Hon. Otis Wright Inducted as U.S. District Judge
On July 26, Judge Otis Wright II '80 was inducted as a judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. One of five nominees selected by President George Bush for the federal bench in January, the U.S. Senate confirmed him to the court in March with enthusiastic bipartisan approval.
Several prominent members of the federal bench were on hand to praise Judge Wright, including: the Hon. Alicemarie H. Stotler, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the Hon. Mary M. Schroeder, Chief Circuit Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Hon. Charles S. Vogel (Ret.), Former Administrative Presiding Justice of the California Court of Appeal, 2nd Appellate District and former President of the California State Bar, and Patrick M. Kelly, Esq., Regional Managing Partner of Wilson Elser (where Judge Wright was a litigator for more than 20 years) and former President of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
Serving the Central District, Judge Wright hears cases from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo counties. 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, serving on the law school's Board of Trustees since 2002 and speaking at Black Law Student Association (BLSA) events. "I have a great fondness for the school," Judge Wright said. "I think it taught me well. All three of my law clerks and all but one of my externs are from Southwestern."
After several months on the federal bench - he officially began serving in April - Judge Wright continues to impress his clerks, who regard him as a 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, is also serving 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, specialists in all matters related to insurance, 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 with Southwestern.