|Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota|
|Assumed office |
February 18, 2016
|Appointed by||Barack Obama|
|Preceded by||Michael J. Davis|
|Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court|
September 27, 2012 – February 18, 2016
|Appointed by||Mark Dayton|
|Preceded by||Helen Meyer|
|Succeeded by||Margaret Chutich|
|Judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals|
September 3, 2002 – September 26, 2012
|Appointed by||Jesse Ventura|
|Preceded by||Sam Hanson|
|Succeeded by||John Smith|
|Born||January 13, 1964|
Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.
|Education||Yale University (BA)|
Harvard University (JD)
Wilhelmina Marie Wright (born January 13, 1964) is a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. She is the only jurist in Minnesota's history to be State District Court Judge, Appellate Court Judge and state Supreme Court justice. She was formerly an Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, a judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, and a Judge of the Minnesota District Court, Second Judicial District (Ramsey County).
Early life and education
Wright was born on January 13, 1964 in Norfolk, Virginia. Growing up, her mother had to advocate for her to receive equal education due to ongoing resistance to integration. She went on to study literature at Yale University, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree and graduating cum laude in 1986. Wright received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School in 1989.
Early legal career
Wright served on the Sixth Circuit United States Court of Appeals as a law clerk for Judge Damon Keith. In 1991, she began working at the law firm of Hogan & Hartson, LLP, in Washington, D.C., where Wright took up cases involving U.S. public schools' opportunity, before joining the United States Attorney's Office in Minnesota in 1995. In this position, Wright was an Assistant Attorney for the U.S. District Court and the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, where she took up cases involving illegal economic activity and violence. Between 2000 and 2002, Wright was involved with the Minnesota State Bar Association Task Force on the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the Minnesota Judicial Council, and the Minnesota Courts Public Trust and Confidence Work Group, as a judge for the Ramsey County District Court.
Wright has also taught others about the law. In Geneva, Switzerland, she worked for International Bridges to Justice training on the rule of law, and in Belgium and other areas in Switzerland she taught judicial selection. Closer to home, she was a professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law and taught judicial accountability in other areas of the United States.
State judicial service
Governor Jesse Ventura appointed her to the Ramsey County District Court in 2000 and in 2002 he appointed her to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, on which she served from September 3, 2002, to September 26, 2012. As part of this position, Wright was the Special Redistricting Panel Presiding Judge between June 2011 and August 2012.
Governor Mark Dayton appointed Wright to the Minnesota Supreme Court on August 20, 2012. As the first African American woman to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, stakes were high. In an August 2012 interview with Minnesota Lawyer Managing Editor Barbara Jones, Wright stated she had the opportunity to help the court "reflect the diversity of Minnesota." Her term began on September 27, 2012. Her term ended in 2016. In 2014, Wright was re-elected and served part of her term that was set to end in 2020, but she moved to serve federally.
Federal judicial service
In February 2015, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken recommended Wright to be on the federal bench. On April 15, 2015, President Barack Obama nominated Wright to serve as a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota, stating he was "confident she will serve on the federal bench with distinction." She was appointed to the seat vacated by Judge Michael J. Davis, Minnesota's first Black federal judge, who took senior status effective August 1, 2015. Wright was ranked Unanimously Well Qualified for this federal position by the American Bar Association. After a hearing on July 22, 2015, her nomination was reported by the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 17, 2015 by voice vote. This made Wright the first African American woman appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota. On January 19, 2016, the Senate voted 58–36 in favor of confirmation, and the vote included 14 Republicans. During the confirmation, Amy Klobuchar called the seat vacancy a "judicial emergency." She took the oath of office for federal court on February 18, 2016. Wright continues to serve as U.S. District Judge.
Wright has earned numerous awards during her career, including the Myra Bradwell Award in 2006 from the Minnesota Women Lawyers, the Lena O. Smith Achievement Award from the Black Women Lawyers Network in 2004, the B. Warren Hart Award for Public Service from the Saint Paul Jaycees in 2001, and the Ten Outstanding Young Minnesotans Award in 2000. In 1997, Justice Wright also earned the United States Department of Justice Special Achievement Award and in 2000, she earned the United States Department of Justice Director's Award for Public Service. In 2008, she joined the American Law Institute, and in 2019 she was given a Diversity and Inclusion Award from Minnesota Lawyer.
Personal life and involvement
Wright is married to Ecolab executive Dan Schmechel. They have one daughter. She is serving on the American Bar Association, the Minnesota State Bar Association, the Ramsey County Bar Association, the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, and the National Association of Women Judges. Wright is also a valuable member of society, giving her time to places such as the William Mitchell College of Law Board of Trustees, the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs Advisory Council, the Minnesota Lawyer Advisory Board, the Minnesota Women Lawyers Advisory Committee, the Ramsey County Community Corrections Advisory Committee, the Federal Bar Association of Minnesota Board of Directors, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Board of Directors, the Girl Scout Council of Saint Croix Valley Board of Directors, the Mardag Foundation Board of Directors, the Hamline University Women in Leadership Advisory Council, the Saint Paul Public Schools Graduate Standards Advisory Committee, the Yale Alumni Schools Committee, the Saint Paul Academy and Summit School Board of Trustees, and the Yale University Council.
- "Senate confirms Wilhelmina Wright as U.S. judge in historic appointment". Star Tribune. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
- Jones, Barbara L. (August 24, 2012). "Wright: Recognition of this moment is important". Minnesota Lawyer. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- Ragsdale, Jim (August 20, 2012). "Dayton's historic choice: First black female Supreme Court judge". Star Tribune. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- "Wilhelmina Wright". Ballotpedia. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
- Sepic, Matt (August 21, 2012). "Appeals Judge Wright is state's newest Supreme Court justice". Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- "Judge Profile: Associate Justice Wilhelmina M. Wright". Minnesota Judicial Branch. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- "Wright, Wilhelmina Marie – Federal Judicial Center". www.fjc.gov.
- "Wilhelmina M. Wright". Minnesota State Law Library. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- "Library Research Guides: Wilhelmina M. Wright, Associate Justice 2012-2016: Biography". mncourts.libguides.com. Retrieved 2021-03-30.
- Jones, Barbara L. (October 19, 2012). "Wright promises to use her head and her heart on high court". Minnesota Lawyer. Retrieved February 22, 2014.
- "Bending Toward Justice: The Black Experience in the Minnesota Judiciary". Attorney at Law Magazine. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
- Jones, Barbara L. (2012-08-24). "Wright: Recognition of this moment is important". Minnesota Lawyer. Retrieved 2021-04-30.
- Neely, Brett (April 15, 2015). "Obama nominates MN Justice Wright for federal bench". MPR News. Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
- "United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary". www.judiciary.senate.gov.
- Wilhelmina Wright at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
- Wilhelmina Wright at Ballotpedia
| Associate Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court
Michael J. Davis
| Judge of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota