Michael Lopez-Shaw (upper right), son of the late Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw, addresses a packed room during the memorial for his mother Thursday at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Michael Lopez-Shaw (upper right), son of the late Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw, addresses a packed room during the memorial for his mother Thursday at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Snohomish County judge broke barriers, ‘dedicated herself fully’

Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw was remembered at a public memorial Thursday. “We cannot move forward from today with sadness,” her son said.

EVERETT — Cassandra Lopez-Shaw stepped outside to take a phone call during Thanksgiving dinner one year at the home of her friend, Anna Alexander.

Her plate went cold as she spoke with a domestic violence survivor, a pro bono client Lopez-Shaw was representing when she was a lawyer.

“That particular Thanksgiving speaks volumes of who she was as a lawyer but also as a person,” said Judge Alexander, in a eulogy for Lopez-Shaw, who later became a judge herself. “A lot of you know that when she was dedicated to you, whether it was as a client, a colleague or a friend, she dedicated herself fully.”

Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw

Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw

Hundreds gathered in Snohomish County Superior Court Thursday to celebrate the life of Lopez-Shaw, Snohomish County’s first Latinx judge. She died after a battle with cancer March 3. She was 54.

Judges, attorneys, deputy prosecutors, family and friends packed the courtroom.

Lopez-Shaw was elected to a four-year term on the Superior Court bench in 2020 with over 55% of the vote.

The judge wanted people coming into the courthouse to know that they had a woman of color on the bench, Alexander said. In the last line of her bio on the county website, she wrote, “Judge Lopez-Shaw welcomes you to the courthouse.”

“I’d never seen anything like that before,” Alexander said. “It was so incredibly simple. So incredibly powerful. So incredibly everything that she was.”

Judge Anna Alexander speaks during the memorial for Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw Thursday at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Judge Anna Alexander speaks during the memorial for Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw Thursday at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The former lawyer and judge kept working through her diagnoses and treatments.

“After a particularly grueling round of chemo, the next day, she went into court and tried her last case as a lawyer,” attorney Jason Lantz said.

She was a mentor and friend to Lantz. She gave him his first job in the field, he said.

Lopez-Shaw faced many challenges in the field of law. The obstacles almost always had to do with racism, Lantz said. For example, Lopez-Shaw would walk into court sometimes and the judge or prosecutor would ask her, “Where’s your lawyer?”

“She ran for judge for the best reason possible,” Lantz said. “She didn’t see people who represented her or look like her on the bench. More importantly, her clients didn’t see people. She thought to herself, ‘If not me, then who?’”

Defense attorney Laura Shaver first met Lopez-Shaw at a party. They became dear friends. Lopez-Shaw was both powerful and soft, Shaver said, and she showed up for people.

Local judges, some wearing collars to honor Cassandra Lopez-Shaw’s memory, exit the room after the memorial for her Thursday at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Local judges, some wearing collars to honor Cassandra Lopez-Shaw’s memory, exit the room after the memorial for her Thursday at the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

“It’s rare to stumble upon a person who wants nothing but sunshine for you for the rest of your life,” Shaver said. “That was Cassandra. Not just to me, but to everyone.”

Lopez-Shaw came to the United States at age 8. She grew up in the Los Angeles suburbs. She married Michael Shaw and had two children, who are now both in the military. The couple wrote a book together about their love story.

Lopez-Shaw graduated with her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and earned her law degree from Loyola Law School.

She is survived by her husband, her two children, Alexes and Michael, her mother and her brother.

Her son was the last person to speak at her memorial.

“Just as she lived doing things her own way, she also passed doing things her own way,” Michael Lopez-Shaw said. “We cannot move forward from today with sadness. That is not what Cassandra would have wanted. Go celebrate my mom by wearing the cute, bright, flowery shoes in your place of work. Drive around town just because the sun is out and play Christmas music off-season. Don’t be afraid to be bold and to be yourself.”

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; edennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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