Wilhelmina Wright

Wilhelmina Wright

The Republican-led Senate confirmed President Obama’s pick for federal judge, despite warnings from the conservative watchdog Heritage Action for America about her past writings characterizing former President Ronald Reagan and former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist as tolerant of bigotry.

Wilhelmina Wright, 52, who currently serves as a Minnesota state supreme court justice, was nominated by Obama to become the first black U.S. District judge for the District of Minnesota, a lifetime appointment. The Senate, including key Republicans, like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sens. David Vitter, Kelly Ayotte, Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley, voted in favor of her confirmation, which came ultimately via a 58-36 vote.

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But her past is dotted with murky political statements that drew a raised eyebrow from the Heritage Action for America, which pointed to her writings in 1989 in the UCLA Law Review while a student at Harvard Law School.

One of her articles, for instance, blamed Rehnquist and Reagan for the movement of whites from inner-city communities and read, the Washington Examiner found: “Their mad scramble is aided by a chief justice who owned racially restrictive property and a presidential administration that believes bigotry, poverty and poor educational opportunities for most public school students are the unavoidable fruits of a ‘thriving’ free market economy.”

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Wright explained her statements during her confirmation hearing before senators as stemming from years of personal legal experience. She also dismissed them as “inartful,” but didn’t renounce their substance, the Daily Signal reported.

Skipping the vote were five Republicans – Sens. John Cornyn, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio and Tim Scott – as well as one more, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is a self-declared socialist serving as an Independent, according to the full vote list posted at the Daily Signal.

In 2013, the Senate changed rules so that judicial and executive branch nominations could go forward wiith 51, rather than 60, votes. As the Washington Examiner reported: “Democrats cheered the move.”

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Sen. Patrick Leahy, ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, called Wright “extremely qualified” and “far more qualified than a lot of people,” the Washington Examiner said.

And Democrat Sen. Amy Klobuchar called her “the total package” with a “deep legal knowledge and strong character,” the newspaper said.

To see the full list of Republicans who voted for Wright, click here.

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