Amber Wolf doesn’t want to be a TV judge, and she never expected her role in her Louisville, Kentucky, courtroom to become an internet sensation. But when two recent videos showing Wolf acting with kindness toward defendants were published online, the internet went crazy. Wolf has received thousands of thank you messages from around the world, including people from other countries thanking her for changing their opinions of the United States.
“I think it’s because people have a perception from television and the media that judges are cold and hard. And I don’t think that’s the truth. All judges are human beings under that robe. We think with both our heart and our head. It’s not a mutually exclusive thing,” Wolf, 34, told VICE in an interview about her newfound fame.
The former public defender was seen yelling at jail administrators when a female defendant arrived in her court seemingly without pants and without access to feminine hygiene products, saying, “This is outrageous. Is this for real?” In a second video, she granted a defendant a temporary suspension from a no-contact order so he could hold his newborn son before being sent back to jail. The small acts of kindness stunned many, and the opinions of internet users in turn stunned Wolf. She said that though she is firm when it comes to doling out punishments, her judicial philosophy is that ultimately, the community needs people to come out of jail and become productive members of society, and she wants to help accomplish that goal.
“I have seen comments from people who say I’m an activist liberal judge, which is not the case. I haven’t done anything to pursue or propel any political points. I just saw an opportunity to do the right thing,” she said.
Wolf grew up in a poor household and never thought she’d accomplish all that she has, she said. She was a scholarship student and worked as a public defender and then ran a campaign against better-funded opponents for the role of judge. Now, she says, she has her “dream job.” She has 100 to 200 cases per day in her court, but tries to find time to talk to people, to perform “small gestures of kindness” and to connect to people to help them feel they can improve their lives, she said.
Watch Wolf in court in the video below:
Read the full interview at VICE.