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Washington's First Openly-Gay Supreme Court Justice Sworn Into Office

Elaine Thompson
AP Photo
New Washington state Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu is applauded by current court members behind as she acknowledges the gallery after being sworn in to the bench Tuesday, May 20, 2014, in Olympia, Wash.

The Washington Supreme Court's first openly gay justice has been sworn into the bench. Former King County Superior Court Judge Mary Yu is also the first Asian American and first female Hispanic member of the court.

Yu took the oath in Washington’s Temple of Justice on Tuesday. Afterward, she expressed some relief that she won’t face an opponent in the fall election.

Yu will run in November to finish out the term of retiring Justice Jim Johnson. Like a lot of appointed judges this year, Yu faces no opposition on the ballot. 

“I would like to believe that it’s because I’m a trial court judge with 14 years of experience that people would say, 'You know what? This is a legitimate person who maybe deserves an opportunity,'”

Another factor may have been the short timeline between Yu’s appointment by Gov. Jay Inslee and the deadline for candidates to file for office. Court watcher Alex Hayes views the lack of a candidate to challenge Yu as a missed opportunity.

“Generally the opportunity to challenge an appointed judge is at that moment that they were appointed, and in two years Judge Yu will frankly more difficult to defeat at the ballot box than she is today," Hayes said.

Hayes helped elect Justice Jim Johnson, who was widely viewed as the lone conservative on the Washington Supreme Court. Nineteen of Inslee’s appointments to the bench are on the ballot this fall, but only one faces a challenger.


Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.