By TED O’NEIL
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Former Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst, who served as chief justice from 2016 to 2020, passed away Tuesday at the age of 64, according to a news release from the court.
Justice Fairhurst was first elected to the court in 2002 after having worked in the state attorney general’s office. She was re-elected in 2008 and again in 2016.
The native of Olympia earned her undergraduate and juris doctor degrees from Gonzaga University.
In her 2019 State of the Judiciary address to state legislators, Justice Fairhurst announced she would retire in early 2020 with a year left in her term and revealed she was battling a third round of colon cancer which was originally diagnosed in 2008.
“I want to remind you that time is precious,” she said in her speech. “For whatever reason, this is our individual and collective time and place. It is when and where we are serving. None of us know how many days we have to make a difference. This is especially true for me.”
Justice Fairhurst, who was the youngest ever president of the Washington State Bar Association, also wrote the court’s majority opinion in 2018 that abolished the state’s death penalty.
“Chief Justice Fairhurst was an inspiration to everyone,” current Chief Justice Steven González said in the release. “She always stayed positive yet with two feet on the ground. We are grateful for her leadership and for the time she shared so generously with all of us and send our condolences to her entire family.”
In her 2019 address, Justice Fairhurst quoted a saying by Albert Einstein as her way of approaching life.
“I still believe in miracles,” she said. “As Albert Einstein said, ‘there are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle, and the other is as though everything is a miracle.’ Everything is a miracle. Every day is a miracle. Let’s not waste the days we have. Working individually and together, on behalf of those we faithfully serve, we can and are making a difference.”
Justice Fairhurst was remembered by colleagues for several qualities.
“Mary was the most authentic, loving person I have ever known,” Justice Debra Stephens said in the release. “She truly made no distinction between her work life and her home life in terms of values and personal philosophy – she was a friend to everyone she met.”