State Supreme Justice Mary Fairhurst
Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst listens to oral argument in the McCleary case (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Yes­ter­day evening, at our Sev­en­teenth Anniver­sary Pic­nic, we induct­ed our sev­enth Lynn Allen Award Hon­oree: Retired Supreme Court Jus­tice Mary Fairhurst.

Named for our late sis­ter Lynn Allen, a found­ing board­mem­ber of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, these awards rec­og­nize peo­ple who have made indis­pens­able con­tri­bu­tions to pro­gres­sive caus­es for a decade or more.

We lost Lynn to ovar­i­an can­cer in 2011, but her spir­it has remained with us. (And so have her pub­lished works, pre­served by NPI at Rebuild­ing Democ­ra­cy.)

Lynn emphat­i­cal­ly believed in the impor­tant work of orga­niz­ing rur­al com­mu­ni­ties and act­ing on issues of con­cern to peo­ple liv­ing far away from our big cities and urban areas. She preached and prac­ticed the pol­i­tics of inclusion.

As com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor of the Insti­tute for Washington’s Future, she trav­eled reg­u­lar­ly to Washington’s rur­al coun­ties and small towns, cham­pi­oning sus­tain­able busi­ness and agri­cul­tur­al practices.

A skilled facil­i­ta­tor and gift­ed lis­ten­er, Lynn under­stood the impor­tance of and need for effec­tive activism. Not a day goes by when we don’t miss her.

We estab­lished the Lynn Allen Awards as part of our con­tin­u­ing effort to ensure that Lynn’s good works will be remem­bered and her lega­cy appreciated.

Each year, we hon­or two out­stand­ing indi­vid­u­als with a Lynn Allen Award.

In 2017, we pre­sent­ed the very first Lynn Allen Awards to Joni Earl and Paul Lawrence. In 2018, Major Gen­er­al Paul Eaton (Retired) and Alex Hen­drick­son became our third and fourth hon­orees. In 2019, Estela Orte­ga and Al Gar­man became our fifth and sixth hon­orees. Last night, the leg­endary Jus­tice Mary Fairhurst become the sev­enth Lynn Allen Award recipient.

State Supreme Justice Mary Fairhurst
Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court Jus­tice Mary Fairhurst lis­tens to oral argu­ment in the McCleary case (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Pro­gres­sive Institute)

Mary’s award com­men­da­tion is as follows:

An excep­tion­al and wide­ly respect­ed jurist, Mary Fairhurst served the peo­ple as an Asso­ciate Jus­tice and Chief Jus­tice of the Wash­ing­ton State Supreme Court for sev­en­teen years after work­ing in the Attor­ney Gen­er­al’s office in many roles, includ­ing as divi­sion chief. While on the Court, she authored the major­i­ty opin­ion in Gre­go­ry that struck down the death penal­ty in Wash­ing­ton State, as well as the lead­ing dis­sent in the Ander­son case, which sought an affir­ma­tion that laws against mar­riage equal­i­ty were incom­pat­i­ble with the Con­sti­tu­tion. In anoth­er notable case, League of Edu­ca­tion Vot­ers, she helped pro­tect Wash­ing­ton’s cher­ished tra­di­tion of major­i­ty rule in the Leg­is­la­ture. Her work eth­ic and sta­mi­na in the face of repeat­ed can­cer diag­noses demon­strate her pro­fes­sion­al­ism and pas­sion for justice.

This KING5 sto­ry by Drew Mikkelsen goes into more detail about Mary’s bat­tle with can­cer and is worth watch­ing. Mary’s oth­er hon­ors include:

  • Amer­i­can Inns of Court Pro­fes­sion­al­ism Award for the Ninth Circuit
  • Charles A. Gold­mark Dis­tin­guished Ser­vice Award from the Legal Foun­da­tion of Wash­ing­ton Board of Trustees
  • WSBA Award of Merit
  • Stew­ard of Jus­tice Award from then-Attor­ney Gen­er­al Chris­tine Gregoire
  • The Coun­cil for Pub­lic Legal Education’s Flame of Democ­ra­cy Award
  • William Nevins Award for dis­tin­guished ser­vice in pub­lic legal education

Press play below to watch Mary’s accep­tance speech.

Con­grat­u­la­tions, Mary, and thank you for your tremen­dous ser­vice to the peo­ple of the State of Wash­ing­ton. Your con­tri­bu­tions tru­ly have been indispensable.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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