Gloria Navarro, chief deputy D.A., tapped for federal bench

When the phone rang very early Thursday, Gloria Navarro feared it could be bad news.

Seldom, she said, has she heard good news before 5 in the morning.

She worried that something might have happened to her mother.

But the call, from the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, couldn't have been more positive.

"President Obama is forwarding your nomination to the Senate," Navarro, a Clark County chief deputy district attorney, recalls Reid telling her from the east coast.

Navarro, who was born at Sunrise Hospital 42 years ago to parents who had immigrated to the United States from Cuba, is now just a senate confirmation away from taking a lifetime seat on the federal bench.

If confirmed, the woman who carries the same first and last names as her mother will be a U.S. District Judge for Southern Nevada.

"It's an incredible thrill and honor," she said in a phone call from the road as she traveled Thursday with her family to Arizona, where her husband of 14 years, attorney Brian Rutledge, was raised. He works in the district attorney's office prosecuting criminal cases.

In a written statement Thursday, Obama said that Navarro embodies "the evenhandeness, intellect, and spirit of service that Americans expect and deserve from their federal judges."

Reid said of Navarro: "This first generation American is the embodiment of the American Dream ... Throughout her career, Gloria has worked to put people first and I'm convinced that she will bring a valuable perspective to the bench."

According to Navarro, her sons, who are 11, 9 and 6, hope her hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee "are before summer so they'll be able to get out of school to attend."

"They're young enough not to be impressed," said Navarro, who currently defends the county in civil litigation.

Spanish, Navarro said, was her first language.

"I learned English from watching Sesame Street," she said.

She ended up as student president of St. Viator Catholic School and was voted by students as "Most Likely To Succeed."

In 1989 Navarro earned her bachelor of arts degree at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and went on to receive her law degree from Arizona State University in 1992.

A former private practitioner, she won the Louis Wiener Pro Bono Service Award for her representation of a victim of spousal abuse. Later an associate at Kelly & Sulliver, she was named "Public Lawyer of the Year" by the State Bar Association.

It was when she worked in the office of the federal public defender that Clark County District Attorney David Roger first took notice of Navarro.

"I handled capital murder cases against her," he said. "I thought she was on the wrong side of issues, but she was a very intelligent attorney who worked hard for her clients." Roger said that since Navarro moved to the district attorney's office she "has provided the same zealousness for Clark County that she did for her other clients."

"She'll be a wonderful addition to the bench. She's very tenacious when it comes to getting things done."

Attorney Janiece Marshall, the outgoing president of the Nevada chapter of the Federal Bar Association, said Navarro "carries a reputation in the community as being hard working and very gracious. She's an excellent choice for the bench."

Alex De Castroverde, president-elect of the Latino Bar Association, a group Navarro once headed, sees Navarro as "a great choice because she'll have the right kind of judicial temperament."

As she continued to think Thursday about how she got to this time and place, Navarro referred back to Sesame Street.

Her parents saw that some of her cousins who came from Cuba were having trouble in school because they couldn't speak English, she said. "They decided I had to learn the language. And that's where Sesame Street came in."

"I know they say now that you shouldn't put a young child in front of a TV for too long, but Sesame Street taught me a language. I'd say I turned out all right."

Contact reporter Paul Harasim at or 702-387-2908.