Judge DiMango thinks TV judges have helped perception of women on the bench
While the elections for district attorney and various city council seats dominated the news last month, something significant happened in the judiciary election — Brooklyn went to the polls and overwhelmingly voted for women to run its judiciary.
Five women, Connie Melendez, Robin Sheares, Patria Frias-Colon, Sandra Roper and Ellen Edwards, won boroughwide elections for spots on the bench and Elena Baron won in the Civil Court District 6 race.
While there are many reasons for each person being elected beyond their gender, it is remarkable that the women made a clean sweep. One of Brooklyn’s TV judges, Judge Patricia DiMango, of the show “Hot Bench” was not surprised to see the outcome and thinks that TV judges like her could have played a small role.
“I was very surprised to know that all the new judges were females,” said DiMango, who was the administrative judge in the Bronx County Supreme Court prior to her leaving for Tinseltown. “I think there has been a real eye opening about the ability of women to sit in positions of success and power.
“In part, I think that’s because of some of what you see in the media. Now you can see women as judges in TV, in movies, in the news and it opens people’s eyes to the fact that women can do it,” DiMango continued.
While there are notable exceptions, like Judge Joe Brown, and DiMango’s co-host Michael Corriero, the overwhelming majority of TV judges are women. Judge Judy Sheindlin, another Brooklyn native, is perhaps the most famous, but there are also Judges Maria Lopez, Jeanine Pirro, Faith Jenkins, Marilyn Milian and, of course, DiMango’s co-host Tanya Acker.
DiMango explained that while she doesn’t think about representing women on TV, she is often cognizant to the fact that she is representing the judiciary as a whole and always wants to put out a good example.
“I’m out there representing the judiciary,” DiMango said. “It’s a group of people who have risen to a level, which in my mind, is the pinnacle of accomplishment and achievement for our field and that I need to be cognizant of that each time I say or do something. It’s something you’re always thinking about.”
Locally, a big factor in getting women to the bench is the powerful Brooklyn Women’s Bar Association (BWBA). In recent years, the organization has been led by many judges, like Judge Marsha Steinhardt or Judge Sylvia Hinds-Radix, and a number of its past presidents have later gone on to become judges.
That was not by accident, either. Current BWBA President Michele Mirman explained that the group is following in the footsteps of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who issued a call to action that more women join the bench.
Mirman explained that television has helped their effort because it has allowed viewers to easily identify with women on the bench.
“Women bring the critical, needed qualities to the bench of compassion, understanding and a willingness to listen, hear and cut-to-the-chase, from being daughters, sisters, mothers, aunts and friends, where these qualities are prized,” Mirman said. “There’s no question that the women who were chosen have these qualities in addition to the intelligence and knowledge of their male counterparts.”
She added that the fact that Judge Judy and DiMango come from Brooklyn has certainly helped the perception, at least locally, that women are more than capable of serving as judges.
“We in Brooklyn especially are accustomed to thinking of women as jurists,” Mirman added. “Aside from the Supreme Court and our courts in Brooklyn, TV presents Brooklyn women as strong, effective judges, and there’s no question we are affected by TV.
“Studies show that women — and men — respond positively to strong female characters, and Judge Judy and Judge Pat DiMango are both Brooklyn stars in life and on TV,” she concluded.
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