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How “HOT BENCH” Judge Tanya Acker found her Passion and Chased It With her Heart!

Interview article by: Joanna Bunoconti, Staff Writer, HCWM

“Passion” and “money” are two words that have the power to bring out both the best and worst in people. Until fairly recently, it has not dawned on people that they can have
the best of both worlds when pursuing a career. Historically, lawyers pursued that profession due to the level of success that they could hope to obtain. When I had the
pleasure of speaking with civil litigator and one of the stars of the popular daytime television show Hot Bench, Acker, offered a refreshing perspective as to how she
came to pursue a career within the legal field; and how her passions lie, not in her own accomplishments, but in helping the less fortunate.

To many it may be seen as a dramatic shift, but she claims that it’s one of the best
decisions that she has made!
“I went into law for a number of reasons. One: I wanted a career where, frankly, I knew
that I would always be able to support myself financially. I didn’t want to get short shrift
to the necessity of trying to make a way and [wanted] to be financially independent. The
second reason though is, that law is kind of the gateway to so many other different
kinds of things! It enables you to see the world in a certain way, which is helpful in terms
of solving problems whether in court or outside of it. I think it’s the closest thing that you
can get to a professional liberal arts degree.” Acker adds with a chuckle, “A law degree
is like the English major of professional degrees!”

A career in law is not for everyone though! A human race comprised entirely of lawyers
is enough to leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth. Acker is a big advocate for pursuing a
career within the legal field because it allows her to be vocal and have some influence
pertaining to causes that she is heavily active in.
One cause that Acker is especially expressive about is working with the underprivileged,
and people who didn ‘t have the best upbringings. The organization, Public Counsel,
which is the largest nationwide provider for free legal services holds a special place in
her heart because it was her first pro bono project upon receiving her degree–and is
one that she’s stuck with ever since!
From a recent trip to Haiti, Acker recounts her experiences volunteering in a clinic on
the coast in one of the poorest countries in this hemisphere.
“I saw poverty there, but I did not see despair; because even in the midst of all that
there was a real elegance and dignity in [their] existence, regardless of whatever the
circumstances were!”
Seeing people living in such diminished circumstances really put things into perspective
for Acker. She recalls being inspired by the undeniable will of the Haitians, and their
ability to turn even the direst of situations into something profoundly good.

Acker did not pursue a career in law because she wanted to be rich or famous. Quite
the opposite, actually. She pursued it because of her insatiable yearning to help people.
The resulting fame and hit television show was a rather unexpected bonus! To everyone
success means something different. Making loads of money can establish financial
success. But is the amount of money in your bank account a sure fire way to measure
success? To some yes, to people like Acker, absolutely not. Acker measures her
success by her ability to help others, not in terms of financial success.
Finding a profession that you’re passionate about and pursuing it with every atom of
your existence is not always easy. In fact, the only guarantee that we seem to be given
is that it never is! But once you find your niche, all the work that you had to put forth to
get there is eventually rewarded!

What’s it like working on a television court show?

Premiering in 2014, the soon-to-be hit television show Hot Bench made its debut and so
did Acker. The show was originally proposed by another well-known TV judge, Judge
Judy Sheindlin, who originally got the idea while witnessing a three judge panel in
Ireland. Acker’s first time meeting Judge Judy was during the audition process, to which
Acker admitted being a little starstruck.
Seeing a week’s worth of cases in one day can be undoubtedly tiring. Her two co-stars,
Judge Dimango and Judge Corriero, offer a diverse legal background, having both
served as judges in New York City. Acker is fortunate, however, to have co-stars with
remarkable senses of humor, which can be particularly useful when lightening the mood
in tense courtroom situations.
Similar to every other successful entrepreneur out there, Acker owes her success to her
hard work and determination. Although she is one of the stars of the third most popular
show on daytime television, you would never guess that she is a celebrity when
speaking to her. She is an extremely grounded and charismatic person, who in no way
takes any of her fame to her head.
“I am incredibly honored to be where I am today, and to have the platform that I do!”
Having her own firm and working alongside many esteemed politicians and lawyers
from rather early on in her political career undoubtedly prepared her for where she is
today. A civil litigator’s role is to hear the two sides to the cases, and to use that
knowledge to get to the heart of the matter at hand before making a ruling. Furthermore,
because Acker and the two other judges have a relatively brief window of time in which
they are able to examine the cases, her extensive legal background allows her to
discern the truth early on; this technique has come to work very much in her favor while
working on a show.
While she is on television, she is first and foremost a human being–a woman
nonetheless! She is a huge animal lover; she has a black poodle named Maximus
Justice (Max for short). In her spare time, she loves to be outdoors; she relishes finding
stolen moments of calm and silence amidst nature while seeking refuge from the chaos
that consumes her everyday life. When she can get away, her absolute favorite place to
travel to is Paris. One of her favorite activities to do outside includes horseback riding,
which she admits that she no longer does as much as she would like to. A big seafood
fanatic, her love for the outdoors segways into her food preferences!
Aside from being forced to wear that judicial robe, Acker is quite a lover of fashion. She
loves to wear pops of color that bring out her femininity, such as red and smokey pink.
Although she went down an entirely different path compared to the one that she had
initially envisioned, her love for the arts and literature remain strong. An avid reader at
heart, she has developed quite a liking for historical fiction as of late– specifically great
writers, who can take events from the past and morph them into gripping fictional
Upon talking to and getting to know Acker personally, her ability to lead primarily with
both her emotions and instincts intact, stood out to me. Purely based on the fact that
when we think of people working within the legal field, it is the image of stoic and
abrasive individuals that come to mind. In the courtroom, judges are often taught to lead
with their head and to place their emotions to the side. For the reason that Acker is
more personable and transparent than most, she was an absolute delight to speak to!
Acker, first and foremost, is a testament to all women entering into their careers that you
can pursue what you’re passionate about and still make a living. She is successful in
every sense of the word, because she has an unmatched drive for her line of work.
Long gone is the archaic ideology, to which you have to sacrifice one for the other. In
short, a career that you’re not excited about isn’t worth pursuing. Acker was fortunate
enough to have the support of her family and friends when choosing a career.
Unfortunately, not everyone is that lucky. But no matter their past, everyone has
greatness inside of them. And for many, passion is the enigma that ignites the flame!


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