Who says you can’t go home again?
Certainly not former Las Vegas judge (and former Las Vegas TV reporter) Jackie Glass, who’s right back where she started — on the air — as the new host of “Swift Justice,” replacing the outspoken Nancy Grace.
When the syndicated courtroom show begins its second season Monday, Glass will preside — but not from the traditional on-high perspective of a judge’s bench.
Instead, Glass will roam a sleek set, doing without bench or gavel, to interact directly with litigants, witnesses, experts and members of the in-studio audience. It’s reminiscent of the way she ran things last year when she oversaw Clark County’s drug and alcohol treatment courts, when she stood behind a podium rather than sit behind a bench.
“I wanted that connection, and I wanted people on the other side to understand there was that connection,” she explains. “I wanted to take that wall down.”
Now, forging that connection on TV is, “for me, almost like coming full circle,” Glass says.
A recent visit to the Regional Justice Center for a newspaper interview felt like a homecoming for the 33-year Las Vegas resident, who resigned from the Eighth Judicial District Court in June, after 8½ years on the bench — and 18 years as a lawyer.
Although Glass doesn’t work at the courthouse any more, deputies staffing the metal detectors waved her through on her first return visit.
“They still remember me,” she says. “I didn’t have to take my shoes off.”
Fellow courthouse regulars, from attorneys to deputies, offered smiles, waves and hugs to welcome her back — and inquire about her new TV gig.
“We’re gonna have to get autographs,” two former colleagues tell her.
“And I’ll be happy to sign,” Glass replies with a ready grin. “Make sure you tune in!”
For Glass, “Swift Justice” represents a return to broadcasting, which brought her to Las Vegas in 1978 as a reporter, first in radio, then for KTNV-TV, Channel 13.
Glass left Las Vegas once before, to attend law school in San Diego, but she always knew she’d be back.
She still considers Las Vegas home, despite regular trips to tape “Swift Justice” at the same Hollywood studio where “Judge Judy” and “Judge Joe Brown” preside.
After all, husband Steve Wolfson has plenty to keep him busy with his law practice and duties on the Las Vegas City Council. (Their two daughters are grown and in college, one in California, one in Florida.)
“He’s definitely capable of holding down the fort” at their Summerlin home whenever Glass travels to Los Angeles to tape “Swift Justice” — usually on a one-week-on, one-week-off basis.
“I’m glad this is a job where I can go back and forth,” she says, noting that for every day of taping “Swift Justice” cases (she’s done as many as 11 in one day), she spends another day preparing, taking notes on statements, evidence and other details she reviews on her iPad.
“I’m a stickler for prep,” Glass says. “As I was before, I am now.”
Once the show’s two-day taping schedule is under way, “it’s totally unscripted,” Glass says. “These are people who have real cases, and I adjudicate,” whether the issue is a broken lease — or a broken engagement.
As for the path that led Glass to her new TV job, “it’s not like I sat around wondering, ‘I want to be a TV judge,’ ” she reflects. But “due to the notoriety of O.J., I got noticed.”
O.J., of course, is O.J. Simpson; Glass presided over the case that sent Simpson to prison for nine to 33 years for his role in a 2008 armed robbery and kidnapping at Palace Station.
“We were on Court TV every day,” Glass points out. “Of course people are going to know me.”
One of those who noticed her: John Terenzio , executive producer of both “Judge Joe Brown” and “Swift Justice,” who asked Glass to take over on “Swift Justice” when first-season host Grace opted not to follow the show from Atlanta to Los Angeles.
“When Nancy couldn’t travel to L.A. on a consistent basis, I called Jackie — and only Jackie,” Terenzio says.
Yet even if the “Swift Justice” slot hadn’t opened up, Terenzio knew, after watching Glass in action “for a few minutes” at the Regional Justice Center, that she would make “a perfect judge for our shows.”
Beyond “the fantastic job” she did presiding during the high-profile Simpson trial, the everyday “professionalism and ease and organization she displayed in her courtroom” impressed Terenzio, he says. In addition, “her smarts, her intellect and her knowledge of the legal system” made Glass an ideal candidate, he explains. “She seemed to be so relaxed and comfortable as a judge.”
Glass may have changed venues, from a Las Vegas courtroom to a Hollywood TV set, but her approach — and her judicial demeanor — remain the same, she says.
“I am who I am. I kind of have always been very expressive,” she says. “It feels natural to me — and I’m hoping that comes across to the audience.”
The cases she deals with may not be as high-profile as Simpson’s, but Glass’ approach to “Swift Justice” remains the same, she says.
“More people are touched by small claims court” than any other, Glass maintains. “These cases are actually very important to the people involved. I’m hoping people at home are not only interested and entertained, but learn something.”
Contact reporter Carol Cling at email@example.com or 702-383-0272.