Since first landing on the airwaves back in 2014, the courtroom reality show Hot Bench has become one of the most popular programs on daytime TV. Every weekday, millions of viewers tune in to see a panel of judges preside over cases in small-claims court. One of those panel members, Tanya Acker, is a fan favorite who also makes frequent appearances on other syndicated shows like Entertainment Tonight, Extra, and The Talk. But is she a real judge? Here, we take a look at her credentials to uncover the truth.
Tanya Acker Is One Of Three Judges On The Show ‘Hot Bench’
What sets Hot Bench apart from other reality court shows is that it features a panel of three judges who hear cases together and then discuss (and often have heated arguments about) them in their chambers. If the trio can’t reach a unanimous agreement, the verdict is decided based on a two-thirds majority vote.
It’s no surprise that the show is a hit when you learn it was created by TV judge extraordinaire Judy Sheindlin—a.k.a. Judge Judy. In a 2019 interview with Parade, Acker explained how Hot Bench came to be:
“So, Judge Judy was in Europe and saw a three-judge panel adjudicating a case, which is not uncommon in Europe, but in the United States, you see this more frequently on appeal,” Acker explained. “After seeing this, she thought it would be a great idea for a show. CBS reached out to me because I had been a legal and political commentator, and I was on their radar. I was invited to try out for the show, and Judy and the studio tried different combinations of people. I made the cut, and it worked out.”
Acker also said that working with the courtroom legend that is Judge Judy has been an awesome experience. “Judge Judy is a phenomenal woman,” she said in her interview with Parade. “I’ve learned just about everything I know about adjudicating cases on television from her. She’s been a great friend and a wonderful mentor. She’s provided sage advice as I’ve done this show.”
Joining the panel alongside Tanya Acker is Patricia M. DiMango, a retired American justice of the Supreme Court of Kings County, New York, and Michael Corriero, a criminal defense attorney and New York State criminal court judge for more than 25 years. Currently in its seventh season, Hot Bench has aired over 1,200 episodes since it first aired.
Tanya Acker Has Overcome Racial Barriers To Get Where She Is Today
Though she’s become an accomplished legal professional and TV personality, Acker faced challenges on her road to success. “There are certainly times when people treated me differently or made assumptions about me because I was a Black woman,” she told Swaay in 2020. “There’s no sort of barrier that someone would attempt to impose upon me that they didn’t attempt to impose on my mother, grandmother or great-grandmother.”
Acker also says she’s very sensitive to the justice system’s inequities. “That sensitivity doesn’t mean people of color are going to get a break,” she explained to The Grio in 2018. “I think that anybody who is true to law isn’t going to do that, but what you are going to do is be mindful of the fact that certain people are thought to be suspicious, and the suspicions that people have are coming from a place that I might question.”
Is Tanya Acker A Real Judge?
The short answer to this question is yes. However, she wasn’t a judge before appearing on Hot Bench. A graduate of Howard University and Yale Law School, Acker has an impressive resume as an attorney and civil litigator. In addition to working for several private law firms, she’s worked for the Office of the White House Counsel and the Civil Rights Division in the U.S. Department of Justice.
When Judge Judy tapped her to appear on Hot Bench, she recommended that Acker get a little judging experience before the cameras started rolling. Acker agreed to serve as a temporary judge on a volunteer basis in Los Angeles Traffic Court. “I was happy to be able to have the chance to kind of get a feel for it before we started doing the show,” she told Swaay. “Judy is a wonderful, kind, generous person [and] she’s taught me quite a lot. I feel lucky.”
Clearly, Acker is more than qualified to fill her seat on Hot Bench. And as for the cases featured on the show, they’re real too!
“Every case that we try on our show has been filed in a court somewhere in the country,” she explained to The Grio. “Our litigants are the real people who filed the case, and it’s pending in a court somewhere. In order to come on the show, they dismiss the cases wherever they are and agree to arbitration agreements. Our show is binding arbitration.”
Although the judges hear the whole case, the show’s production condenses the process for TV. Acker explained to The Grio, “You don’t see the whole case because it would not be interesting to people. I think viewers should be grateful to our editors because parts of the cases are boring. We try the whole case and edit it, so the viewers only see the interesting parts.”