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‘Hot Bench’ judges take us behind the robes

“Hot Bench” returned for its ninth season in October with new judges Rachel Juarez and Yodite Tewolde joining veteran jurist Michael Corriero, who’s been with “HB” since 2016.

The daytime court show, created by Judith “Judge Judy” Sheindlin, continues to draw solid viewership, averaging nearly 2 million daily viewers — tops in its genre among shows currently in production (“Judge Judy” ended its run of original episodes in 2021).

Juarez and Tewolde, who replaced Patricia DiMango and Tanya Acker, arrived with solid bona fides; Suarez as a veteran litigator and Tewolde as a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst.

Juarez and Tewolde and Corriero answered a few questions for The Post.

What do you bring to your role as a judge on “Hot Bench?”

Juarez: I was most drawn to the educational aspect of the show and the platform it gives us to impart some legal knowledge with every case. It is also important for everyone to understand that “following the law” does not always produce the result that might feel the most fair or satisfying. It is my hope to try and introduce into our deliberations and verdicts a little bit of the “why” behind the law, so that our viewers will be able to more fully engage with the behind-the-scenes look they’re getting into the legal system.

Tewolde: My time as a prosecutor working with pro-se defendants [representing themselves], and experience as a defense attorney, allows me to bring an unexpected level of patience to the bench that most [people] aren’t used to when watching court shows. But, more importantly, my time on both sides of the aisle allows me to bring empathy to the bench. My experience working as a broadcast journalist covering trials is also helpful.

Rachel Juarez is a veteran litigator.
CBS Media Ventures

Is there one case that’s resonated for you this season?

Juarez: We had a case earlier in the season involving a daycare owner who hired a van driver to transport a number of pre-school children to and from daycare. The driver was in an accident (fortunately while no children were in the van); however, we learned from testimony that his wife had encourage him to take the driving job to get out of the house — and to give him a vehicle to drive because he was such a bad driver that she would not let him drive her car. Some of the litigants (and our wonderful audience) found it “sweet” and “funny” that his wife recommended him for a driving job … I found it horrifying.

Tewolde: Although we seem some of the same issues come up, the litigants are so very different and make lasting impressions (both good and bad), so many cases resonate. The ones that really stand out, however, are those where we can help people heal in some way, particularly in cases involving feuding family members.

Yodit Tewolde has a background as a criminal defense attorney and legal analyst.
CBS Media Ventures
Michael Corriero has been a "Hot Bench" judge since 2016.
Michael Corriero has been a “Hot Bench” judge since 2016.
CBS Media Ventures

How do you prepare for each case with so much ground to cover?

Juarez: It is so important to remember that these are real cases, and real litigants, who are entrusting us with adjudicating their real legal cases. For each case, I carefully read both the complaint and the answer and closely review any evidence that the litigants provide before coming to court. In addition, many cases require us to research and review specific laws or legal principles from different jurisdictions.

Tewolde: A lot of reading, researching, and thinking. We have one of the best research teams and they’re meticulous with the level of detail and background they provide to use for each case. While we are on television, NONE of these cases are scripted. This job requires a lot of diligence, thought and time.

Michael, how much of an adjustment was it to work with Yodit and Rachel?

Corriero: It wasn’t much of an adjustment … I loved my time with Tanya and Patricia, but relaunching the show with Yodit and Rachel has given us an opportunity to attract an even wider audience. We are the same show that our viewers have come to know and love, but the addition of Yodit and Rachel brings an exciting new energy, and a fresh new dynamic and perspective. It feels very natural to be sitting on the bench alongside them, which I think is reflected in our on-screen chemistry.

“Hot Bench” airs weekdays from 9 to 10 a.m. on WLNY/Ch. 55.

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