Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst

2019 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Ninth Circuit

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA–Chief Justice Mary E. Fairhurst has been selected to receive the prestigious 2019 American Inns of Court Professionalism Award for the Ninth Circuit. Senior Judge Mary M. Schroeder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will present the award during the Judicial Conference of the Ninth Circuit on July 23 in Spokane, Washington.

Since 2017, Fairhurst has been chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. Fairhurst began serving as a justice in the Washington Supreme Court in 2003. As chief justice, she now acts as the court’s chief spokesperson and presides over the court’s hearings and conferences.

“Ensuring access to justice has long been Mary’s calling,” says Jessica A. Skelton, Esquire, a former law clerk in Fairhurst’s chambers who is now a partner at Seattle’s Pacifica Law Group LLP, who nominated Fairhurst for the award. In response to increased immigration enforcement activities around the state’s courthouses, for instance, Fairhurst sought to protect access to justice by urging the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to designate courthouses as “sensitive locations.” “When people are afraid to appear for court hearings, out of fear of apprehension by immigration officials, their ability to access justice is compromised,” she wrote to the Secretary of Homeland Security in 2017.

Before returning to the Washington Supreme Court, where she started her career as a judicial clerk in the 1980s, Fairhurst spent 16 years in the Washington Attorney General’s Office.

Fairhurst also helped improve Washingtonians’ lives with work unrelated to her cases. She pushed for a constitutional amendment to increase crime victims’ rights while still protecting the constitutional rights of those accused. She helped organize the state’s first conferences on domestic violence. She also helped put together a summit on youth violence and moderated conferences on how to deal with sex offenders in the community.

Fairhurst was the first public sector attorney and second woman to be president of the Washington State Bar Association. She was also president of Washington Women Lawyers. Committed to public legal education and children’s issues, she has been actively involved in iCivics, the YMCA’s Youth and Government Program, and We the People.

Fairhurst earned an undergraduate degree cum laude in political science from Gonzaga University in Spokane in 1979 and earned a law degree magna cum laude from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1984.