Washington Supreme Court

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Washington Supreme Court
Seal of the Supreme Court of Washington.png
EstablishedNovember 9, 1889
LocationOlympia, Washington
Composition methodElection
Authorized byWashington State Constitution
Appeals toSupreme Court of the United States
Judge term length6 years
Number of positions9
WebsiteOfficial website
Chief Justice
CurrentlyMary Fairhurst
SinceJanuary 9, 2017
Jurist term ends2023

The Washington Supreme Court is the highest court in the judiciary of the US state of Washington. The Court is composed of a Chief Justice and eight Justices. Members of the Court are elected to six-year terms. Justices must retire at the end of the calendar year in which they reach the age of 75, per the Washington State Constitution.[1]

The Chief Justice is chosen by secret ballot by the Justices to serve a 4-year term. The current Chief Justice is Mary Fairhurst who was elected by her peers on November 3, 2016. Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst was sworn in on January 9, 2017, and succeeds Barbara Madsen, one of the longest-serving Chief Justices in Washington state history.

Prior to January 1997 (pursuant to a Constitutional amendment adopted in 1995) the post of Chief Justice was held for a 2-year term by a justice who (i) was one of the Justices with 2 years left in their term, (ii) was the most senior in years of service of that cohort, and (iii) (generally) had not previously served as Chief Justice. The last Chief Justice under the rotation system, Barbara Durham was the architect of the present internal election system, and was the first to be elected under the new procedure, serving until her resignation in 1999.

The court convenes in the Temple of Justice, a historic building on the Washington State Capitol campus in Olympia, Washington.

The persuasiveness of the Court's decisions reaches far beyond Washington's borders. A Supreme Court of California study published in 2007 found that the Washington Supreme Court's decisions were the second most widely followed by the appellate courts of all other US states in the period from 1940 to 2005 (second only to California).[2]


Title Name Joined the Court Current Term Ends Appointed By Legal Education
Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst January 1, 2003 January 8, 2023 Gonzaga University School of Law
Associate Chief Justice Charles W. Johnson January 1991 January 10, 2021 Seattle University School of Law
Justice Barbara Madsen 1993 January 8, 2023 Gonzaga University School of Law
Justice Susan Owens January 1, 2001 January 12, 2025 University of North Carolina School of Law
Justice Debra L. Stephens January 1, 2008 January 10, 2021 Christine Gregoire Gonzaga University School of Law
Justice Charlie K. Wiggins January 7, 2011 January 8, 2023 Duke University School of Law
Justice Steven C. Gonzalez January 2012 January 12, 2025 Christine Gregoire University of California, Berkeley School of Law
Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud January 1, 2013 January 12, 2025 USC Gould School of Law
Justice Mary Yu May 20, 2014 January 8, 2023 Jay Inslee Notre Dame Law School


The early history of the Washington Supreme Court has been described as follows:

The constitution fixed the terms of supreme court judges at six years, and provided that the first judges should determine by lot, two to serve for three years, two for five years, and one for seven years. This was to prevent a too sweeping change of the court at any one time. The judge with the shortest term to serve is elected by the court as chief justice, which allows most of the judges to enjoy that honor in turn. Judge Dunbar is the only one who has served continuously through the life of this court.

There are a few irregularities in the length of the terms. Judge Gordon resigned in June, 1900. Governor Rogers appointed William H. White to take his place. In November of the same year Judge White was regularly elected, but the term ended the following January. The Legislature in 1901 provided for the appointment of two judges to serve only until October, 1902. Governor Rogers appointed to these positions William H. White and Hiram E. Hadley. In 1905, the Legislature permanently increased the court from five to seven. Governor Mead appointed Herman D. Crow and Milo A. Root. At the next election, in 1906, those two judges were regularly elected for the terms expiring in 1909. After his election in November, 1908, Judge Root resigned.[3]




  1. ^ "Washington State Constitution, Article IV § 3(a)".
  2. ^ Dear, Jake; Jessen, Edward W (2007). "'Followed Rates' and Leading State Cases, 1940–2005" (PDF). U.C. Davis Law Review. 41: 683–694.
  3. ^ Edmond Stephen Meany, History of the State of Washington (1909), p. 366.

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