Dayton appoints Wilhelmina Wright, first black female justice, to state Supreme Court

Your new Supreme Court Justice, Wilhelmina Wright, left, and Gov. Dayton.
Your new Supreme Court Justice, Wilhelmina Wright, left, and Gov. Dayton.

Wilhelmina M. Wright's bio reads like a straight-A report card at life: Yale undergrad, Harvard law, a national public service award, and, since 2002, a Minnesota Court of Appeals judgeship.

Now, she's adding a few more distinctions to that list. This afternoon, Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her to the state Supreme Court seat recently vacated by Justice Helen Meyer. The announcement makes Wright the first DFL nominee since 1991, the first Supreme appointment of Dayton's two years in office, and the first black woman to serve on the state's highest court.

Wright, a 48-year-old St. Paul resident, was one of four finalists for the appointment. Prior to her appeals court seat, she worked as a trial judge in Ramsey County, and preceding that, as an assistant U.S. attorney in the state, prosecuting violent crime and economic fraud. In 2010, she chaired the redistricting panel that drew Minnesota's political boundaries.

"Judge Wright has proven her exceptional judiciary skills by authoring over 700 opinions during her decade serving on the Minnesota Court of Appeals," Dayton said in a statement. "I read several of her opinions before making my decision. I was greatly impressed by her exceptional intellect, her written communication skills and, most importantly, her excellent judgment."

With such high-profile ballot initiatives as the marriage amendment and voter ID -- and, inevitably, their attendant legal challenges -- ahead, Wright's joining the high court for what promises to be an interesting stretch.

In a statement, Wright covered the predictable ground of feeling honored and committed. She continued, "It is my good fortune to devote my life's work to preserving and to promoting the values of freedom and equal justice -- values that I believe in so deeply."

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