CWU News

CWU to Host the Justices of the Washington Supreme Court

Central Washington University will serve as the state’s “Temple of Justice” for the Washington Supreme Court on Wednesday and Thursday, May 4 and 5, sponsored by the CWU Office of the President and Center for Diversity and Social Justice (CDSJ).

“For anybody who is curious about how the Supreme Court works or what it's like to be a on it, this is an opportunity to see the justices at work,” said Michelle Cyrus, CDSJ diversity officer, who is coordinating the visit. “It’s remarkable that we’ll be able to see them presiding over actual cases right here, not to mention that they will take time to meet and visit with Central students, faculty, and staff.”

During court sessions, scheduled for at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Thursday, in the McIntyre Music Building’s Recital Hall, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson, and fellow justices Mary Fairhurst, Steven González, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Susan Owens, Debra Stephens, Charles Wiggins, and Mary Yu will preside over three cases. The oral arguments in those cases will be open to the public. 

The two morning session cases will involve the justices reviewing a Western State Hospital staffing decision—in response to a mentally ill patient’s threats—to determine if it constituted employment discrimination on the basis of race in violation state anti-discrimination laws, and whether exempting tribal property from tax, while requiring an alternate payment, actually is a tax.  The afternoon session will focus on the question of whether Washington should change its First Amendment “true threat” test from a reasonable-speaker test to a subjective-intent test instead.

The justices will answer questions from the audience following both sessions, however final decisions on these cases are expected are not expected to be issued for three to six months.

On Wednesday, the justices participate in a series of afternoon classroom visits. They will also have lunch with students, faculty, and staff members on both days of their visit to Ellensburg.

All Washington Supreme Court oral arguments are open to the public, and are broadcast at a later date via Washington’s Public Affairs network, TVW. Since 1985, the "traveling court" has visited and heard cases in communities across the state as a way to allows citizens to see the court at work. The justices also heard cases at CWU in 2006.

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Radio Services and Integrated Communications, 509-963-1487,

May 3, 2016

Photo (l. to r.): Mary Fairhurst, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Associate Chief Justice Charles Johnson, Charles Wiggins, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen, Steven González, Susan Owens, Mary Yu, Debra Stephens.