Dorothy Wright Nelson

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Dorothy Wright Nelson
Nelson in 2018
Senior Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Assumed office
January 1, 1995
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
December 20, 1979 – January 1, 1995
Appointed byJimmy Carter
Preceded bySeat established by 92 Stat. 1629
Succeeded bySidney R. Thomas
Personal details
Dorothy Jean Wright

(1928-09-30) September 30, 1928 (age 95)
San Pedro, California
James F. Nelson
(m. 1950)
EducationUniversity of California, Los Angeles (BA, JD)
University of Southern California (LLM)

Dorothy Wright Nelson (born September 30, 1928) is a senior United States circuit judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Education and career[edit]

Born in San Pedro, California,[1] Wright received an Artium Baccalaureus degree from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1950, a Juris Doctor from UCLA School of Law in 1953, and a Master of Laws from the USC Gould School of Law in 1956. She was a research associate fellow at the Gould School of Law from 1953 to 1956. She was in private practice in Los Angeles, California from 1954 to 1957. She was a member of the faculty of the Gould School of Law from 1957 to 1980. She was an instructor from 1957 to 1958. She was an assistant professor from 1958 to 1961. She was an associate professor from 1961 to 1967. She was an associate dean from 1965 to 1967. She was an interim dean from 1967 to 1969 and because of her achievement she was named Woman of the Year by Time magazine.[2] She was a professor from 1967 to 1980. She was a dean from 1969 to 1980. She was an adjunct professor of law at the Gould School of Law starting 1980.[3]

Federal judicial service[edit]

Nelson was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on September 28, 1979, to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, to a new seat created by 92 Stat. 1629. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 19, 1979, and received her commission on December 20, 1979. She assumed senior status on January 1, 1995.[3] She published an article in the Southern California Law Review.[4] She is the author of a book, Judicial Administration and the Administration of Justice, published by West Lawbook.

Supreme Court consideration[edit]

In 1973 there was discussion she might be nominated to the US Supreme Court in the news.[5]

Personal life[edit]

In 1950, Wright married James F. Nelson (1927–2011), a longtime Los Angeles Municipal Court judge.[6] The couple had two children.[6]

She is an active member of the Baháʼí Faith and served in the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baháʼís of United States for many years. She became a Baháʼí following the suggestion to explore the religion from Donald Barrett in 1954 along with about 70 others across a decade.[7][8] Barrett would go on to serve at the Baháʼí World Center in 1979.[9] In 1989, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree from Whittier College.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kay, Ernest (April 27, 1975). The World Who's who of Women. Melrose Press. ISBN 9780900332401 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Dorothy Townsend (December 23, 1968). "Times woman of the year, Dorothy Wright Nelson, Dean of USC Law School, holds unique position". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California. p. 49. Retrieved November 7, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Dorothy Wright Nelson at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center.
  4. ^ Nelson, Dorothy W. (1993–1994). "Introduction to the Effects of Gender in the Federal Courts: The Final Report of the Ninth Circuit Gender Bias Task Force". Southern California Law Review. 67: 731–. Retrieved March 31, 2012.
  5. ^ Barth, Ilene (January 7, 1973). "If a seat opens: Will Nixon choose a woman for the Supreme Court?". The Lincoln Star. Lincoln, Nebraska. p. 88. Retrieved February 5, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Sweeney, Joan (October 13, 1969). "Petticoat Revolution Happening in Court". San Bernardino Sun. UCR California Digital Newspaper Collection. UPI. p. 15. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  7. ^ Dorothy Wright Nelson (October 12, 2007). An interview with the Honorable Dorothy Nelson, Judge, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Video). H. Dale Hilton Living History Project of the Emerti Center at the University of Southern California. USC on YouTube.
  8. ^ Dorothy Wright Nelson (October 21, 2007). Dorothy Nelson Oral History Interview (Television). Women Trailblazers in the Law collection of the American Bar Association.
  9. ^ "Lawyer to Serve Baha'i Faith". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. September 22, 1979. p. 2. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
  10. ^ "Honorary Degrees | Whittier College". Retrieved February 20, 2020.

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
Seat established by 92 Stat. 1629
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by