New Washington Supreme Court Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis (left) reacts to applause after she was sworn in Monday in Olympia. Montoya-Lewis was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to fill the remainder of the term of former Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, who retired in January. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

New Washington Supreme Court Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis (left) reacts to applause after she was sworn in Monday in Olympia. Montoya-Lewis was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee to fill the remainder of the term of former Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, who retired in January. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

New chief justice, first Native American member sworn in

A former Whatcom County Superior Court judge has joined the Washington Supreme Court.

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — The Washington Supreme Court on Monday swore in a new chief justice as well as its first Native American justice ever.

The Spokesman-Review reports Justice Debra Stephens became the court’s 57th chief justice. A former Appeals Court judge and adjunct professor of law at Gonzaga University, she called it “the greatest privilege I can imagine.”

Raquel Montoya-Lewis, a former Whatcom County Superior Court judge who is a member of the Pueblo of Isleta tribe of New Mexico, was sworn in at the same ceremony. Montoya-Lewis is the first Native American to serve on Washington’s highest court, and only the second to serve on any state supreme court in the nation. Stephens called it a historic day.

Stephens was elected chief justice by other members of the court after former Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst announced she was resigning to concentrate on fighting cancer. Gov. Jay Inslee last month named Montoya-Lewis, a Whatcom County Superior Court judge, to fill the open seat on the court.

Inslee said Monday was a day when “a daughter of Spokane ascends to chief justice,” and the court gets Lewis-Montoya, a “judicial superstar” who is a good listener, decisive, caring and compassionate.

In this Jan. 7 story, The Associated Press erroneously reported the name of the Native American tribe Raquel Montoya-Lewis is a member of. She is a member of the Pueblo of Isleta tribe of New Mexico, not Pueblo Iselta. The story has been corrected.

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