge became a staunch advocate for DV victims and worked on many pro bono cases on their behalf. “Our job as attorneys and judges is to help people during the most difficult and challenging times in their lives,” the Judge remarked. 

When asked if she had seen any improvement in how domestic violence is dealt with, the Judge said, “Because of the creation of the Integrated Domestic Violence Court, survivors are no longer having to run around to two or three different courts. All of the cases – which could include a criminal charge, a divorce, and a family offense – are handled in one court before one judge. Having everything heard in one place makes it much more manageable and cohesive for a client. There is also greater accountability for the parties involved.”

The Judge’s encounter with the survivor is a story of success. Not only has she benefited from counseling and been able to live a life free of violence, but she was also just months away from graduating college at the time that she shared her appreciation with Judge Calvo-Torres.

“Helping [survivors] recognize different ongoing patterns of abuse and how to address friends or loved ones experiencing abuse, is critical,”the Judge said. “I have always admired and appreciated the crucial role that Haven House plays in the lives of domestic violence victims during the most stressful and dangerous times of their lives.”