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Paternity Court Judge Lauren Lake Talks Law, Detroit

The native Detroiter and court TV star sounds off on exploiting Black people for ratings and more. See her show weekdays at 11 a.m. on My TV20 Detroit.

She's the newest of Michigan's great Lakes. Detroit-born Lauren Lake, judge and moral conscience of the new nationally syndicated TV series Paternity Court (seen twice every weekday on Channel 20), has enjoyed enough careers to inspire a women's empowerment group.

The Wayne State University Law School graduate spent 20 years as a defense attorney with offices in Southfield and other cities. She's been a professional singer providing background vocals for the likes of Mary J. Blige and Jay Z. Lake also has been an author (Girl! Let Me Tell You: Advice on Life and Love for Single Successful Women), TV legal expert, life coach, store owner, motivational speaker, interior designer, former host of the HGTV series Spice Up My Kitchen, wife and mother. Oh, and she founded the nonprofit Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network.

Yet ironically, it may be as chief justice of Paternity Court—the latest daytime show to combine sexually hyperactive couples, DNA results and melodramatic "You ARE (or are not) the father!" revelations—that this multifaceted sister cements herself into America's consciousness. The verdict is yours.

You used to sing around Detroit?

When I started law school I was singing a lot. It was one of the ways I got myself through school. I was in a lot of bands, I sang with an agency out of Royal Oak for weddings and corporate events, and I did backup stuff for the house music and techno producers coming out of Detroit back then. I sang down at Flood's! Yeah, I was a working vocalist. I did it all.

And you owned retail outlets here, too?

I sure did. I owned a clothing store at Northland Mall called Status Clothier. If you parked on the back side of the mall off Northwestern and took the escalator – OK, I'm showing my age now – next to Hudson's, Status was on the left. And I had a sportswear store, Play By Play, in Trapper's Alley. Remember Trapper's Alley? I love my home. Detroit is where I learned all the lessons I bring to the courtroom today.

You've taped more than 150 episodes so far. How do you react to seeing a steady stream of promiscuous, baby-making couples coming before you, particularly young African-Americans?

What I'm seeing in this courtroom really makes me feel like we are digressing 20 or 30 years. In the '80s, we didn't think a lot about sexually transmitted diseases, or HIV/AIDS. But I remember where I was when Magic Johnson had his press conference, and then our community, our society, went on this mission to educate people.

But honey, when these young girls and boys stand up before me and say they've had unprotected sex with this one and that one, that it's not just two men who could be the father but six or seven, I am flabbergasted. They're losing their minds! But I am so glad that this is playing out on television, because now we are being alerted that our people have not learned the lessons of the '90s. This platform gives me the opportunity to talk about these social and sexual issues and hopefully empower these young girls.

What about those who say shows like yours exploit Black people in tragic circumstances for ratings?

Oh, I'm so glad you asked that, because somebody just sent me a rant on Facebook. The reason families come through our courtroom is because they need the truth. They can go on another show and act a fool, do a jig or dance, but they come to us because we handle it in a respectful manner. But more important, let's be very honest: It's so expensive and emotionally draining to go through our American family court system. Some people don't have the money to hire a lawyer, and some people are just scared to go to court. In our courtroom, they can receive a swift and decisive answer to their questions.

Do you enjoy being a TV judge?

It's like a dream come true. I'm a lawyer but I'm also a talent, and this courtroom is an almost perfect blending of what my strengths have always been. A lot of lawyers are very creative people.

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