A Harvard graduate who achieved fame as one of television’s sternest and most intransigent celebrity litigators, Judge Lynn Toler began life by struggling through an overwhelmingly difficult childhood. As a young woman, Toler attended law school at Harvard, then segued from a career as an impassioned litigator to a Republican-backed judge on the Cleveland Heights Municipal Court. She reportedly won her first election to that post (opposite incumbent Russell Baron) by merely six votes. Her unusual and innovative sentencing on the bench (such as granting shorter incarceration terms to convicts who completed book reports) drew the attention of a local television station, which in turn recommended Toler to Fox for its courtroom reality series Power of Attorney; she was immediately hired, making her the contemporary of such popular TV judges as Judge Joe Brown and Judge Judy Sheindlin.
Unfortunately, Power of Attorney folded not long after Toler arrived, but she received an even more prestigious assignment by headlining the similar program Divorce Court. She inherited the post from Judge Mablean Ephraim after Fox decided not to renew Ephraim‘s contract thanks to a dispute involving hair styles. Toler netted immense popularity on the program, then took another assignment as an on-camera counselor to married couples in crisis on MTV’s reality show Decision House.