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Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst Announces Retirement

Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, has announced her intention to retire from the Washington Supreme Court effective January 5, 2020.

With one year left on her term as Chief Justice, Fairhurst announced her decision to colleagues on Thursday afternoon and followed up with a letter to Governor Jay Inslee.

“It is with a clear head and a sad heart that I have made the decision that it is time for me to leave the Court,” Fairhurst said.  “It has been my honor and privilege to serve as a justice of this court since 2003, particularly as the Chief Justice for the past three years. I am so proud of the work we’ve done as a branch during this time and feel the time is right to focus on my health.”

In her “State of the Judiciary” address in January, Fairhurst announced she was once again fighting cancer, a third round since initial diagnosis of colon cancer in 2008. Since then, she has continued to work while undergoing chemotherapy.

Fairhurst’s life and legal legacy was recently featured in the Secretary of State’s Office’s “Ahead of the Curve” exhibit, highlighting extraordinary women in Washington State history.

A magna cum laude graduate of Gonzaga Law School, she has the distinction of being the youngest ever president of the Washington State Bar Association.  Her election to the Court in 2002 also created the court’s first female majority.

In addition to completing the fall term of oral arguments, she will travel to Bellingham to hear cases and visit classes at Western Washington University next week.

On October 26th she will be honored along with others at the United States Supreme Court in Washington D.C. at the Inns of Court celebration of excellence award ceremony hosted by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.

Throughout her legal career, Fairhurst has received numerous honors and awards for her dedication to public service, civics education, advancement of the legal profession and community service.  A full biography can be found online at

A new justice will be appointed by Gov. Inslee to fulfill the remainder of her term and that person will run for election in 2020.  The chief justice position is an internal election by the court’s current justices, which is scheduled for the November en banc meeting on November 6th.

Both the new justice and chief justice positions will be sworn in at the beginning of January, and Fairhurst will continue with all duties until that time.

This press release was provided by the Washington State Courts.

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