Snohomish County Superior Court Judge Cassandra Lopez-Shaw, 54, died peacefully Thursday morning surrounded by her family in Everett after a battle with cancer. She was elected in November 2019 as the first Latinx judge in Snohomish County.
Lopez-Shaw was scheduled to be a speaker at this Saturday’s Edmonds International Women’s Day event, organized by Edmonds resident Alicia Crank, who said she was devastated by the news of Lopez-Shaw’s passing. “Not only was she a great friend of mine, but she was also a champion for so many people over the years, both personally and professionally,” Crank said. “I was in awe of her strength and tenacity in battling cancer while serving the community as an attorney and then as a Superior Court judge. Cassandra was the perfect example of someone who continuously gave and sacrificed to help others, and never gave in to negativity. She leaves a deep legacy.”
“Cassandra was a beacon of caring, love, and optimism,” said Rico Tessandore, former president of Snohomish County Bar Association. “The community has lost a most courageous, spirited and independent leader. Life was made better for many people because of Judge Lopez-Shaw’s work. She will be missed by so many whose lives she touched with her trademark grace, optimism, and kindness.”
Before joining the bench, Judge Lopez-Shaw practiced civil and criminal law both as a private attorney and as a public defender representing clients in 15 counties, with over 200 cases proceeding to trial. Washington Women Lawyers awarded Lopez-Shaw the Domestic Violence Advocacy Award for her work on behalf of victims of domestic violence before she was elected to the bench. When Lopez-Shaw announced her judicial candidacy, she had 17 years of legal experience and was rated exceptionally well qualified by the Veteran’s and Loren Miller Bar Associations.
As a judge, Lopez-Shaw served on the Personnel and Education Committee, the Drug Court Committee and the Budget and Planning Committees for Snohomish County Superior Court.
“Judge Lopez-Shaw was unfailingly cheerful and friendly as a lawyer,” said Snohomish County Superior Court Presiding Judge George Appel. “As a judge, she worked hard and got along well with the bench. Serving as a judge was important to her and it showed in everything she did.”
Added Superior Court Judge Anita Farris: “I have seen Judge Lopez-Shaw’s kindness and humanity toward the people she served—people who did not speak English, people who were intimidated by the very thought of court, people who, history shows, too often were treated as disposable by this institution. Cassandra empowered them. She protected them.”
Steven Gonzalez, chief justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, said that Lopez-Shaw “served our community with her natural kindness, empathy, bravery and strength, and she reminded each and every judge on this bench that every decision we make– even seemingly the smallest ones– can have lifetime effects on countless people, and that each decision must be made with humanity as a guiding principle.”
She volunteered over 200 hours a year pro bono, coached the YMCA Mock Trial Program and the Bothell Youth Court, and was a guest speaker in many public school classrooms throughout Snohomish County.
“Judge Lopez-Shaw taught young lawyers about professionalism and ethics, most importantly teaching them that the law is not a game, and that as lawyers and judges the most important practice in our professions is the practice of humanity,” said Everett Municipal Court Judge Amy Kaestner.
According to a Snohomish County Superior Court press release, Lopez-Shaw was always one to bring her unique sense of style and flair to any job or project she undertook. Upon her historic election, she gifted her new female colleagues with embroidered judicial collars in a nod to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
“Cassandra was vibrantly and unapologetically feminine, said Superior Court Judge Anna Alexander. “She transformed the space she occupied into something unique, happy and cheerful. More importantly, Cassandra transformed the emotional space she occupied in people’s lives into a warm, loving, safe, and supportive one. She cared deeply about people, and she proved it through her words and actions. Those of us who had been fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of her generosity have been forever changed into better versions of ourselves.”
Lopez-Shaw attended the University of Washington and then Loyola Law School while husband, Michael, was deployed to Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps. Their son Michael wrote: “The closeness of my family all stems from the most ideal love I have seen between my parents.” The story of their love and life can be found in a book the couple published, Two Mids: A Love Story.
During a candidate event in Edmonds in 2019, Lopez-Shaw described how she and Michael moved to the Pacific Northwest with two small children, then both enrolled at the University of Washington, working many jobs to make ends met. Lopez-Shaw got into law school and Michael joined the Marine Corps while attending college.
“It was a busy time for us,” she recalled during the Edmonds campaign event. “Then one week before my husband was supposed to start his last week of school at the University of Washington, he was sent to the Iraq war. As we say in our family, we survived one tour of Iraq and two tours of premier soccer!”
After her husband returned from Iraq, Lopez-Shaw began her career as a lawyer, working for “a big-time civil firm in Seattle, two different public defender agencies, and a small private firm where I pretty much did everything. Then I started my own practice.”
She described how she “learned to represent people at every hour of the day, anytime I was needed. I took my practice all over the state and have I have done felony trials in 13 different counties in Washington state. This can be challenging, because in places where I’m not already known by the judges like Grant and Grays Harbor Counties, it’s tough to walk in cold and run a defense. But it challenged my legal skills and it made me a better lawyer.”
Cassandra Lopez-Shaw is survived by her husband, Michael, her daughter, Lieutenant Alexes Lopez de Arriaga-Shaw, USN, her son Captain Michael Lopez de Arriaga-Shaw, USMC and his wife Claudia, her mother Sandra, and her brother George.