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February 23, 2024

Memorial service to honor late Washington Supreme Court justices

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A memorial service for relatively recently deceased former justices of the Washington Supreme Court will be live streamed from the Temple of Justice in Olympia, Washington, on May 11.

The closed service honoring Justices Walter T. McGovern, Roselle Pekelis and Mary E. Fairhurst will begin at 9 a.m. and include remarks by Chief Justice Steven González, per a news release from Washington Courts.

Justice Walter McGovern (1922–2021), a U.S. Navy veteran, graduated from the University of Washington School of Law in 1950. He served in the Seattle Municipal Court from 1959 to 1965, and in the King County Superior Court from 1965 until his appointment to the state Supreme court by then-Governor Dan Evans in 1968. He was then elected to a six-year term but left in 1971 to accept appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. He served as Chief Judge from 1975 until 1987

Justice Roselle Pekelis (1938–2019) immigrated to the U.S. in 1941 when her Jewish family fled Nazi persecution in Europe. In 1972 she was one of two women in her class at the University of Missouri School of Law, where she faced opposition from some faculty members who were openly critical of women seeking to enter the legal profession, according to the Washington Courts .

Pekelis was appointed to the King County Superior Court in 1981, and to the Court of Appeals Division I in 1986, where she served for nine years.

In 1995 then-Governor Mike Lowry appointed Justice Pekelis to the Washington Supreme Court. She served for only nine months before losing the 1995 election, an outcome that stunned supporters.

At the time, it was thought that her unfamiliar sounding name may have been a factor in the outcome. Others surmised that she had been tainted by her association with Lowry, who was then facing sexual harassment accusations.

Pekelis wrote more than 250 majority opinions as an appellate judge, including one holding that gender-based peremptory challenges violated both the state and federal constitutions. She also wrote the 1994 Court opinion upholding the right of same-sex partners to adopt children.

Justice Mary Fairhurst (1957–2021) graduated from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1984. She clerked for state Supreme Court justices William H. Williams and William Goodloe, then moved to the state Attorney General’s Office. During her 15-year tenure, she organized statewide conferences on domestic violence and community handling of convicted sex offenders. She received the Steward of Justice Award in 1988, and also served as president of the Washington State Bar Association.

Fairhurst served on the Washington Supreme Court from 2003 until her retirement in 2020, the last four years as Chief Justice.

Form Justice James A. “Jimmy” Andersen passed away on May 1 and will be honored during the Court’s 2023 memorial service.

This article was originally posted on Memorial service to honor late Washington Supreme Court justices

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