OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Justice Debra Stephens has been elected by her fellow members of the state Supreme Court to be the new chief justice.

Stephens will replace current Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst, who announced last month she will retire from the high court in January to focus on her health as she fights a third bout of cancer.

The chief justice presides over the court’s public hearings, serves as the administrative head of the state’s judicial branch, and is the court’s main spokesperson.

Early next month, Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to appoint a new justice to fulfill the remaining year of Fairhurst’s term, and the seat will be open for election in 2020.

Both the new justice and new chief justice will be sworn in at the beginning of January.