The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the nomination of Wilhelmina Wright on Thursday to become a federal district judge in Minnesota, but whether she will be confirmed by the gridlocked Senate this year remains a question mark.
“I don’t think it will be this year unless something dramatic happens,” said Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond and expert on judicial selection. He predicted her Senate confirmation in February or March.
But Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who along with Sen. Al Franken recommended Wright to President Obama, said she is hopeful the current Minnesota Supreme Court justice will be approved for the federal bench before year’s end. “What often happens is we complete a number of nominations by the end of the year,” said Klobuchar. “As you get closer to the presidential election it gets harder, so you want to get it done in the next few months.”
She noted that Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, supported Wright and that he has additional judicial nominations he wants to get into the pipeline and approved.
Also to Wright’s advantage is that Klobuchar has a reputation of getting presidential nominations confirmed despite the partisan Senate. “I think she is very effective,” said Tobias.
Only six federal judges have been confirmed by the Senate in 2015, Tobias said. Wright was one of three nominees approved by the committee on Thursday, and seven others already are awaiting confirmation by the Senate, he said.
If approved, Wright would become the first black woman to serve on the federal bench in Minnesota. She would replace former Chief Federal Judge Michael Davis, who became a senior judge on Aug. 1. To date, Davis is the only black person who has been a federal judge in the state.