LOS ANGELES (AP) — U.S. District Judge Otis Wright has been on the federal bench only five years and now is facing bankruptcy because he's unable to pay his existing debts.
While Wright and other district judges are making roughly $174,000 annually, they are being outpaced by many other federal employees who are earning more than $200,000 each year, according to statistics provided by the United States Courts website.
Wright and his wife filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Dec. 26 in Los Angeles, saying their assets worth more than $833,000 were being eclipsed by their liabilities totaling more than $895,000. Among their debts are $30,000 on a Citibank credit card and more than $17,000 owed to two department stores.
The couple's attorney, Raymond Aver, told the Daily Journal, which first reported the bankruptcy filing, that the judge tapped his retirement funds to pay off a large amount of debt before filing for Chapter 7.
"What he did was everything he could to pay his creditors," Aver told the Journal. "But like so many others, he's underwater."
Email messages left for Aver and Wright's court clerk were not immediately returned Thursday.
The couple's income has steadily declined from just over $271,000 in 2009 to $171,366 last year, according to court documents.
Last week, a trustee filed an application to hire a real estate agent to put the Wrights home in tony Rancho Palos Verdes up for sale for nearly $1.2 million.
Former federal judge Stephen Larson left the bench three years ago because he said his salary wasn't able to meet the costs associated raising a family of seven children. He was later hired by a law firm.
More than 120 federal judges have resigned or retired since 1990, the U.S. Courts site reported. The pay of most federal employees has jumped more than 90 percent over the past 20 years, according to the site, but judicial pay has increased only 36 percent over the same time frame.
Wright, a former Marine and Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, was nominated by George W. Bush. Wright also worked for the California attorney general's office and sat on the state bench between 2005 and 2007.