Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis Takes Medical Leave

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Washington Supreme Court Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis announced Monday she will be on family medical leave for the court’s spring term to concentrate on her health, but officials with the court didn’t release additional details, citing the justice’s desire for privacy.

The high court’s spring oral arguments begin on Tuesday and end June 28.

“I look forward to returning to the Court as quickly as possible and would like to express my appreciation of the support of my staff and colleagues during this time,” Montoya-Lewis said in a written statement released by the Administrative Office of the Courts.

Wendy Ferrell, associate director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, said in an email that Montoya-Lewis has been meeting with her medical team “and appreciates privacy during this time while she concentrates on her well-being.”

Montoya-Lewis, an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta who is the court’s first Native American justice, was appointed by Gov. Jay Inslee in December 2019, and sworn in the following month to fulfill the remaining year of the late Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, who had been battling cancer and stepped down to focus on her treatment. Fairhurst died in December at age 64.

Montoya-Lewis, 54, won election to a six-year term in November 2020. She previously served as a Whatcom County Superior Court judge, and before that served as chief judge for the Nooksack and Upper Skagit Indian Tribes in Washington.

The Supreme Court Clerk’s office will randomly select current and eligible retired court of appeals judges and willing superior court judges to hear oral argument and decide cases in Montoya-Lewis' place.

Besides Montoya-Lewis, the state’s other Supreme Court justices are Chief Justice Steven González, Charles Johnson, Barbara Madsen, Susan Owens, Debra Stephens, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary Yu and G. Helen Whitener.