Washington Courts: Press Release Detail
Memorial set for first woman chief justice of Supreme CourtApril 27, 2003
Former Chief Justice Barbara Durham will be honored by the Washington Supreme Court in a memorial service on Thursday, May 1st, starting at 9 a.m. in the Temple of Justice in Olympia.
Durham passed away on Dec. 30, 2002 at the age of 60 of complications from a neurological disorder. During her career, she opened doors previously closed to women, searched for better ways to protect domestic violence victims, and campaigned for changes in how judges are selected in Washington.
“She was truly a pioneer for women in the legal profession,” recalled Chief Justice Gerry Alexander. “She served at every level of Court in our state and was one of the most respected jurists of her time.”
Durham was born on Oct. 6, 1942 in Anacortes and graduated from Vashon Island High School in 1960. She attended Gonzaga University and earned a degree in business administration and finance from Georgetown University in 1964. After working for a year in New York City as a securities analyst, she attended Stanford University Law School, graduating in 1968.
Durham first practiced law as a deputy prosecuting attorney in King County, focusing primarily on felony cases, including child abuse and first-degree murder cases. In 1973, the King County Council appointed her to the Mercer Island District court, and in 1977, she was elected to the King County Superior Court.
Governor Dixie Lee Ray appointed Durham to the Court of Appeals, and in 1984, she was elected the first woman Chief Judge in any division of the state Court of Appeals. Governor John Spellman appointed her to the state Supreme Court in 1985, and she became the first woman Chief Justice in January 1995 when she was elected to the position by her fellow justices.
During her tenure on the Supreme Court, Durham wrote the decision establishing standards for use of DNA evidence in state courts, as well as the decision that upheld the civil commitment of sexual predators. She co-founded the Judges in the Classroom project and, with state Attorney General Christine Gregoire, organized a summit on improving protections for domestic violence victims.
In 1995, Durham was named Judge of the Year by the King County Bar Association and King County Washington Women Lawyers. In 1998, she received the William O’Douglas Award from the Washington State Trial Lawyers Association for 20 years of distinguished service. She was nominated for an appointment to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but withdrew her name from consideration due to health concerns. Durham retired from the Supreme Court in September of 1999.
CONTACT: Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, Washington Supreme Court 360-357-2029.
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