Judge Michael Corriero knows what it is like to be the new kid on the bench. He joined Judge Patricia DiMango and Judge Tanya Acker on the syndicated court series “Hot Bench” in 2016. They had been working together since 2014.
It is Corriero who is the veteran of the show now in its ninth season as Judge Yodit Tewolde and Judge Rachel Juarez joined him to create the judicial triumvirate. Their legal decisions can be seen locally at 2 p.m. weekdays on KBFX.
The three-judge format looks at real small claims cases from courthouses across the country. Unlike the typical courtroom TV show, the three judges create a situation where only two have to agree on the verdict.
Judge Corriero immediately found the same kind of chemistry with the new judges that he had with his previous bench partners.
“It is sometimes very difficult when you are working with two people who are not totally familiar with and developing that kind of trust that is so necessary,” Corriero says. “As you know, majority rules and so there is room for decent. There is room for disagreement.
“When you have a chemistry where everybody feels comfortable that you are not arguing as opposed to simply disagreeing using reason to make your points, it makes it so much better.”
Corriero brings years of experience to discussing the cases with his fellow “Hot Bench” judges. He served in the New York State Court for 28 years where he was instrumental in implementing programs that provide rehabilitation programs for young offenders.
The main concern with all three judges on the series created by Judge Judy Sheindlin is that the decision they make is the right one for the litigant who agreed to give up their case in small claims court. The decision by the judges is final.
Tewolde believes what makes “Hot Bench” different for all of the other legal shows is that having three judges make the rulings gives the viewers more insight.
“The viewers get to see the reasoning behind what our rulings are,” Tewolde says. “They get to see the disagreements. They get to see our different perspectives on certain issues.
“There are viewers who message us all the time who message us all the time who either agree with us or have strong disagreements with our rulings. That kind of engagement tells me that not only are people watching but they are also learning.”
“Hot Bench” has definitely attracted viewers as it is the top-rated syndicated court show in original production and is in the top 10 of all syndicated shows. An average of almost two million viewers watch “Hot Bench,” many who tune in on multiple days of the week.
Tewolde is a nationally renowned criminal defense attorney who was the founder and managing attorney of her own criminal defense firm. She is a much sought-after legal analyst who has hosted The Grio’s “Making the Case,” contributed to “America’s Most Wanted” and served as an anchor for Court TV.
Juarez is an experienced litigator who handled civil cases for large corporate clients before co-founding a family law practice specializing in the representation of high net worth and high-income individuals in complex divorce and other family law matters. She was also appointed to serve as a Temporary Judge by the Los Angeles County Superior Court Temporary Judge Program.
Like other court TV shows, “Hot Bench” draws from pending court cases across the country. That means the way the three judges rule on one case may be different from a similar case because they come from two different regions with their own local laws.
One thing Juarez points out that is such a critical part of “Hot Bench” is all of the preparation that is done before filming starts.
“A lot of what viewers don’t see is the work done behind the scenes. Not just by the judges but from the entire team here,” Juarez says. “We get to hear cases from all around the country and by-in-large we apply the law of the state that the case comes from in rendering a verdict.
“Some principles of law – like contract law – tend to be the same across the states and so we don’t need a unique state law.”
The types of cases that tend to cause the most need for research are those dealing with cars. Tewolde laughs and says she is never really happy when they have to hear a case dealing with automobiles because she doesn’t have a lot of expertise in the area.
But, that is the primary reason “Hot Bench” features three judges. The diversity of the judges has created a broad spectrum of knowledge they share. And this season that sharing includes the two new faces.
David Theodosopoulos, Executive Producer of “Hot Bench” loves the new and fresh energy that Tewolde and Juarez have brought to the show. He points out that their diverse backgrounds and experiences complement Corriero.