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Gonzaga Alumna Mary Fairhurst Elected Chief Justice of State Supreme Court

Posted on November 7, 2016 in: Academics, Alumni, Feature Stories, Law Alumni, Law School, Spotlight
Justice Mary Fairhurst visits on campus with the other members of the Washington State Supreme  to interact with students and the public at forums and hearing cases. (Gonzaga photo by Rajah Bose)

Justice Mary Fairhurst in a visit with constituents on Gonzaga’s campus. (Photo by Rajah Bose)

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Justice Mary Fairhurst, who earned her undergraduate and law degrees from Gonzaga University, was elected the 56th chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court on Nov. 3 by a vote of her peers. Her four-year term starts Jan. 9, 2017. She will succeed Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, also a Gonzaga Law School alumna, and one of the longest-serving chief justices in state history.

“I am honored and humbled to be elected by my colleagues for this role, and I am especially grateful for Chief Justice Madsen’s support. She has been a tremendous leader, and I will rely on her guidance as I assume this awesome responsibility,” Fairhurst said in a news release. “I have always had a passion for educating the public about the judicial branch, and I look forward to working with the other branches of government and those in the judicial branch to serve the residents of the state of Washington.”

Justice Fairhurst earned her law degree magna cum laude from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1984. She earned her undergraduate degree in political science cum laude from Gonzaga in 1979. She received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Gonzaga in 2006, and was honored by Gonzaga Law with the Distinguished Judicial Service Award and the Myra Bradwell Award. She was a member and served as president of the Gonzaga Law School Board of Advisors and served as president of the Gonzaga Law School Alumni Association.

Chief Justice Madsen, who will continue as a justice on the court, nominated Fairhurst.

“It is a privilege to serve on a court that is recognized for its thoughtful decisions and its leadership on issues of access to justice and procedural fairness and even more so to be its chief justice. I know Mary Fairhurst will continue this tradition of excellence,” said Chief Justice Madsen.

As chief justice, Fairhurst will become the court’s chief spokesperson, will preside over the court’s public hearings and will co-chair the state’s Board for Judicial Administration, the primary policy-setting group of the state judiciary.

Fairhurst was elected to the Supreme Court in 2002. Before that, she served 16 years with the Washington State Attorney General’s Office under Christine Gregoire and Ken Eikenberry. She was the second woman to serve as president of the Washington State Bar Association, which gave her its highest honor in 2011, the Award of Merit.

Madsen was the first woman to join the Washington Supreme Court by popular election in 1992, and the third woman in state history to serve on the court.

Fairhurst will be officially sworn in Jan. 9 in a ceremony at the Temple of Justice in Olympia.

Read more about Justice Fairhurst at

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