The Ventura Port District on Friday day filed for protection under Chapter 9 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, citing an inability to pay a large court judgment.

District officials said they need time to decide how to address the $15.6 million judgment. Ocean Services Corp., which helped develop shops and other buildings at the port, won the judgment in 1990 over breach-of-contract issues.

The California Supreme Court last week declined to hear an appeal over the judgment, an action that triggered the Chapter 9 filing.

Lawyers for Ocean Services are expected in coming months to challenge the district's reasoning for seeking bankruptcy protection. District officials have said there is no way they can pay the entire judgment all at once.

Richard Parsons, general manager of the district, stressed yesterday that the filing is "not expected to have any impact" on investors who hold bonds from a 1962 issue.

About $1.5 million of those bonds remain outstanding, Parsons said, and they are secured by voter-approved property tax revenues. The bankruptcy filing should not interfere with the district's ability to make payments on the bonds, which will be paid off by 2002, Parsons added. The bonds were sold to help fund construction of the Ventura harbor.

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