The judge who led a panel that redrew political district lines earlier this year soon will be Minnesota’s first female African-American Supreme Court justice.
State Appeals Court Judge Wilhelmina Wright is Gov. Mark Dayton’s pick to replace just-retired Justice Helen Meyer.
“I stand here on the shoulders of so many,” Wright said after Dayton announced her appointment Monday.
The 48-year-old St. Paul resident singled out Rosalie Wahl, the first woman on Minnesota’s Supreme Court, and Alan Page, the high court’s first African-American. “My path has been paved by these two extraordinary justices.”
Former Minnesota Vikings football star Page remains on the court.
Dayton became the first Democratic-Farmer-Laborite governor since 1991 to pick a justice. The woman he picked, from four finalists, is a Norfolk, Va., native who dealt with continued segregation when she attended schools in the 1970s.
Wright told reporters that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling against school racial segregation was most influential in her career.
“Freedom and equal justice” are important, she said.
Wright, who was Hennepin County judge and an assistant U.S. attorney, received statewide publicity when she led a judicial panel that early this year released new legislative and congressional district maps. The job fell to the courts when legislators and Dayton could not agree on how to redraw district boundaries after a new census showed population shifts.
The six justices Wright will join applauded when Dayton announced her appointment to a room crowded with media, judges and court workers. Chief Justice Lori S. Gildea hugged Wright after the justice-to-be spoke.
Gildea said Wright will need to finish some work on the Appeals Court, so no date for her to join the high court has been set.
Six of Minnesota’s justices have been appointed by governors after another justice resigned. Only Page was originally elected by voters.