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A Dallas Lawyer’s Jump from Courtroom to Green Room

After prosecuting cases for the Dallas County District Attorney, Yodit Tewolde scored her own show on Court TV and starred as a legal analyst on America’s Most Wanted. Here’s how Judge Judy convinced her to start filming.
| |Photography by Tramaine Townsend
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Tramaine Townsend

Yodit Tewolde’s family is from Eritrea and immigrated to Dallas when she was an infant. She went on to graduate from W.T. White High School, earn a law degree, and prosecute cases for the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office. She made the jump from the courtroom to the greenroom and got her own show on Court TV before serving as a legal analyst for the reboot of America’s Most Wanted.

“I take the law seriously.”

Have you ever gotten to hang out at media mogul Byron Allen’s $100 million Malibu pad?

No. But that’s a random question.

Your show Making the Case aired on the Black News Channel, which he bought last year. I figured maybe you got a peek inside your boss’s house.

That whole thing was a little nuts, but Making the Case was already done by the time he bought the Black News Channel out of bankruptcy, so I never had the pleasure of meeting Byron Allen.

When he bought BNC, he said we don’t need a Black news channel. We need a good news channel. Do you agree?

I agree and disagree. It was very important when BNC was created that we were able to tell stories. I’ve done this legal commentary thing for quite some time, and I was always told what I needed to go on air and talk about, and there were other issues that I felt were really important. We didn’t really have an outlet. So I understand what he’s saying in terms of good programming, but it’s important to also cater to an underserved community.

Now you’re one of three judges on the syndicated Hot Bench. Didn’t you once say you’d never do a judge show?

I’m kind of eating my words. I did a radio interview with Hot 97 in New York, and somebody asked me if I would ever do a judge show. I just never really thought that it was me. Some of these shows exploit people. And for me, I take the law so seriously, and so I saw some judge shows as gimmicky. But there are a few standouts. There’s no one like Judge Judy, and she created Hot Bench in 2014. When I was approached about joining, having her attachment to the show was a big factor for me. My responsibility is to educate and enlighten people, right? With three judges, we give the audience an opportunity not just to hear what our verdict is, but they get to see how we deliberate. I think it’s the best reality show that shows what happens inside a courtroom.

When it comes to Dallas lawyers, who is a bigger clotheshorse? You or Bill Brewer?

[laughs] I gotta say me.

How would you describe your own personal style?

I think I’m a minimalist. Less is more. It took a lot of learning my own taste growing up. I was definitely a tomboy. Then I started getting into a more feminine style—but not too feminine. You’ll never see me in anything floral, anything like that. I’m starting to wear more color. I’m exploring that side of me.

As a proud Aggie, can you explain what the heck is going on in College Station and why Jimbo Fisher couldn’t even manage a bowl game this year?

I will say that I am a proud Aggie, but I’m a 1 percenter. I don’t follow football. I went to exactly one football game. You know the students stand for the whole game. And I sat down. When I tell you the eyeballs that I got—like, I was getting scared.

Is it fair to say that you attribute all of your success to the fact that D Magazine years ago named you one of the 10 most beautiful women in Dallas?

[laughs] I knew that question was going to come up. It was such an honor but also embarrassing, right? It was one of those great opportunities for me. Back in 2015, I wanted to get into media, and that was sort of like my first taste and recognition, and it came from my own city. I still get comments about it.


This story originally appeared in the February issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Here Comes the Judge Write to [email protected].

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Tim Rogers

Tim Rogers

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Tim is the editor of D Magazine, where he has worked since 2001. He won a National Magazine Award in…
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