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Former Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst dies

Washington Supreme Court

Retired Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst has died.

Justice Fairhurst died on Tuesday at the age of 64, according to an announcement from the court.

Fairhurst served on the Washington State Supreme Court from 2003 to 2020 and as Chief Justice from 2016 until she left the court. Her election created Washington’s first majority female supreme court.

During her time on the bench, Fairhurst wrote the majority opinion overturning the state’s death penalty. She was one of four judges that dissented when the court upheld Washington’s ban on same-sex marriage in 2006.  

Fairhurst was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and continued to serve through treatment until her retirement in 2020. In her address to the Washington State Legislature in 2019, she asked her colleagues to work toward a system where everyone can obtain justice.

“Every day is a miracle,” she said. “Let’s not waste the days that we have. Working individually and together on behalf of those we faithfully serve, we can and are making a difference.”

During her time on the court Fairhurst pushed for lowering fees to reduce the legal system’s impacts on low-income families, and changes to policy to make it more difficult to dismiss jurors of color from trials.

Fairhurst was an Olympia native, but a graduate of Gonzaga University and Gonzaga Law School. She is survived by her husband and six siblings.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.