OLYMPIA – Former Washington Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, who had been fighting cancer, has died. She was 64.
In a statement Washington Courts said Fairhurst died Tuesday surrounded by her family in Olympia. In January of 2020 she retired due to health reasons.
“Chief Justice Fairhurst was an inspiration to everyone. She was always positive yet with both feet on the ground,” Chief Justice Steven González said in a statement. “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.”
Fairhurst was first diagnosed with colon cancer in late 2008 and it later spread to a lung. After a final treatment in 2011 and several years of no evidence of disease, Fairhurst said that the cancer returned in 2018 – appearing in her lungs, liver, thyroid and spleen. She had continued to work while undergoing chemotherapy before opting to step down.
She was first elected to the court in 2002, and was elected chief justice by her colleagues in 2016.
In 2018, when the high court unanimously struck down the state’s death penalty as arbitrary and racially biased, Fairhurst wrote the lead opinion.
Fairhurst was a magna cum laude graduate of Gonzaga Law School and the youngest president of the Washington State Bar Association.
“I am deeply saddened about the loss of Justice Mary Fairhurst,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement Wednesday. “She was a talented legal mind, a wonderful, thoughtful person and a dedicated public servant. Mary was deeply committed to her community and was always trying to find ways to support those most in need.”
When Fairhurst decided to step down she emailed colleagues and said the decision to retire was difficult.
“Everything is a miracle. Every day is a miracle,” she wrote. “Let’s not waste the days we have.”