First black woman chosen to serve on Minn. SC

Jessica M. Karmasek Aug. 22, 2012, 12:00pm

Dayton, at left, and Wright

ST. PAUL, Minn. (Legal Newsline) - Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton made history Monday, appointing Court of Appeals judge Wilhelmina Wright to the state's high court.

Wright, 48, is the first black woman chosen to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court.

"I am proud to announce my first appointment to the Minnesota Supreme Court, appellate court judge Wilhelmina Wright. It was a very difficult decision, as there were four superb candidates recommended by the Judicial Selection Commission. Any one of them would be an outstanding Supreme Court justice," Dayton said in a statement Monday.

"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 he read "several" of the judge's opinions before coming to a decision.

"I was greatly impressed by her exceptional intellect, her written communication skills and, most importantly, her excellent judgment," he said.

"I believe that she will serve the people of Minnesota with great distinction on our Supreme Court."

Wright replaces Justice Helen Meyer, who announced her retirement in May and stepped down earlier this month.

Appointed to the appeals court in 2002 by then-Gov. Jesse Ventura, Wright previously served as a trial judge on the Ramsey County District Court and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Minnesota.

She said of her appointment Monday, "I am honored to serve the people of Minnesota as an associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. I will work hard to ensure that Minnesotans continue to have a judiciary that is committed to fairness and justice for all who entrust us with their most important affairs.

"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."

Wright was awarded the U.S. Department of Justice Special Achievement Award in 1997 and the U.S. Department of Justice Director's Award for Public Service in 2000.

Before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in 1995, she practiced with the Washington, D.C., law firm of Hogan and Hartson LLP. In the education and litigation practice groups, she primarily represented school districts across the nation seeking to enhance educational opportunities for public school students.

Wright earned her undergraduate degree from Yale College and her law degree from Harvard Law School, where she was the executive editor of the Harvard Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review.

She currently lives in St. Paul with her husband, Dan Schmechel, and their daughter, Kathryn.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at

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