Retired California Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell is already a Bay Area legal celebrity. She was the first black woman judge on any court in Northern California when Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the Municipal Court in 1982. When Cordell won an open election to a seat on the Superior Court in 1988, she became the first black judge on the Superior Court in Santa Clara County.
Now Cordell is going national, as the presiding judge on You the Jury, a court reality drama premiering Friday, Apr. 7 on Fox TV. The show delivers real civil trials, with the added frisson of viewers getting to serve as jurors and deciding the cases.
"Believe me, it was the last thing I would ever think of," Cordell says. "Even now, I see the commercial on the TV and I think 'Is this for real? This is for real!'"
Cordell had initial misgivings about participating in the project. "I worked so long and hard to establish a solid reputation, I didn't want to get involved in anything stupid or silly," she says. But after talking with the show's producers, Cordell felt assured they wanted someone with serious credentials to preside over an orderly courtroom, even if it's on a Hollywood sound stage with a live audience.
Cordell isn't the only "real" legal eagle in You the Jury. The prosecutors and defenders are high-profile attorneys like Jose Baez, who defended Casey Anthony, a Florida woman who was accused of killing her two-year-old daughter in 2008, and Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin.