Washington State Supreme Court gets its first ever Native American justice
Our state will have a new state Supreme Court justice Wednesday.
Governor Inslee announced that he has chosen a replacement to serve out Justice Mary Fairhurst’s final year. Fairhurst, our state’s chief Supreme Court justice, is retiring early due to health complications related to cancer.
The appointment is going to Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis. She has 20 years of judicial experience, including five on the Whatcom County Superior Court, and several in tribal courts as well.
Montoya-Lewis has master’s degree in social work and a law degree from the University of Washington, and a BA from the University of New Mexico. She will be the first Native American justice.
“Because Judge Montoya-Lewis is Native American, many will focus on the historic nature of this appointment,” Inslee said. “And it’s entirely appropriate to do so. But I want the record to show that Judge Montoya-Lewis is the kind of exceptional judge I want serving on the highest court in our state because she is the best person for the job.”
In addition to her court experience, Montoya-Lewis has worked for years with tribal and rural communities, and spent time working to protect children from exploitation, receiving the Children’s Advocacy Center Community Leadership Award in 2018.
“I have served as a judge for 20 years, in tribal courts and in Superior Court, and I know the struggles and challenges that land people in front of our hardworking judges at every level of our judicial system,” Montoya-Lewis said. “I bring each of the stories I have heard over my career to being a Supreme Court Justice and I hope to honor and serve the people, my colleagues, my ancestors, and my family with the integrity and honor each of them have shown me over these many years.”