By Rachel La Corte
The Associated Press
OLYMPIA — Whatcom County Superior Court Judge Raquel Montoya-Lewis was appointed to the state Supreme Court on Wednesday by Gov. Jay Inslee, who said she will be the first Native American justice to serve on the state’s highest court.
Montoya-Lewis, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta and a descendant of the Pueblo of Laguna Indian tribes of New Mexico, will be sworn in next month to fulfill the remaining year of Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst’s term, and the seat will be open for election in 2020.
Montoya-Lewis will not serve as chief justice on the nine-member court.
Justice Debra Stephens was elected by her fellow members of the court to take that top spot, and will be sworn into her new role in January.
In October, Fairhurst announced she will retire from the high court in January to focus on her health as she fights a third bout of cancer.
Montoya-Lewis, 51, was previously appointed to the Superior Court by Inslee and ran for re-election unopposed in both 2015 and 2016.
Before her appointment to the superior court, Montoya-Lewis served as the chief judge for the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian Tribes in Washington and worked as an associate professor for Western Washington University for more than 12 years.
She also previously served with the Lummi Nation Tribal Court, and served as a judge for the Northwest Intertribal Court System.
As Superior Court judge, she has taught classes on implicit bias throughout the state to judges, court employees and others.