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HomeNewsArchivesObama Nominates St. Thomian to District Court Judgeship

Obama Nominates St. Thomian to District Court Judgeship

Lewis' nomination drew praise from Gov. deJongh and Delegate Christensen. (Photo courtesy Department of the Interior)President Barack Obama has nominated St. Thomas native Wilma Lewis, currently U.S. Interior Department Assistant Secretary of Land and Minerals Management, to serve as a judge on the U.S. District Court of the Virgin Islands, according to the White House.

The move elicited praise for Lewis from Gov. John deJongh Jr. and Delegate Donna Christensen.

“Lewis’ long legal career coupled with her leadership at Land and Minerals Management … during this difficult time, more than prepares her to serve in this important post in our community,” Christensen said in a statement issued after last week’s announcement from the White House.

“I look forward to her confirmation and welcoming Wilma Lewis to the U.S. District Court,” said deJongh in a Government House statement. “Lewis will bring the experiences gained during a long and distinguished legal career to the federal bench in the Virgin Islands and it bodes well for us as a people to have yet another opportunity for a Virgin Islander to sit on the bench of the U.S. District Court in the territory.” deJongh said.

If approved by the Democrat-controlled Senate, Lewis will serve a 10-year term, while U.S. District Court judgeships in the states—and some territories, including Puerto Rico—are lifetime appointments. Dejongh is lobbying to have that rule changed, he said in his statement.

This is the second post to which Obama has nominated Lewis. In 2009 Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed the nomination to her current post with Land and Minerals Management. Before that, she served briefly as senior advisor to the secretary of the interior.

Lewis has had a long and highly distinguished career in law and public service since graduating Harvard Law School in 1981. As U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1998 to 2001, Lewis was the first woman and the second black to be appointed to the position, according to the Interior Department.

In Washington, Lewis managed the largest U.S. Attorney’s Office in the country, overseeing over 350 attorneys and as many staff members. Because of the District of Columbia’s unique constitutional situation, she also had the unique responsibility of serving as both federal and local prosecutor.

From 1995 to 1998, Lewis was the Inspector General for Interior. While there, Lewis and her team held the V.I. Government’s feet to the fire with audits critical of personnel hiring practices in the administration of Gov. Roy Schneider and of the lack of tracking and controls on the use of federal disaster relief funds, among others.

Along with the positions already described, Lewis has extensive additional experience practicing law in both the public and private sector.

She graduated Swarthmore College in 1978, receiving a bachelor’s in political science and was elected to the prestigious academic society Phi Beta Kappa.

Among the many volunteer board and commission posts and numerous professional achievement awards and honors under her belt, she has received the the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dream Keepers Award, the Bethune-Dubois Institute Award, and the National Black Prosecutors Association Founders’ Award.

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