Alumna’s business background informs keen sense of justice
Supreme Court Justice
Carson City, Nevada
Inspired by To Kill a Mockingbird and Perry Mason reruns, Lidia Stiglich knew from an early age that the law would be her career. Routine visits to the Contra Costa County Office of the Public Defender, where her mother was a secretary, emboldened those ambitions.
“It was the concept of the law that appealed to me, that we never get it right, that it grows and changes, and we grow with it,” Stiglich says. “It’s a human business.”
A native of Pittsburg, Calif., Stiglich served her own stint as a public defender in San Francisco from 1997 to 2001, then became a criminal defense attorney, first in San Francisco then in Reno, Nev., where she moved to be closer to family. In 2012, she was appointed district court judge in Nevada’s Washoe County, working civil and criminal trials.
During her tenure, Stiglich co-founded the Youth Offender Drug Court, a response to Nevada being home to the nation’s fourth-highest drug overdose mortality rate (with 20.7 deaths per 100,000 people). The court dismisses felony charges against 18- to 24-year-old heroin and opioid addicts who undergo intensive therapy.
“The power of the law is that you touch people in so many different parts of their lives, and you raise them up in so many different ways, through due process and access and treating them decently,” Stiglich says.
In January, she donned a new robe: that of Nevada Supreme Court justice. Stiglich is the first openly gay justice to serve on the state’s high court. “I hope to empower others to live and serve openly, happily, and successfully,” she says.
Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed her to fill a vacancy on the seven-member body; voters in 2018 will decide whether to retain her for a full six-year term.
“I feel so grateful to come to work every day,” Stiglich says of her role. “I feel blessed and humbled and a sense of responsibility.”
Her time at Haas plays heavily into her journey—and her success—and that’s by design.
“When I chose business administration as my undergraduate major I felt, and it came to be justified, that it gave me an analytic framework that served me better in the law than any other degree I could have gotten,” she says. “I draw more upon my business degree now as a Supreme Court justice than I have in my entire career. Haas provided me with the substantive knowledge to understand the factual issues present in the complex business matters that I am called upon to decide. More significantly, Haas taught me to consider how my decisions will affect others.”
As for her legacy, Stiglich will leave that to the court of public opinion.
“Fighting for people who really have no voice and who are disfavored, that’s given me a keen sense of justice,” she says. “I hope that my legal career shows that I’ve advocated for people—real people with real lives and real problems—and that I was fair.” —Andrew Faught