Lidia Stiglich revered as rock star of jus­tice

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - FROM THE COVER - By Rachel Crosby Con­tact Rachel Crosby at [email protected]­viewjour­ or 702-477-3801. Fol­low @rachelacrosby on Twit­ter.

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

Rachel As­ton Las Ve­gas Review-Jour­nal

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