Judge, United States District Court for the Central District of California
The Hon. Otis Wright, II '80 has served since 2007 as a judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. He continues Southwestern's legacy of distinguished public servants and is the fourth alumnus to serve on the United States District Court in recent years. The other Southwestern alumni who have worked in this capacity are Ronald S. Lew '71, Gordon Thompson, Jr. '56 (Southern District), and Robert S. Bardwil '79 (Eastern District).
A devoted and distinguished alumnus, Judge Wright always makes time for Southwestern. He was a member of the law school's Board of Trustees for several years, is a frequent featured speaker at Black Law Student Association (BLSA) and other events, and has presided over Southwestern's special federal swearing in ceremony for new members of the bar. "I have a great fondness for the school," Judge Wright said. "I think it taught me well." He often hires law clerks and takes on externs from Southwestern.
Judge Wright in turn has a devoted following of students and graduates who regard him as a treasured mentor. "I could just gush over this guy endlessly," said Haitham Kahwaji, a 2007 Southwestern graduate. "I'm absolutely amazed by him. He doesn't waste time, but he's very patient and kind. He commands respect, but he has an informal air about him, doesn't stand on formality like most other judges."
Josh Post, who graduated Southwestern in 2006, served in a two-year clerkship for Judge Wright. "He's very quick, which not only comes from his years of experience in the legal field, but it's also something you can't learn, a unique common sense," Post said. "He has street smarts about him but almost in a legal sense."
Judge Wright began his legal career as a Deputy Attorney General in the Criminal Appeals Section of the California Department of Justice. During his three years in the office, he handled more than 200 appeals before the state's Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. He went on to join the international law firm of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, where he became a partner and was a civil litigator for more than 20 years.
"In 22 years with the firm, I encountered attorneys of all different personality types, which I was later to learn would come in handy," Judge Wright said. "I learned to withhold judgment until I had heard all sides of the story."
During that time, he was also a volunteer attorney with the HIV AIDS Legal Services Alliance (HALSA), handling housing and employment discrimination cases as well as preparing wills for the terminally ill. In November 2005, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Judge Wright to the Superior Court where he was assigned to the Substance Abuse Court.
Originally from Tuskegee, Alabama, Judge Wright earned his B.S. degree from California State University, Los Angeles in 1976 and his J.D. from Southwestern in 1980. Before attending college, Judge Wright served as a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, a place he said best prepared him to take law school seriously because it was there that he was "indoctrinated in the concept that failure is not an option." He then spent 11 years as a deputy sheriff in Los Angeles where he worked while attending undergraduate and law schools.To learn more about Judge Wright, read his Q & A