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Senate confirms Wilhelmina Wright as U.S. judge in historic appointment

Stephen Montemayor writes, "The U.S. Senate has confirmed Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Wilhelmina Marie Wright to fill a vacancy on the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, making her the state’s first black female federal judge and ending nearly a year of waiting.

Wright was confirmed after a 58-36 vote on Tuesday.

Democratic Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken both recommended Wright in February 2015, and the Judiciary Committee unanimously approved her nomination in September.

'She is someone that deserves to be on the federal bench,' Klobuchar told the Star Tribune after Tuesday’s vote. 'At a time of incredible gridlock she was able to walk the gantlet.'

Wright replaces former Chief Federal Judge Michael Davis, who became a senior judge on Aug. 1 and was the state’s first black federal judge. Klobuchar said filling Davis’ vacancy in 171 days was “actually remarkably fast,” adding that the average time a seat is vacant is 514 days.

Klobuchar began Tuesday’s hearing by making her case for Wright to fill a vacancy deemed a 'judicial emergency' by the U.S. Judicial Conference, noting a 57 percent spike in federal cases in Minnesota.

Wright weathered a push by Heritage Action for America urging Republican senators to vote no. It cited contributions in 1989 in a law review she wrote while as a student that were seen as critical of President Ronald Reagan, the chief justice and property rights.

Wright called her remarks “inartful” during her September confirmation hearing. But the articles did not preclude support from such Republican policymakers as Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, former Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Rep. Erik Paulsen. Fourteen Republican senators voted to confirm Wright Tuesday."

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