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Profile: Susan Webber Wright

Jones v. Clinton represents
a high point in Susan Webber Wright's career as a federal court judge, a career atypical in its path.

Born on August 22, 1948, to a wealthy Texarcana family, Wright spent her youth surrounded by books and weighty discussions of history and philosophy. Her father, Tommy, an eccentric and brilliant lawyer, died at the age of 41 from liver disease related to drinking problems. Wright's mother was left to support her two young daughters.

Despite economic difficulties, Wright graduated from high school and attended Randolph-Macon Woman's College on a scholarship. She went on to take a master's degree in public administration and a law degree at the University of Arkansas.

She taught for 14 years at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock before her appointment to the federal bench. It was at the law school that she met and wed Robert Ross Wright III, a scholar 17 years her senior.

Despite her lack of courtroom experience, her specialization in oil and gas cases, and her predominantly academic background, she was granted a federal judgeship in 1990 by President George Bush.

Prior to the Jones case, Wright shared a history with the Clintons, both in and out of the courtroom. Bill Clinton was one of Wright's law professors at the University of Arkansas, where they battled over her final grade.

In 1974, Wright campaigned against Clinton when he ran against Representative John Paul Hammerschmidt, who would later sponsor her appointment to the federal bench.

Wright presided in a series of cases that directly and indirectly involved both Bill and Hillary Clinton. The most prominent of these was the Whitewater case, in which two bankers were accused of hiding withdrawals from Clinton's campaign fund. Both were acquitted.

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