With the election of Justice Mary Fairhurst, women now have a 5-4 majority in Washington state’s Supreme Court for the first time in the state’s history. Washington is only one of two states that have a majority of women justices in their highest court. The other, Ohio, is likely to lose its female majority as Justice Deborah Cook has been nominated for a federal judgeship, according to the Associated Press. Washington state also has one of the highest percentages of women legislators in the United States, with 42 percent in the Senate and 34 percent in the House, according to AP.
Washington Supreme Court Justice Barbara Madsen told AP that “in the state of Washington, the election of women is just the way we do business.” Fairhurst, a longtime assistant attorney general, is replacing the Court’s only minority, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 75 in 2002, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
Fairhurst was backed by Democratic officeholders, labor unions, and environmental groups, while her opponent, Jim Johnson, was primarily backed by business groups, according to AP. Fairhurst also has organized statewide summits on domestic violence, the Seattle Times reports. In 2001, she was appointed to serve on the state Supreme Court’s Gender and Justice Commission.