Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles Wiggins to retire

Olympia, Wash. (AP) — Washington Supreme Court Justice Charles Wiggins announced Thursday he will retire at the end of March.

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Wiggins, 72, was first elected to the court in 2010. In a letter to Gov. Jay Inslee, he wrote that it had been “a tremendous honor” to serve on the court but that he wanted to spend more time with his wife, Nancy, and their family.

“Thus, the time has come for me to step down, opening the way for a new justice,” he wrote.

Wiggins' announcement comes shortly after the retirement of former Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, who retired this week to focus on her health as she fights a third bout of cancer. The court's newest justice, Raquel Montoya-Lewis, was sworn in Jan. 6. She is the first Native American justice to serve on the state’s highest court.

Wiggins, a former appeals lawyer, won his seat nearly a decade ago after beating three-term Justice Richard Sanders by 13,000 votes out of nearly 2 million cast.

While serving on the Supreme Court, he also sat as a pro tem judge on the on Division Two of the Washington Court of Appeals and on the Jefferson Co. Superior Court bench. He also served as a pro tem judge in King County and as a pro tem district court judge in Kitsap judge while he was in private practice from 1996 until he was elected to the Supreme Court.

He also served as a judge on the Court of Appeals briefly in 1995.

Inslee, a Democrat, will appoint a new justice who must run in the November election, and then again in 2022, when Wiggins' term would have ended.

The other members of the court are: Chief Justice Debra Stephens, Justices Barbara Madsen, Charles Johnson, Susan Owens, Steven Gonzalez, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, and Mary Yu.