Chief Justice Barbara Madsen
On October 31, 2012, Justice Barbara Madsen was unanimously elected by her colleagues to serve a second term as the 55th Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. As Chief Justice, she is the court’s chief spokesperson, presides over Supreme Court hearings and conferences, and co-chairs the state’s Board for Judicial Administration. The voters elected Justice Madsen as the third woman to serve on the Washington Supreme Court in 1992, and she was re-elected in 1998, 2004, and 2010.
Justice Madsen, a native of Renton, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in 1974 and earned her J.D. from Gonzaga University School of Law in 1977. While at Gonzaga, Justice Madsen volunteered many hours with Gonzaga’s University Legal Assistance Clinic and Spokane Legal Services.
After completing law school, Justice Madsen worked as a public defender in King and Snohomish counties. In 1982, she joined the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and was appointed Special Prosecutor in 1984. Mayor Charles Royer appointed Justice Madsen in 1988 to the Seattle Municipal Court bench, where she served as Presiding Judge.
Justice Madsen is committed to public service and equal justice. When she served as the Special Prosecutor, Justice Madsen developed the child abuse component of the Family Violence Project. After joining the bench, she began working toward the development of a Domestic Violence Coordinating Committee to comprehensively address violence in the family. As the Presiding Judge, Justice Madsen increased opportunities for women and attorneys of color to receive appointments as pro tem judges. Justice Madsen’s commitment to equal justice continues today in her role as the chair of the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission.
In 1993, Justice Madsen was honored as the first recipient of the annual Myra Bradwell Award, honoring an outstanding alumna of Gonzaga University School of Law who has made great strides on behalf of women. She received the Washington Women Lawyers Vanguard Award in 1998 and 2002 for her leadership and inspiration for women in the legal profession. In 2004, Justice Madsen co-chaired the Crystal Brame Committee which secured legislation requiring all police agencies to adopt investigation protocol for police perpetrated domestic violence. Since 2005, she has led efforts to establish the Initiative for Diversity, a program encouraging legal employers to commit to and implement individual organizational plans to increase diversity and received a Social Justice Award in 2011 from The Loren Miller Bar Association for her unwavering dedication to the pursuit of justice and equality in Washington State. Chief Justice Madsen has chaired the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission since 1998. Most recently the Commission, partnering with other community groups, succeeded in passing legislation banning the shackling of women prisoners during labor. In 2010 she was named the Seattle University School of Law Woman of the Year and in 2014 she was awarded the Gonzaga Law Medal from Gonzaga University School of Law. As chief justice, she is committed to continuing the Supreme Court’s long-standing support for access to justice.
Justice Madsen is a member of Washington Women Lawyers and the National Association of Women Judges. She and her husband, Donald Madsen, live in Pierce County and have four children.