Raquel Montoya-Lewis

That leaves a vacancy to fill for Whatcom Superior Court

OLYMPIA ­— Raquel Montoya-Lewis, for five years a Superior Court judge in Whatcom County, was sworn in Monday, Jan. 6, to serve as the first Native American on the Washington State Supreme Court.

She was named in December by Gov. Jay Inslee to replace retiring justice Mary Fairhurst, who is battling cancer. Debra Stephens of Spokane moves up to be the chief justice.

Montoya-Lewis, 52, is a member of the Pueblo of Isleta and the Pueblo of Laguna Indian tribes of New Mexico. She graduated from the University of New Mexico and the University of Washington Law School.

In 2014 she was in the role of chief judge for the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian tribes in Washington and an associate professor at Western Washington University, when Inslee appointed her to the fourth Superior Court judge seat for Whatcom County.

Montoya-Lewis will stand for election later this year to the Supreme Court justice position.

The appointment creates a vacancy to fill in Whatcom County, leaving the three remaining judges, Robert E. Olson, Deborra E. Garrett and Lee Grochmal. Three court commissioners assist in the Superior Court system: Angela A. Cuevas, Alfred L. Heydrich and Leon F. Henley, Jr.