Lidia Stiglich revered as rock star of justice
THE first time Lidia Stiglich was in a courtroom, she was a child. Her mother worked as a secretary at a public defender’s office.
“So that’s kind of where I grew up,” the Nevada Supreme Court justice said.
As a young girl, she spent summers running around the courthouse, watching cases unfold in courtrooms and watching “Perry Mason,” a courtroom drama about a dogged defense attorney. All made a deep impression.
“And I kind of stuck with that,” Stiglich said, “and I very much enjoyed it.”
Fast forward to her career on the state’s high court, and Stiglich, 49, said, “I still pinch myself all the time.”
“Because I feel so privileged,” she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Certainly as a baby lawyer — or if you’re a baseball player, like, that’s
‘The Show.’ It’s surreal sometimes, when I come in and I sit back and I think about it.”
Her time on the bench began in January 2017, after then-Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed her in November 2016 to fill retiring Justice Nancy Saitta’s seat.
When Stiglich was formally sworn in at a Carson City ceremony, Sandoval called her appointment “one of the highlights” of his service as governor.
Her appointment also marked the first time the Nevada Supreme Court had seen an openly gay justice. But the distinction is not something she thinks about.
“That’s just who I am,” Stiglich told the Review-Journal. “It’s still a responsibility, because there’s LGBTQ youth out there, and young women, and young men. And I think it’s important for them to see that you can be out and healthy and happy — in your personal and your professional life.” Stiglich had been serving as a district judge in Washoe County before her Supreme Court appointment and said she loved the position.
But when the opportunity arose to serve on the state’s highest court, she recognized that “you can’t pick” when certain doors open, and “you don’t know when the next opportunity is going to come up.”
“So I went for it,” she said. “And it worked out.”
Before serving as a judge, she spent years working as a defense attorney. Fresh out of the University of California Hastings College of the Law in the mid-1990s, Stiglich started working as a public defender in San Francisco, which she loved, too.
“But I wanted to keep growing,” she said.
So she moved to private practice, where she tried federal cases in different jurisdictions throughout California. Next, she started a practice in Nevada, moving her family to the Silver State.
It was there, in a Washoe County courtroom, that then-District Judge Janet Berry met Stiglich. She recalled a murder trial in which Stiglich was serving as defense counsel.
“That was the only case where the jurors said afterward, ‘We want to meet her,’” Berry said of Stiglich. “It was like they wanted her autograph.
“It is very, very, very rare to have someone in the well of your courtroom who is pathologically prepared and a gifted orator who captivates the entire courtroom,” Berry continued. “That was Lidia.”
When Stiglich considered becoming a trial judge, Berry encouraged her. The two later founded a Youth Offender Drug Court, an alternate sentencing and rehabilitation program for young Washoe County drug users.
Stiglich also served as special counsel to then-Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, advising him on anything from economic development to tourism to cultural affairs.
Krolicki called himself “one of Lidia Stiglich’s biggest fans.”
“She’s an attorney who just appreciates what the law is,” he said. “She does not like to see the law misused and abused. She is a champion for what is right, and when faced with something that is wrong, she has a great compass for integrity and ethics. And she’s just a lot of fun. I feel quite fortunate to have a small part in her marvelous world.”
Looking forward, Stiglich said she is excited to work with the high court’s newest justices — Abbi Silver and Elissa Cadish.
“I have a 14-year-old daughter,” Stiglich said, “and it’s so important to me that young women have role models, or know that they can do anything that they want.”
And she hopes that in her career, a female majority won’t be news anymore, “that it’ll just be old hat.”
She is a champion for what is right, and when faced with something that is wrong, she has a great compass for integrity and ethics.’ Brian Krolicki Former lieutenant governor