Kriston Hill: Elko County Public Defender

Note: This AAT feature is part of a promotional package paid for by Kriston Hill for District Court Judge. For more information on Kriston Hill’s campaign, you can find her on Facebook or by email at

This week, we’re sharing the life and perspective of Elko County Public Defender, Kriston Hill! For several years, Kriston has been in the courtroom, fighting to ensure that our area stands by the constitutional mandate for individuals to receive proper legal representation. We’ll hear more of her thoughts on that topic in just a bit as she has assured AAT that her line of work is nothing like an episode of Law & Order!

However, Kriston’s justice system ambitions have grown over her career! At the time of this blog’s publication, Kriston is gearing up for election season as she’s seeking District Court Judge Department 1! If you’ve spent any amount of time driving around the major roads of Elko recently, there’s no doubt that you’ve seen her campaign signs and name. Today, in true AAT fashion, we’re going to give you a chance to know a little bit about the person behind those signs!

All rise! This blog is now in session!

Kriston, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with us! Before we dive into speaking about your current work and election campaign, let’s take a moment to get to know a tad about your story. Please, take us to the beginning and walk us down the road that led to you becoming a lawyer!

“I was born in Carlin. Yes, I was actually born in Carlin! I’m a third-generation Elko resident. I’ve always known I wanted to be a lawyer; I’m not sure how, but I’ve always known. Once, when I was five years old, my grandma took me to a yard sale, and I told her that I was not leaving without a briefcase that was for sale! I told her that if I was going to be a lawyer, I had to have that briefcase! She actually saved that briefcase for me, and when I graduated from law school, she handed it to me! Again, I don’t know how, but I always knew this job would be my thing.

“I grew up here in the area. I went to Spring Creek High School before leaving for UNR to get my bachelor’s degree. I went to law school in East Lansing, Michigan. I had never lived that far from home before, so that was an interesting experience. I did law school year-round so I could get done sooner. I did three years of school in two years.

“When I was in school, people would ask me what type of law I would specialize in. I told them that I would do anything but criminal law! However, one of my teachers, who tucked me under her wing, just so happened to be the criminal law professor! She showed me how fascinating the field was and how much it directly impacts people! I became intrigued, and that’s when my interest began.

“When I moved back home to Elko, I was Judge J. Michael Memeo’s clerk for a while, so I was able to see other parts of law in action. After I left, I worked for Bob Wines, another local attorney in town who mostly did property work and estate planning. I loved working for Bob, I have a lot of respect for him, but I missed that thrill I’d get in court from criminal law! I had my own practice for a short time before Fred Lee, who was the public defender for more than thirty years, twisted my arm into working in his office. When Fred retired, he came to me and told me he wanted me to take over the office! So, I’ve practicing law for ten years, I’ve been at the public defender’s office for eight years, and I’ve been the head of that office for five years. Since then, I’ve gotten married and had my daughter!”

That’s a wonderful testimony, Kriston, thanks for sharing! Now, let’s catch up to where you are today. Talk to us about your election. What exactly are you running for?

“I’m running for District Court Judge Department 1. The district courts are the trial-level courts in the state of Nevada, so that’s where all the action happens. Felonies and gross misdemeanors are essentially handled in the district court. District Court also handles divorce cases, guardianship cases, civil litigations, and personal injury cases.”

Why do you feel like running for this position was something you needed to do?

“I like helping people, and I really like being in court. I didn’t think I’d ever considered being a judge because I like what I do, and I find meaning in it! However, I knew I wanted to be a judge when I saw that system wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. People in custody were waiting for months to have their case heard in district court. This is bad, obviously for my clients because they’re not seeing their families or working if they’re in jail. This is bad for the community because we pay eighty-seven dollars a day to house them! And it’s also bad for victims because they want justice and a resolution for their cases!  So, I had to think long and hard. I love my role in the system now, but can I help make things better if I stepped up and took on more? I think the answer is yes!”

You’re running to become a judge, but you’ve been practicing law as a public defender for many years. Can you please talk to us about that job and give us some insight into what it all entails?

“I think it’s a valuable thing in our society to do. You have to be a special person to be a criminal defense lawyer because you have to see a lot of crap and put up with a lot of crap!

“I get a lot of flak because I do represent people that are charged with crimes. However, I think that’s an essential role in our justice system because our constitution requires a fair trial. How can you have a fair trial if you don’t have somebody advocating for a person on either side? If a person does not have someone fighting for them, how can we ensure those constitutional guarantees? While I rarely like what the person has done, and sometimes I don’t even like the person, they’re still required, by our constitution, to have council and somebody in their corner.

“I have to compartmentalize most of my cases. My office handles a lot of serious cases. My focus has to be one hundred percent on my client and what the police and prosecutors have or have not done. Yes, we may have to represent people who are guilty of crimes, but as my professors in school would tell me, we won’t lose any sleep representing a guilty person, but we’ll lose a lot of sleep representing someone who you think is innocent. This true, and I’ve experienced this.”

Due to your job’s nature, you get to see a side of Elko County that many of us residents don’t. With everything that you’ve encountered over the years, what is your perspective on calling the Elko area home?

“I think we’re fortunate to live in an incredible place! This is my home, and it’s always going to be my home. We’re surrounded by many great people here. There is an underworld, especially when it comes to drugs, in Elko that I’m privy to every day from eight to five when I’m at work, but overall, we’re all very fortunate to live here.”

Wonderful! We thank you for joining us again, Kriston! Before we let you get back to your clients and campaign, is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you and your work?

“As a public defender, it’s my job to protect people’s rights. As a judge, it would be my job to protect the community. I don’t think I’d have any difficulty switching that up! Law enforcement has overwhelming supported me, which I think speaks to my character because we literally go head-to-head in court! However, they see that my potential is huge, and I’ve always treated them with respect and decency. I’m not afraid to work whatever amount of time is necessary to get things handled. I’ll make sure people get their day in court and have their opportunity to be heard! So, vote, Hill!”

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Until next time, we’ll see you around, Elko!


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