President Joe Biden's U.S. Supreme Court shortlist reportedly includes a Minnesota jurist whose deep legal experience spans multiple layers of Minnesota's state and federal court systems.
The Associated Press reported this week that Biden is looking at Minnesota U.S. District Court Judge Wilhelmina "Mimi" Wright as a candidate to replace retiring Justice Stephen Breyer. Wright is the only jurist in state history to serve in Minnesota's district court, appeals court and state Supreme Court. Former President Barack Obama nominated her to the U.S. District Court for Minnesota, where she has served since 2016.
"If she became a Supreme Court justice it would be another gift of Minnesota to the country," said David Lillehaug, a retired Minnesota Supreme Court justice who served alongside Wright on the state's high court before she became a federal judge.
In an interview Friday, Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that she thinks it's important that President Biden "has a wide group of people to consider and that I would be happy to support a number of them."
In a follow-up statement later in the day, Klobuchar said "there are many phenomenal candidates, and Judge Wright is definitely one of them."
Biden has promised to nominate the nation's first Black female candidate as his first Supreme Court justice pick. Wright is the first Black woman to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court, appointed in 2012 by then-Gov. Mark Dayton. She is also the first Black female federal judge in Minnesota history.
Wright, 58, was born in Norfolk, Va., and graduated from Harvard Law School in 1989. She represented school districts across the country while working at a law firm in Washington, D.C., before joining the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minnesota in 1995. There, she helped prosecute complex economic fraud and violent crimes.
Erica MacDonald, a former U.S. attorney now working in private practice, first met Wright when she was a federal prosecutor. MacDonald lauded Wright as among the most prepared jurists she's seen, saying Wright often "knows the case just as well as the attorneys" each time she takes the bench.
"She is eminently qualified for anything that is in store for her," MacDonald said. "It'd be terrific if she was on the Supreme Court. It'd be terrific if she was on the Eighth Circuit. She would, I know, be a stellar addition to either bench."
As a federal judge, Wright has been no stranger to high-profile cases. She is currently overseeing the federal civil rights prosecution of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. She has also decided lawsuits related to the 2020 election and challenges to the Line 3 pipeline project and Gov. Tim Walz's COVID-19 stay-at-home orders. Other criminal cases include prosecutions related to the rioting the followed George Floyd's death in Minneapolis and the case of a former FBI agent charged with leaking classified documents.
Lillehaug, who now works in private practice, described Wright's judicial resume as an "almost unparalleled set of experiences."
"She lives her life the way you want a judge to live her life, and she makes her decisions on a case-by-case basis, based on the facts and the law," Lillehaug said. "She believes in applying the text of statutes and binding precedent. She's got integrity in her personal life and integrity in her jurisprudence."
Staff writer Hunter Woodall contributed to this report.