Professor Toby Heytens Confirmed as Fourth Circuit Judge

Toby Heytens

Toby Heytens ’00 served as Virginia’s solicitor general and in the Office of the U.S. Solicitor General. Photo by Jesús Pino

November 1, 2021

Professor Toby J. Heytens ’00 of the University of Virginia School of Law has been confirmed as a judge on the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The U.S. Senate confirmed Heytens on Monday. He was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Sept. 23 after President Joe Biden nominated Heytens on June 30.

Heytens is the second UVA Law resident faculty member appointed to a federal appeals court while serving on the faculty. The first was Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson III ’72, who has served on the Fourth Circuit since 1984.

Since 1939, 15 federal judges taught at the Law School before taking the bench, including U.S. Supreme Court Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Antonin Scalia. Over 130 alumni are serving as judges nationwide.

Heytens was nominated the same day as Patricia Tolliver Giles ’98 and Michael S. Nachmanoff ’95, who were confirmed to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia in October.

“Based on their fairness, temperament, and integrity, we believe they will all serve Virginia and the country with distinction,” U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia said in a statement.

Heytens’ nomination received bipartisan support, garnering praise from Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Chuck Grassley of Iowa called Heytens “a mainstream nominee” who “could serve as a moderating force on the Fourth Circuit,” and John Kennedy ’77 of Louisiana said Heytens had a “well-established” intellect.

Heytens was on leave from the Law School from February 2018 to August of this year to serve as Virginia’s solicitor general.

“One of the things that’s so significant about government service is the knowledge that you’re never just representing an individual in the way that you sometimes are in private practice,” Heytens said at his federal confirmation hearing in July about having served as solicitor general. “You are representing the commonwealth as a whole.”

In his role as solicitor general, Heytens successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court twice and represented the state on numerous other matters in the Supreme Court of Virginia and federal circuit courts. In 2019, he and his colleagues won the National Association of Attorneys General’s Supreme Court Best Brief Award for the brief filed in Virginia House of Delegates v. Bethune-Hill.

Heytens first joined the faculty in 2006 and then rejoined in 2010 after taking leave for three years to serve in the Office of the U.S. Solicitor General, during which he argued six cases before the Supreme Court.

At the Law School, Heytens served as one of the directors of the Supreme Court Litigation Clinic. He is an expert in civil procedure, constitutional torts, criminal procedure and remedies.

Dean Risa Goluboff said Heytens brought much to the Law School community as a faculty member.

“Toby is a stellar teacher and legendary mentor, as well as an accomplished advocate and scholar,” Goluboff said. “The Fourth Circuit is gaining a brilliant judge who will bring distinction to the bench and humanity and wisdom to the operation of the law. Though we will miss him sorely, we are excited for his next steps and proud of his public service.”

Before joining the UVA Law faculty, Heytens worked in the law firm O’Melveny & Myers’ Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Group in Washington, D.C. After graduating from law school, he clerked for then-Chief Judge Edward R. Becker of the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, served as a Bristow Fellow in the Solicitor General’s Office and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

During law school, Heytens served as articles development editor of the Virginia Law Review and received the Alumni Association Award for Academic Excellence for having the highest grade point average in his graduating class. His student note, “School Choice and State Constitutions,” received the Alumni Association Best Note Award.

Heytens served as head coach of UVA’s undergraduate trial advocacy team, which won its third national championship during the 2016-17 season. He won a Raven Award in 2015 for “excellence in service and contribution to the University of Virginia” and an All-University Teaching Award in 2016.

Heytens received his B.A. from Macalester College in 1997.

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.

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