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Justice Robert French Utter, 1930-2014

Justice Utter

Biographical Information

Born June 19, 1930; died Oct. 16, 2014

LL.B., 1954, University of Washington School of Law
B.S., 1951, University of Washington

Juvenile Commissioner, King County Superior Court, 1959-64
Judge, King County Superior Court, 1964-69
Judge, Washington State Court of Appeals, 1969-71
Justice, Supreme Court of Washington, 1971-95
Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Washington, 1979-81
Resigned from the Washington Supreme Court in 1995 to protest the death penalty. Opinion, Washington State Must Abandon the Death Penalty, Seattle Times, March 11, 2009.

Justice Utter was honored by the Washington Law Review at its April 10, 2009 banquet.

Justice Utter at the Washington Law Review Banquet 2009

From left to right: Judge Michael Trickey (then Judge, King County Superior Court), Prof. Maureen Howard, Prof. Hugh Spitzer, and Justice Utter.

Areas of Expertise: Constitutional Law, Alternate Dispute Resolution


Obituaries & Profiles


Articles (Law Reviews)

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Unjust Laws, 19 Cardozo L. Rev. 1035 (1997).

Robert F. Utter & David C. Lundsgaard, Judicial Review in the New Nations of Central and Eastern Europe: Some Thoughts from a Comparative Perspective, 54 Ohio St. L.J. 559 (1993).

The Practice of Principled Decision-Making in State Constitutionalism: Washington's Experience, 65 Temple L. Rev. 1153 (1992).

State Constitutional Law, the United States Supreme Court, and Democratic Accountability: Is There a Crocodile in the Bathtub, 64 Wash. L. Rev. 19 (1989).

Robert F. Utter & Edward J. Larson, Church and State on the Frontier: The History of the Establishment Clauses in the Washington State Constitution, 15 Hastings Const. L.Q. 451 (1988).

Survey of Washington Search and Seizure Law, 11 U. Puget Sound L. Rev. 411 (1988).

Robert F. Utter & Sanford E. Pitler, Presenting a State Constitutional Argument: Comment on Theory and Technique, 20 Ind. L. Rev. 635 (1987).

Dispute Resolution in China [tribute], 62 Wash. L. Rev. 383 (1987).

Survey of Washington Search and Seizure Law, 9 U. Puget Sound L. Rev. 1 (1985).

Swimming in the Jaws of the Crocodile: State Court Comment on Federal Constitutional Issues When Disposing of Cases on State Constitutional Grounds, 63 Tex. L. Rev. 1025 (1985).

The Right to Speak, Write, and Publish Freely: State Constitutional Protection Against Private Abridgment, 8 U. Puget Sound L. Rev. 157 (1985).

Freedom and Diversity in a Federal System: Perspectives on State Constitutions and the Washington Declaration of Rights, 7 U. Puget Sound L. Rev. 491 (1984).

Selection and Retention--A Judge's Perspective, 48 Wash. L. Rev. 839 (1973).

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Articles (Magazines)

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Justice Dando and Abolition of the Death Penalty, Ronkyū jurisuto [Quarterly Jurist], Winter 2013, at 78.

Iraqi Judicial Profiles in Courage, Wash. St. B. News, Nov. 2005 at 31.

Robert F. Utter & David C. Lundsgaard, Comparative Aspects of Judicial Review: Issues Facing the New European States, 77 Judicature 240 (1994).

Some Things Never Change, Wash. St. B. News, Apr. 1984, at 28.

Improvements Past, Present and to Come: Washington State's Justice System, Wash. St. B. News, Oct. 1980, at 33.

The State of the Judiciary – 1979, Wash. St. B. News, Dec. 1979, at 14.

Statement of Philosophy, Wash. St. B. News, Mar. 1979, at 14.

Robert F. Utter & James Duke Cameron, Let Us Create a Judicial Services Corporation, Judges J. 39, 1978, no. 4 at 39.

New Layers, New Horizons Advice to New Members of the Bar, Wash. St. B. News, Jan. 1978, at 39.

Can Washington Afford an Elected Judiciary, Wash. St. B. News, Dec. 1972, at 5.

The Forgotten Man, Wash. St. B. News, Apr. 1972, at 7.

Let's Really Get Tough on Crime, Wash. St. B. News, Feb. 1971, at 7.

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Books

Links go to Gallagher Law Library catalog records.

Robert F. Utter & Hugh D. Spitzer, The Washington State Constitution: A Reference Guide (Greenwood Press 2002).  (Reference Guides to the State Constitutions of the United States Series). 287 pages.

Robert F. Utter & Hugh D. Spitzer, The Washington State Constitution (Oxford Univ. Press 2013).  (Oxford Commentaries on the State Constitutions of the United States Series). 305 pages.

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Notable Decisions

Links go to opinions available on MRSC Court Decisions.

On Constitutional Law

State v. Coe, 679 P.2d 353 (1984).
A "teaching case" concerning the importance of relying first on the state constitution in many instances, rather than the federal constitution.

Sofie v. Fibreboard Corp., 771 P.2d 711 (1989).
An opinion which underscored the importance of juries in civil matters (i.e., determining recoveries).

In re Salary of Juvenile Director, 552 P.2d 163 (1976).
Held that if the other branches fail to fund the court system at levels that allow it to function, the courts can force adequate appropriations--but the burden is on the courts to show by "clear, cogent and convincing evidence" that the funding levels are insufficient.

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