Profiles of all four justices
WHEN Elissa Cadish’s nomination to the federal bench was blocked about six years ago, she found herself digging deeper into her work and focusing her personal time on her teenage son and daughter.
About a year earlier, her then-husband, David Harlan Cadish, had died after a stroke. Suddenly she was raising two teenagers on her own while serving as a Clark County district judge.
“It was a tough time for me, personally, having some pretty big obstacles put up in front of me,” the recently elected Nevada Supreme Court justice said in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “And I did my best to get through it.”
The painstaking nomination process for the federal judgeship began a few months after her husband’s death.
President Barack Obama nominated her in February 2012, but she withdrew her nomination about a year later after then-U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., blocked it.
“Eventually, I came out the other side and started to look ahead,” she said. “I can’t change what happened before, but I can look ahead for what might be a good thing for me to do.”
Cadish, now 54, knew that seats were about to open on the state Supreme Court and decided to pursue a position.
Shortly after withdrawing her nomination for the federal judgeship, she received a message on Match.com from the man who would become her husband, Howard Beckerman. They decided to meet in person at a dinner for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, where they hit it off.
Cadish recalls later thinking, “Wow, it’s OK to smile.”
“It was like coming out of a fog,” she said.
Early in her career, after graduating from the University of Virginia Law School in 1989, Cadish worked as a law clerk for then-U.S. District Judge Philip Pro in Las Vegas.
“Twenty-nine years later, I’m still here,” she said.
Pro describes Cadish as one of his favorite people, pointing to her advanced legal mind and fairness from the bench. He said he encouraged her to stay in Las Vegas after she finished working for him in 1991.
“I could tell when she came to me as a law clerk that she was going to be a superstar,” he said. “I think she’s going to be a distinguished jurist and a good addition. I’m glad she landed in Nevada and decided to stay. Good thing for the state and good thing for her.”
Cadish said she tried to model herself after Pro, who “was always in control in his courtroom, but without ever being rude or condescending.”
After working for Pro, she delved into private practice, focusing on commercial litigation and employment law, and became a shareholder at the law firm Hale Lane in 2000.
“Maybe out of stubbornness, I was determined to prove you can have it all,” she said. “You can work at a major firm and be a partner and raise kids and do it. It’s challenging. It’s not easy, but it can be done if that’s what you want to do.”
In the summer of 2007, she was appointed by thenGov. Jim Gibbons as a district judge.
A self-described “law geek,” Cadish said she has always enjoyed legal discussions and knew at age 10 that she wanted to become a lawyer.
“I remember getting the idea that everyone’s rights have to be represented and have to be respected regardless of who they are,” she said. “That got my attention early.”
She points to Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, as a role model. She hopes the new female majority on the Nevada Supreme Court inspires others.
“It’s important for everyone, regardless of their backgrounds and experiences, to have role models to look to and know that there are opportunities out there to do all kinds of different things,” Cadish said. “And I think it will help when you see, wow, four women sitting up there with three men. It looks like a realistic possibility, and it’s something to really work toward.”
I could tell when she came to me as a law clerk that she was going to be a superstar. I think she’s going to be a distinguished jurist … Good thing for the state and good thing for her.’ Philip Pro former U.S. district judge