Judge Stiglich was gracious enough to allow NNWLA to interview her twice for this article after we forgot to check the batteries of the recorder before the first meeting. The subsequent attempt to write the article obviously proved impossible and Judge Stiglich thankfully did not hold our lack of proper preparation against us.
Our second conversation with Judge Stiglich was even longer, carrying on about an hour and forty-five minutes. Both times, the conversation was an inspiring and uplifting experience. Her comments and stories are filled with enthusiasm and her brilliance is astonishing. She spoke to me like a friend and colleague, not as a judicial superior. I left our meeting feeling proud to be a woman lawyer and motivated to do great things with the opportunity I’ve been given to practice law.
We all know Judge Stiglich’s basic background facts – she went to undergrad at UC Berkeley and then law school at Hastings, her early employment was through the Solano County and San Francisco Public Defender’s Office; she then went into private practice starting the firm of Stiglich & Hinckley LLP before moving to Reno in 2008. What many of you may not know is that Judge Stiglich was a star softball player in college, played in the Olympic festival after undergrad and trained throughout the years with the US National team. She continued to play softball all through law school and after graduating from Hastings, she explored being a member of the Olympic team.
For most people, attending law school and playing an extremely competitive sport at the same time would have been enough to make us keel over from exhaustion, anxiety, or both. Judge Stiglich is a different kind of person. She maintained a good GPA in law school, was an outstanding softball player, worked during her second and third year of law school for a criminal trial/appellate firm, and she participated in the clinical program at the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office where she was able to help represent criminal defendants as a third-year law student. While I’m thinking that Judge Stiglich must be a time-bender to be able to create more hours in the day to accomplish all of these things at once, she adds that she was also the Note Editor for the Constitutional Law Quarterly at Hastings. That final little tidbit was nice to know before giving her this article to review before publication. No pressure there at all.
So, we know that Judge Stiglich is smart, athletic, has an endless amount of energy, and a high tolerance for stress. But what is most impressive is the love she exudes for the practice of law and the empathy and compassion she has for people involved in the criminal justice system. In discussing her early work at the Public Defender’s Office she expressed, “To be a Public Defender is very rewarding. You have the opportunity to do something for people who are in a bad situation, they don’t have much going for them and they just want to be heard. To connect with them, give them representation and stand with them is very valuable. I don’t think people are outcome determinative, I believe they are process determinative. So if you stand with your client and give them your all, give them the decency and the courtesy of representation, they can generally accept the consequences. They are wrapped up in you being interested in them and their lives as a person in a system where you are the only opportunity to humanize them and treat them like a human being. That has a lot of value.”
Judge Stiglich recommends the District Attorney’s or Public Defender’s Office as an ideal job for a new young lawyer, “you get your trial experience when it is still okay to sleep on the couch at the office all night, or run out to a scene at 2:30 a.m. to look for witnesses.” So for those new lawyers looking to get their feet wet, get in there before you have kids at home and significant responsibilities. You can give the job your all and reap a significant return.
So why did she change careers? Because she wanted to expand and practice different areas of the law. “At first you think the cases are amazing and they are new and exciting, then they become second nature and you have to expand. To me it was exciting to start a practice.” Judge Stiglich teamed up with another public defender who had been a federal defender and started the firm of Stiglich & Hinckley LLP, a two-partner firm generally practicing state and federal criminal defense. They also did some civil, other defense, and personal injury work as well. The firm was a success and they soon were primary counsel for the San Francisco Police Officer’s Association.
She was killing it in California, so what made her move to Reno, Nevada? Family. Judge Stiglich’s roots run deep in Nevada and after welcoming a beautiful baby girl to the family in 2004, she and her partner decided to move closer to the rest of the family. In making her decision to move she explained, “It was just perfect coming out here. San Francisco is a hard place to raise a family. The world shifted after having a child. It was mostly pedestrian things. You have court all over town and in other states, before kids you don’t care. But then you need milk and it takes two hours! We had other family in the bay area but not in San Francisco, the family support here is amazing. It feels so much more cohesive, it is working to live here instead of living to work, and that is possible because of family.”
Her daughter is now 11 years old and in 6th grade. All of the members of NNWLA had the opportunity to meet her when Judge Stiglich recently brought her to the NNWLA Christmas party at Judge Simons’s home. When her daughter was born, Judge Stiglich took off 6 months and stayed at home. “I was in private practice at the time and so fortunate to be able to take the time off