Tanya Acker: Hot Bench

My NativeAdVantage:


Following her graduation from Yale Law School, Tanya Acker began working with the Supreme Court and President Clinton as an avid fighter for women and minorities and is now sharing her legal mind on the Emmy nominated CBS hit show HOT BENCH. Acker offers unique perspectives on the most current news headlines. Tanya's background in fighting for under-served communities and her decisive tone has made her a TV's fan favorite judge. Always engaging and stirring on camera, Tanya has been featured as an expert guest on "Good Morning America," "Entertainment Tonight," "Wendy Williams," "The Talk," "The Insider," "CNN Reports," "Anderson Cooper 360," "Extra," "Your World with Neil Cavuto," "CNBC Reports," and more. Created by Judge Judy, HOT BENCH adds a new twist to the court genre, with the first-ever three judge panel that includes Tanya Acker, Patricia DiMango and Michael Corriero. HOT BENCH takes viewers inside the courtroom and into their chambers as they deliberate, making it one of the most popular programs on day time TV.  Acker received her B.A. degree at Howard University before attending Yale Law where she represented low-income women in family law cases and served as a teaching assistant in Constitutional Law and Civil Procedure courses. She has worked at the Office of White House Counsel, the Civil Rights Division in the United States Department of Justice and various private law firms. Her work in private law includes working with President Clinton's personal lawyers, as well as on the preparation of Congressional testimony for pending product liability legislation and First Amendment issues.

After graduating from Yale, Acker served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Dorothy Wright Nelson on the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Her duties during that appointment included advising and making recommendations to Ninth Circuit judges about rulings on a broad variety of cases and preparing Judge Nelson for oral arguments on matters before the Court. After her clerkship, the Office of the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice awarded her a Bristow Fellowship. As a Bristow Fellow, her duties included drafting Supreme Court briefs.

In private practice, Acker's legal work spanned a broad variety of matters from civil litigation involving public and private entities, to various constitutional cases, to providing business counseling and advice. She also maintained a commitment to pro bono work, receiving the ACLU's First Amendment Award for her successful representation of the homeless in a case against the City of Santa Barbara. As an influential community leader and advocate, Acker serves on the boards of Public Counsel, the nation's largest provider of free legal services; the Western Justice Center, which promotes alternative dispute resolution; the Western Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America (the WLACC does not discriminate on any basis); and Rainbow Services, which provides shelter services to victims of domestic violence.

What do I do best?

Enjoy people.

What makes me the best version of myself?

Having a purpose and knowing it will work out.

What are my aspirations?

My personal goal is to be in really good physical shape, get more sleep, and to know what I’m doing on a horse.  

My business goal is to grow as many new ideas as possible.

My Biggest Success(es)?

1.    Getting the job on Hot Bench and seeing the show work.  

2.    Successfully representing a group of homeless people who were being criminally prosecuted because they slept on the street.  I argued the case before the state Court of Appeal and the statute, as applied to my clients, was found to be unconstitutional.

My Most Challenging Moment?

I lost someone close to me – a brother - and it shattered my sense of security.  But then I inherited a guardian angel so, there’s always that.

My Motto?

Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come.  Get up and make them! – Madame C.J. Walker

My Favorite People/Role Models?

Robert Smalls – an enslaved African-American who escaped by stealing a Confederate battleship, sailing it past Confederate checkpoints, and delivering it into the hands of the Union army.  He subsequently served in the South Carolina legislature and bought his former owner’s house.

Judge Dorothy Wright Nelson – She is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit and my first job out of law school was as her law clerk.  She doesn’t just dispense justice – she models and lives it.  

Judge Judy Sheindlin – She is an extraordinary human being and a model for how to build success doing something you love.  

My Favorite Places/Destinations?

1.    I’ll go to NY anytime.

2.    Colorado.  Mountains and trees. Enough said.

3.    Paris – It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people and things, and I can practice my French.

4.    Jacmel, Haiti – It’s a beautiful place with beautiful people and things, I can practice my French, and I can visit the incredible children at La Concorde School and  Orphanage  (www.lovetakesroot.org), which is changing lives and schooling the next generation of  leaders to fulfill Haiti’s promise.  

5.    Big Sur, because it is magical.

My Favorite Products/Objects?

A Melodie McDaniel photograph of a woman standing in church.  (“Sunday Best” – Harlem, 1995)

My Current Passions?

1. I’m writing a book and when I’m hitting the right note, it’s very exciting and I get very passionate about it.  When I am not hitting the right note, it is the exact opposite of that.

2. I love to read anything good.

3. Doing fun stuff outside.