Tamara Serwer Caldas

Harold C. Keller Public Service Leadership Award: 2008

Tamara Serwer Caldas

In 1988, Caldas received her diploma from Clark High School in San Antonio and enrolled in Princeton University. Four years later, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English with honors. She worked with the New York Lawyers for the Public Interest for a year before beginning a dual degree program at the University of Texas leading to a master of public affairs and doctor of jurisprudence.

During law school, Caldas interned at the Texas Education Agency, Texas Third Court of Appeals for Hon. Bea Ann Smith, O’Melveny & Myers, L.L.P., and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. Upon finished her degree, she spent a summer at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, assisting with civil rights lawsuits on behalf of immigrants, prisoners, and death row inmates.

Caldas went on to spend a year working for Hon. Martha Daughtrey on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Nashville. She then began a six-year trek at the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta. At the Center, Caldas served as lead or co-counsel for civil actions in federal and state trial and appellate courts challenging unconstitutional conditions of confinement, such as physical abuse of prisoners, denial of medical and mental health care, and overcrowded/unsanitary conditions in Alabama and Georgia. During this time, she also taught continuing legal education courses on civil rights litigation and guest-lectured at Emory University and Georgia State University on public health and law. In addition, Caldas served as a contributor to public health and corrections policy conferences conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal entities.

For the next year and a half, Caldas worked for Claiborne, Outman & Surmay, P.C. She represented adoptive parents and birth parents in all aspects of adoptions, guardianships, and legitimacy proceedings. Caldas currently serves as managing attorney for the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation. She is responsible for facilitating volunteer representation of low-income residents of Atlanta in cases involving consumer, housing, family law, and other legal matters for which individuals would otherwise not be able to afford legal assistance. Caldas engages in legislative advocacy for policies that affect low-income consumers and represents clients in local courts and administrative hearings regarding the full range of issues affecting low-income individuals.

Founder of the Housing Advocacy and Resource Center, Caldas worked to ensure that this court-based program provided consultation and representation in eviction proceedings for tenants. She coordinates the Center’s taskforce to consider how the court can be more involved in enforcing the Atlanta Housing Code to preserve habitable housing for low-income people in the community.

Outside of her work at the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation, Caldas serves as the public service chair of the Princeton Club of Georgia and on the public service committee of the Atlanta Council of Younger Lawyers.