For Silver, seat a culmination of long career
FOR Justice Abbi Silver, the opportunity to serve on Nevada’s Supreme Court just made sense. After nearly 14 years of earning her reputation as a dogged Clark County prosecutor, she had served at every other level of the state’s judicial system.
First was her successful bid in 2003 for a seat in Las Vegas Municipal Court, following a failed bid to replace an outgoing Clark County district attorney — her first election experience and her only loss. In 2006, she was elected to the Las Vegas Justice Court. Two years later, she won a seat on the Clark County District Court, winning it again in 2014.
Then came the pivotal phone call from then-Gov. Brian Sandoval in December of that year, notifying Silver that he would like to appoint her to the state’s inaugural appellate court.
Silver, 54, considers that appointment one of the greatest honors of her life. She was elected to the seat in 2016, after which Sandoval swore her in as chief judge.
So when two seats opened on the state’s highest court soon after, she took it as a sign that “now’s the time.”
“I mean, there is literally no other step for me to take but this,” Silver told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in December, sitting in her old appellate court office, a thick stack of case files sitting in front of her. “So I took it, and I filed.”
She ran unopposed. But that doesn’t mean securing her seat was a breeze.
Silver vividly remembers the overwhelming anxiety she felt on Jan. 12, 2018, the last day judicial hopefuls could file for candidacy.
As the clock ticked closer to the 5 p.m. deadline, she sat in a corner of her home, holding her dog, shaking in the dark. She didn’t want to go through the stress of another election. But she wanted this seat — the ultimate career achievement — more than anything.
“I was just a mess,” she said. But when the deadline came and went, she took a call from Justice James Hardesty, who welcomed her to the Supreme Court of Nevada.
“I mean, I cried,” Silver said. “The only other time that’s happened is when a doctor told me I was pregnant. I was happy. Crying happy.”
Though Silver was stressed, those familiar with her work supposed no one challenged her because no one thought they could beat her.
“Candidly, I wasn’t surprised that she was running unopposed,” District Judge Valerie Adair said.
Adair worked alongside Silver at the Clark County district attorney’s office. And as district judges, their courtrooms were on the same floor.
“I think she’s worked hard for this for a long time,” Adair said. “She’s been in the trenches, and I think she’ll do a great job.”
Former District Attorney Stewart Bell, who took office in the middle of Silver’s prosecutorial career, described her as “dedicated, aggressive and successful.”
“I think the fact that she was unopposed in the last election shows that lawyers thought that she did a good job and was qualified for the position,” Bell said.
Silver said being part of the high court’s first female majority weighs heavily on her. The Boulder City native recalled the first time she argued before the court as a young woman in 1990, when all the justices were older men — a “daunting” experience.
“I think the fact that any attorney can look at me, especially the females out there, and know that it’s attainable — to see a face that looks like their face — it’s important,” Silver said. “It’s important to have diversity on the bench that reflects the diversity that’s in the legal profession, which I think we’ve attained as females now, finally. Because I’ve been doing it 30 years, and it finally seems like it’s starting to become more equal. Or equal.”
To any young woman or man out there, she said, “I would say to honestly follow exactly what you want to do, because you can attain it.”
“The biggest thing is not to listen to anybody who tells you that you can’t,” she said.
Candidly, I wasn’t surprised that she was running unopposed. … She’s worked hard for this for a long time. She’s been in the trenches, and I think she’ll do a great job.’ Valerie Adair Clark County district judge