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High court elects new chief justice

OLYMPIA – Justice Barbara Madsen was elected Thursday by members of the state Supreme Court to be its new chief justice.

Madsen, 57, replaces Gerry Alexander in the top administrative role on the high court. Madsen was first elected in 1992, and was re-elected for a third term in 2004.

Alexander, who has served as chief justice since 2001, is stepping down from that role in January and will serve out the remainder of his term as an associate justice. Alexander is set to retire at the end of 2011, the year in which he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 75 for judges in Washington. He was first elected to the court in 1994.

“To have this two-year period to draw from his institutional memory will make the job a lot easier,” said Madsen, who admitted she’s a little nervous to follow Alexander, the state’s longest-serving chief justice.

“I’m going to quell the butterflies and do the best job I can,” she said.

Madsen will be sworn in as the new chief justice in January.