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Barbara Durham, 60; Chief Justice of Washington State

January 03, 2003|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Barbara Durham, 60, the only woman to serve as chief justice of Washington state, has died. She was 60.

Durham's husband, Dr. Charles Divelbiss, said she died Monday of a neuro-degenerative disorder at a care facility in Mount Vernon, Wash.

Durham was the second woman to serve on the state Supreme Court. She served as chief justice from 1995 to December 1998 and resigned in January 1999.

A native of Anacortes, Wash., Durham graduated from Stanford University Law School in 1968. She worked as a criminal prosecutor in King County (where Seattle is located) and later became a District Court judge in Mercer Island, a Superior Court judge in King County and an appellate court judge.

Former Gov. John Spellman appointed Durham to the state Supreme Court in 1985. Her fellow justices voted her chief in 1995. Today, five of the court's nine justices are women.

As a member of the high court, she was a strong advocate for victims of domestic abuse but also was a firm backer of law enforcement.

Former President Clinton nominated her for a federal judgeship in January 1999, but she withdrew her name, saying her husband had recently been diagnosed with serious heart problems.

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