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Women Win Majority on Wash. Court

November 20, 2002

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OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) _ Women rule on the Washington state Supreme Court, and perhaps on Ohio’s highest court as well.

In a close race that ended Wednesday with the last absentee ballots counted, Assistant Attorney General Mary Fairhurst became the fifth woman on the Washington Supreme Court, defeating Jim Johnson to tip the court’s gender scales.

The women will serve alongside four men when the court is seated in January.

In Ohio, newly elected Maureen O’Connor will give that state’s Supreme Court a 4-3 female majority _ unless Justice Deborah Cook is confirmed for a federal judgeship before the end of the year.

Justice Barbara Madsen, who was only the third female Supreme Court justice in Washington state history when she was elected 10 years ago, said having more women on the court means deliberations are more free-flowing and conversational.

She said women justices tend to think differently about issues such as domestic violence and sexual harassment.

``It’s not that we decide the law differently, it’s that we bring different experiences to the court,″ she said.

Minnesota’s Supreme Court had a majority of women in the early 1990s, but it doesn’t anymore.

Washington’s chief justice, Gerry Alexander, said the male justices may have to adjust the bathroom assignments in the Temple of Justice.

``Ours may be slightly larger,″ Alexander said. ``We may have to yield our room.″

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