Wilhelmina Wright, Minnesota’s 1st Black female federal judge, to retire in 2024

The first Black woman appointed to the federal court in Minnesota says she’ll retire early next year.

Judge Wilhelmina Wright says she intends to retire on Feb. 15, the U.S. District Court announced Thursday.

In a statement released through the court, Wright expressed how much she appreciated her time as a federal trial judge, calling it both “challenging and rewarding.”

“I have enjoyed working closely with my terrific staff and my dedicated colleagues,” Wright’s statement said. “Ensuring justice for all has been the goal of my career and I have worked every day for justice in this remarkable job. Now, after a long career in public service, I have decided that the time is right to focus on other ways to serve. My husband has retired, and I am also looking forward to spending more time with him and with our daughter.”

She was appointed by former President Barack Obama in 2016 after a long career as an assistant U.S. attorney, Ramsey County trial judge, Minnesota Court of Appeals judge and associate justice on the Minnesota Supreme Court. She was also the first Black woman to serve on the state’s high court when former Gov. Mark Dayton appointed her in 2012.

Additionally, Wright is the only person to have ever served as a judge on all three levels of Minnesota’s state courts and the district’s federal bench.

Natalie Hudson, the chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court, released the following statement Thursday:

“Judge Wright is a remarkable public servant and a brilliant jurist. Her exemplary service to the Minnesota judicial system will not soon be matched. I was privileged to serve with Judge Wright for over ten years on the Minnesota Court of Appeals and briefly on the Supreme Court. The work of both courts was buoyed by her keen intellect, integrity, common sense, and grace.”

Wright administered the oath of office for Hudson’s formal swearing-in as the new chief justice of the state’s high court earlier this week.

Several others also praised Wright’s career on Thursday.

“Judge Mimi Wright is an outstanding member of United States District Court of Minnesota,” U.S. Senior District Judge Michael J. Davis said. “Judge Wright has handled some of the most complex civil and criminal trials in our district. She is a compassionate and brilliant jurist. I am so proud to be a friend and colleague of Judge Wright.”

“In 1995, I had the easiest decision of my career: whether to hire Mimi Wright as an Assistant U.S. Attorney before anyone else could snap her up. I watched with awe as she surmounted all barriers to serve with distinction in an unprecedented four judicial offices,” former Minnesota Supreme Court Justice David Lillehaug added. “In Judge Wright, intelligence, integrity, and grace come together.”

“Judge Wright has been a wonderful colleague and close friend who has served with great distinction as a United States District Judge,” Minnesota’s U.S. District Court Chief Judge Patrick Schiltz said in a statement. “On behalf of the federal court in Minnesota, I want to thank Judge Wright for her outstanding service to the people of Minnesota and the nation. It has been a great honor to serve with her. Judge Wright is exceptionally talented, and she has a well-earned reputation as a fair, reasonable, and dedicated judge. All of us federal judges have been privileged to work with her during the latest chapter of her extraordinary career. Our Court will really miss her as she retires from federal service.”