If you’ve seen Judge Glenda Hatchett on her court bench, you know she doesn’t play.
The 65-year-old judge has been dishing out tough love and life lessons on the nationally syndicated show Judge Hatchett for more than a decade.
After a 14-year run, Hatchett took a break from TV and started her own national law firm in 2015, The Hatchett Firm. She has also authored several books and speaks at community events in Atlanta and around the country.
This week Hatchett launched a brand-new court TV show The Verdict with Judge Hatchett, while taking on what is arguably the biggest case of her life: representing the family of Philando Castile, the 32-year-old school cafeteria worker who was fatally shot by a Minnesota police officer.
Judge Hatchett spoke with theGrio from Minnesota about how she plans to deliver justice for the Castile family and why she’s so passionate about getting justice for everyday people.
TG: Judge Hatchet, you’ve got a lot going on right now. What made this the right time to come back to television, and what do you want to accomplish with your show?
JH: So many people for years have been saying, “When are you coming back?”
And I didn’t think I would come back and do another show, frankly. I loved what I was doing with the first show; I had an original run for 8 years, then syndication all these years later. But it felt right to come back. Because I do believe that people want and are looking for life lessons. That’s what I love doing.
I don’t care whether I’m in a small town in Mississippi or a street corner in NYC; invariably, people come up and will say to me, “I saw this show, and let me tell you what it meant for me.”
TG: Tell us why you took on the Philando Castile case and what your firm is suing for.
JH: I hope this case will be a landmark decision. We’re going to be asking for damages for his wrongful death, but we’re also going to be very clear about the court granting injunctive relief. We want to see some changes in policy and practices.
It is no secret that between 2002 and the time of his death, this man was stopped by police 52 times. The majority of those cases were later dismissed because there was no basis for the stops.
If that’s not profiling, I don’t know what is. I don’t know how one human being can be stopped more than 50 times. This is a community with a small percentage of African-American citizens, but the vastly disproportionate number of people stopped are African-American, which is a classic case of profiling.
I have to remind people that [Philando Castile] was licensed to carry a weapon, which he said. He had a valid permit.
You have a man who worked at the same place for 13 years, was not a felon, not combative, had no record with the police, and he is in his seatbelt — and he ends up dead when he was complying by grabbing his license and registration.
If we can’t get this case right, what will we ever get right?
TG: We’ve watched some heated moments on TV where you look like you’re about to come off the bench. Do you really get emotional when you’re dealing with people in your courtroom?
JH: I do. Some of the stuff we have to edit out. I remember one time, Tom had to come and stand between me and usher me back to my chambers. There was an episode (and I remember distinctly) I said to a girl, “You better be glad I’m not your momma.” And she said, “But you ain’t my momma.” And I stood up ready to come down off the bench!
In my own courtroom in Atlanta, a woman got her purse and started walking out the door. She said regarding her teenaged son, “Honey you can have him, I can’t do nothing with him.”
And I said, “What are you doing? If you don’t come and sit back down.”
“Because when he was 15 months old, you didn’t tell him no. When he was 5 and cursing, you thought it was cute. When he was talking back to you at 7 or 8 you didn’t say anything. And now he’s totally out of control at 15 and you’re telling me you can’t do nothing??”
I tell parents all the time if you don’t set the rules, a judge like me is going to set the limits. And you’re not going to like us much.
Editor’s Note: Entertainment Studios’ daily courtroom series The Verdict With Judge Hatchett has launched this week in 85 percent of U.S. syndication markets and on ES’s cable network JusticeCentral.TV.
Entertainment Studios, Inc., (www.es.tv) is the parent company of theGrio.