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Dayton chooses Appeals Court Judge Wilhemina Wright as his first Supreme Court pick

She credits two justices — Alan Page, the state’s first justice of color, and Rosalie Wahl, the first female justice — for opening up the opportunity for her to serve.

Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea congratules newly appointed Associate Justice Wilhelmina Wright after her announcement on Monday.
MinnPost photo by James Nord

Gov. Mark Dayton appointed Appeals Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright to the Minnesota Supreme Court on Monday, the first state high court appointment for a DFL governor in 20 years.

Wright joined the Appeals Court in 2002 and served as a District Court judge and as an assistant U.S. attorney before that. Dayton credited Wright’s prolific opinions — she authored more than 700 during her time at the Appeals Court — and her intelligence as two reasons he chose her for his first appointment to the high court.

“I believe that she will serve the people of Minnesota with great distinction on the Supreme Court,” he told a room full of Wright’s supporters and the remaining Supreme Court justices.

Wright replaces Associate Justice Helen Meyer, who left the court this month.

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Wright credited two justices — Alan Page, the state’s first justice of color, and Rosalie Wahl, the first female justice — for opening up the opportunity for her to serve.

“Undoubtedly, I stand here on the shoulders of so many who have paved the way for me,” Wright said. “My path has been paved by these two extraordinary justices. They inspire my service to all Minnesotans.”

Growing up in Norfolk, Va.., Wright had her first personal brush with a court case that would ultimately shape her adult career. Her school district met the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education  — which made segregated schools unconstitutional  — with “massive resistance.”

Wright, 48, said Brown vs. Board of Education is the most important case that has guided her throughout her career.

“I believe our courts, as well as all of our public institutions, must reflect the wonderful and beautiful and broad diversity that comes with people from different experiences and different backgrounds,” she said.

Wright was one of four Supreme Court candidates that Dayton interviewed. The others included David Lillehaug, a former Minnesota U.S. attorney who served on Dayton’s 2010 recount team, Judge Tanya Bransford and Judge Margaret Chutich.