Dorothy Wright Nelson

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Dorothy Wright Nelson
Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
In office
December 20, 1979 – January 1, 1995
Appointed by Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Seat established
Succeeded by Sidney Thomas
Personal details
Born Dorothy Wright
(1928-09-30) September 30, 1928 (age 88)
San Pedro, California, U.S.
Education University of California, Los Angeles (BA, JD)
University of Southern California (LLM)

Dorothy Wright Nelson (born September 20, 1928) is a United States federal judge.


Born in San Pedro, California,[1] Dorothy Wright received an A.B. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1950, a J.D. from University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law in 1953, and an LL.M. from the University of Southern California Law School in 1956.

She was a research associate fellow, University of Southern California Law School from 1953-56. She was in private practice in Los Angeles, California from 1954-57. She was a member of the faculty of University of Southern California Law School from 1957-80. She was an instructor from 1957-58. She was an assistant professor from 1958 to 1961. She was an associate professor from 1961-67. She was an associate dean from 1965-67. She was an interim dean from 1967-69 and because of her achievement she was named Woman of the Year by Time magazine.[2] She was a professor from 1967-80. She was a dean from 1969-80. She was an adjunct professor of law, University of Southern California Law School starting 1980.[citation needed]

Federal Court[edit]

Nelson is a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. In 1973 there was discussion she might be nominated to the US Supreme Court in the news.[3]

Nelson was nominated by President Jimmy Carter on September 28, 1979, 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. 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.

Personal life[edit]

She is an active member of the Bahá'í Faith and served in the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of United States for many years. She became a Bahá'í following the suggestion to explore the religion from Donald Barrett in 1954 along with about 70 others across a decade.[5][6] Barrett would go on to serve at the Bahá'í World Center in 1979.[7]


Dorothy Wright married[when?] James F. Nelson (1927–2011), a longtime Los Angeles Municipal Court judge. The couple had two children.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Profile of Dorothy Wright Nelson
  2. ^ Dorothy Townsend (23 Dec 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 Nov 7, 2016. 
  3. ^ 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. 
  4. ^ Nelson, Dorothy W. (1993–94). "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 2012-03-31. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Dorothy Wright Nelson (October 21, 2007). Dorothy Nelson Oral History Interview (Television). Women Trailblazers in the Law collection of the American Bar Association. 
  7. ^ "Lawyer to Serve Baha'i Faith". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. September 22, 1979. p. 2. Retrieved June 30, 2014. 

Further research[edit]

Legal offices
New seat Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
Succeeded by
Sidney Thomas