The first Black woman to serve as a federal judge in Minnesota will retire in February, the state's federal bench announced Thursday.
In a statement, U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina "Mimi" Wright said she planned to retire from federal service effective Feb. 15, leaving a position held since her 2016 appointment by President Barack Obama.
"The work has been challenging and rewarding," Wright said. "I have enjoyed working closely with my terrific staff and my dedicated colleagues. Ensuring justice for all has been the goal of my career and I have worked every day for justice in this remarkable job."
Wright added that "after a long career in public service, I have decided that the time is right to focus on other ways to serve." She noted that her husband has retired and that she planned to spend more time with him and their daughter.
Wright was also the first Black woman to serve as a Minnesota Supreme Court Justice, appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton in 2012, and she previously served as a state district judge and appellate court judge. She is also the only jurist in state history to serve in Minnesota's District Court, Appeals Court and state Supreme Court.
The news of Wright's retirement plans prompted an outpouring of support from current and former judicial peers.
"Judge Wright is exceptionally talented, and she has a well-earned reputation as a fair, reasonable, and dedicated judge," Chief U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz said Thursday in a statement thanking Wright for her service. "All of us federal judges have been privileged to work with her during the latest chapter of her extraordinary career."
Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Natalie Hudson, who served on both the state Court of Appeals and Supreme Court with Wright and this year became the first person of color to become chief justice in the state, said that the work of both of those courts "was buoyed by her keen intellect, integrity, common sense, and grace."
Senior District Judge Michael Davis called Wright a "compassionate and brilliant jurist," adding that he was proud to be her friend and colleague.
In a statement, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) called Wright "a true trailblazer."
"Throughout her many years as a jurist, Judge Wright demonstrated an unwavering commitment to equal justice under law," she said. "I was proud to recommend her to President Obama for this federal appointment and I'm grateful for her service to Minnesota and the federal judiciary."
In early 2022, Wright's name surfaced on President Joe Biden's shortlist for U.S. Supreme Court candidates when he had to replace a retiring Justice Stephen Breyer.
Wright is a native of Norfolk, Va., and graduated from Harvard Law School. She clerked for Court of Appeals Judge Damon Keith in Michigan upon graduation, worked at a law firm in Washington, D.C., and became a federal prosecutor in Minnesota before beginning her judicial career.
Before former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug served alongside Wright on the state's high court, he hired her to join his office when he was U.S. Attorney for Minnesota in 1995. In a statement Thursday, Lillehaug described it as "the easiest decision of my career."
"I watched with awe as she surmounted all barriers to serve with distinction in an unprecedented four judicial offices. In Judge Wright, intelligence, integrity, and grace come together."