1969 with 12 judges (presently, the Court
of Appeals has 22 judges).
In 1985, Durham was appointed to the
Supreme Court by Governor John Spellman to fill the seat vacated by Justice
In 1995, Justice Durham became
Washington’s first female chief justice
when she was elected to the position
by her fellow justices. Justice Durham
served as chief justice of the Washington
Supreme Court from 1995 to 1998. She
retired from the Court in 1999.
In 1999, President Clinton nominated
Justice Durham to the U.S. Court of Ap-
peals for the Ninth Circuit. Justice Dur-
ham, however, withdrew her name.
Justice Durham understood that one
of the most essential functions of democratic government was to protect its citizens. Accordingly, she was a strong advocate for victims of domestic violence.
Justice Durham and Justice Dimmick
understood that a law degree was em-
powering. Ultimately, however, it is the
individual who makes the difference. A
quarter-century ago, it did not take long
to call the roll of women who had served
on the Washington Supreme Court. To-
day, however, after Justices Dimmick
and Durham charted a path to the Su-
preme Court, the bench is quite different.
Without question, Justice Durham and
Justice Dimmick made a tremendous dif-
Washington Supreme Court Justices
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
Washington’s current Supreme Court comprises six women and three men. Seated: Mary Fairhurst,
Charles Johnson, Barbara Madsen, Susan Owens, Debra Stephens. Standing: Sheryl Gordon McCloud,
Charles Wiggins, Steven González, Mary Yu.
In the past 125 years, 11 women have served on the Washington Supreme Court. Since 1909, Washington’s
Supreme Court has included nine justices. This table depicts the transformation of the Court.
of the Col-
lege of Wil-
to serve as
for Justice Barbara Durham. He is
a member of the WSBA Editorial
Advisory Committee and can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
THE WOMEN OF WASHINGTON’S
Carolyn Dimmick, 1981–1985
Barbara Durham, 1985–1999,
Chief Justice: 1995–1998
Barbara Madsen, 1993 – present,
Chief Justice: 2010 – present
Rosselle Pekelis, 1995–1996
Faith Ireland , 1999–2005
Bobbie Bridge, 2001–2007
Susan Owens, 2001–present
Mary Fairhurst, 2003–present
Debra Stephens, 2008–present
Sheryl Gordon McCloud, 2013–present
Mary Yu, 2014–present
The following are useful resources to learn
• Charles H. Sheldon, The Washington High
Bench: A Biographical History of the State
Supreme Court, 1889 – 1991 (February 1992)
• Washington Secretary of State, Carolyn
Dimmick: A Judge for All Seasons – An Oral
• Administrative Office of the Courts: www.