He’s so hot right now!
Brooklyn Heights Judge Michael Corriero dispenses justice five days a week on his hit daytime television show “Hot Bench,” much like he did during his decades-long tenure as a New York jurist.
Corriero spent 28 years in the criminal courts of New York State, 16 of them presiding over Manhattan’s Youth Part, a special court he created to bring attention to young offenders being prosecuted as adults. He continued his work with the city’s youth after retiring in 2008, when he became Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, and then established the New York Center for Juvenile Justice.
Then an old friend, Judy Sheindlin — known nationwide as the honorable Judge Judy — asked him to lend his talents to her syndicated show featuring a panel of three judges. Now Corriero sits on the “Hot Bench” next to two other judges — Judge Patricia Dimango and Judge Tanya Acker — and the trio reach a whopping 3.2-million viewers each weekday. The native New Yorker now splits his time between Los Angeles and Brooklyn Heights, but found time to chat with this paper about his influences and his love for the city’s biggest borough.
Natallie Rocha: What inspired you to study law?
Michael Corriero: I grew up across the street from the Manhattan court system — they called it “the Tombs.” I was always curious about what was happening in that building. I would play a game with my buddies where we would try and get past the officers and play in the bowels of the building. We would see the officers and defenders of criminal law at the corner of Baxter and White Street and it was really the entire atmosphere that drew me in.
NR: What draws you to juvenile justice reform?
MC: What drew me in initially was wanting to work with young people who found themselves outside the letter of the law. If people saw me at the corner of Mulberry and Hester Street when I was 15 or 16 years old, they never would have imagined that this kid would grow up to be a judge. I grew up on the mean streets of Little Italy and I had to navigate big points in time where one step in the wrong direction could obstruct a meaningful career. I am fortunate and I always want to communicate how valuable education is. In this country, we believe that knowledge is power. We believe in the idea that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can succeed. Neither my mother nor my father had a formal education, but they recognized how valuable education was.
NR: Growing up, did you ever get out of Manhattan to explore Brooklyn?
MC: Brooklyn was always a place I wanted to be. When I was young, I wanted to go to Coney Island with my friends during the summer. My mom let us take the subway to the beach. There was one part of the subway where it was an elevated ride and you could see all of Brooklyn and the neighborhoods, it was beautiful. Brooklyn was like its own country.
Favorite restaurant: Antica Pesa in Williamsburg (115 Berry St. between N. Seventh and N. Eighth streets). It is owned by a Roman family and they have one of the same
name in Italy.
Favorite spot: Brooklyn Heights Promenade. Since it’s my neighborhood, I like to walk the dog and jog through there. It gives you a nice perspective of Manhattan — seeing it all is a dreamlike experience and it is the best in the early morning. It is what defines Brooklyn Heights.
Favorite landmark: As a judge, on my way to work at the Supreme Court, I would drive across the Brooklyn Bridge. The architecture was almost like the gates to a medieval city and it always inspired me.
“Hot Bench” airs weekdays on WCBS-TV Channel 2 from 9-10 a.m.