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Judge Richelle Wahi
Judge Richelle Wahi

2020 Diversity & Inclusion: Judge Richelle Wahi

Minnesota’s First Judicial District

Richelle Wahi has been a highly regarded judge in Minnesota’s First Judicial District for four years. But what people who appear in her court might not know is that she’s hearing-disabled. That means she has an affinity for all efforts toward diversity.

“I need to keep an eye on a screen that gives me a real-time feed of the transcription,” Wahi explained. “I’m happy to explain to people why sometimes I’m not making eye contact. It’s important to treat everyone in my courtroom with empathy, compassion and respect.”

Wahi has been an active member of the Minnesota Judicial Branch’s Committee for Equality and Justice since 2016. Concurrently, she also has chaired the Access and Fairness Subcommittee and its predecessor subcommittee.

Her duties as chair include writing reports concerning the progress that Minnesota has made concerning diversity and equality. One such report from last year summarized the work that has been done, and that which remains incomplete, from the initial 1993 Race Bias Task Force.

Wahi also wrote the recent Report on Statewide Strategic Performance Measure that each judicial district to maintain 80 percent collection rates on race data. That judicial policy is meant to ensure that the Judicial Branch has sufficient race data to analyze whether persons are treated fairly regardless of their race or ethnicity.

Wahi is clear that while the progress has been nice, there’s much yet to be accomplished

“There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but I think the level of awareness brings to the forefront issues that many of us have been working on for years,” she said. “That awareness is a meaningful catalyst for change.

“We’re seeing unprecedented interest in these issues right now.”

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