Senate approves MN Justice Wilhelmina Wright for spot on federal court

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Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Wright will be moving to a federal courtroom.

The Senate voted 58-36 Tuesday to confirm Wright to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court for Minnesota.

President Obama nominated Wright for the seat in April. She succeeds former Chief Federal Judge Michael Davis who left the court on Aug. 1.

14 Republican Senators joined their Democratic colleagues in voting to confirm Wright.

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In a joint statement with fellow Senator Al Franken, Amy Klobuchar congratulated Wright, noting: "While many judicial nominees are languishing in the Senate, she has made it through the confirmation gauntlet."

Klobuchar tells the Star Tribune the judicial seat Wright is filling was vacant for only 171 days, compared to an average of 514 days.

The conservative group Heritage Action had opposed Wright, saying that as a law student she wrote an article that criticized former President Ronald Reagan, former Chief Justice William Rehnquist, and the concept of property rights.

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Wright, 52, has served on the District Court, Appellate Court, and Supreme Court benches in Minnesota. Before becoming a judge she was an assistant U.S. Attorney. She earned her law degree from Harvard after getting her bachelor's degree at Yale.

Nikita Levy Pounds, a University of St. Thomas law professor and president of the Minneapolis NAACP, tells the Pioneer Press that Wright becoming the first black woman to serve as a federal judge in the Minnesota district is good for the state: "As an African-American woman serving on the federal bench, she will add a new perspective and insight that will enhance the administration of justice," Levy-Pounds said.

Wright's confirmation means Gov. Mark Dayton will name her successor on Minnesota's high court.

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