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Robert Utter

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Robert Utter Obituary
Robert Utter

Robert French Utter, former chief justice of the Washington Supreme Court and an internationally known champion for human rights and the rule of law, died Oct. 15, 2014, at his Olympia home. He was 84.

Utter was an avid sailor, airplane pilot, law professor and co-author of the definitive book on the State Constitution. As a young King County Juvenile Court commissioner he co-founded the state's first Big Brother chapter. He believed passionately in "the importance of love in every child's life." The YMCA Youth in Government program in 1997 named its top award for citizenship in his honor.

He was born June 19, 1930, in Seattle to John and Besse French Utter. He attended Linfield College, where he met his future wife, Elizabeth "Betty" Stevenson. Utter went on to graduate from the University of Washington School of Law in 1954.

Utter resigned from the high court in 1995 to protest the death penalty, then dedicated himself to mentoring judges in emerging democracies around the world. Utter was an active trustee of the Seattle-based Rural Development Institute, Landesa, which fosters land ownership in rural areas of the world.

Survivors include his wife, Betty, daughter Kimberly; sons Kirk and John (Robin Landsong); four grandchildren, Molly, Anders, Colson and Eli Utter; two brothers, Fred and Tim Utter. A memorial service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 8, at Minnaert Center for the Arts at South Puget Sound Community College, Olympia. For more information on his eventful life and memorial donation suggestions, go to robertutter.org.
Published in The Seattle Times from Oct. 19 to Oct. 20, 2014
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