Bench refers to the judge in his chair at his desk. For example, when the judge tells the attorneys to “approach the bench,” he is asking them to come up to him. When a judge does not want the jury to hear what is being said to the attorneys, he will ask them to “approach the bench”. Bench is also used to refer to a judge, for example, if a defendant asks for a “bench trial” he/she is asking for a trial before a judge without a jury.
See also, Bench Trial.