Judge Judith Sheindlin and her namesake show first premiered on our screens on September 16, 1996. Two years later and she was beating out the powerhouse Oprah Winfrey Show in the Nielsen ratings. And she continues to do so. Die-hard fans know Judge Judy’s outrageous cases, such as The Tupperware Lady and the eBay Cell Phone Scammer, but they probably don’t know these facts about the show and the woman with the gavel. Some of the things she keeps under her Judge’s robes are just too much to swallow, are you ready?
Not An Act
If there’s one thing Judge Judy is known for, it’s her no-nonsense style of jurisprudence. Having spent 20 years in NYC’s family court system, Sheindlin earned a reputation early on for being blunt, impatient, and tough-talking. “I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” was one of her most used “Judyisms”. Frequently she would warn attorneys who appeared before her, “I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives … circumcision being the first.” Basically, it’s no act. What you see on the show, is really what you get.
Judge Judy began wearing that trademark lace collar as soon as was appointed as a judge – she’s been slayin’ the fashion scene since you were in diapers essentially. In 1982, Sheindlin and her husband Jerry took a trip to Greece for two weeks to celebrate her appointment. As they passed a kiosks with locally made crafts, she impulsively bought a white lace collar! Judy said to her husband that male judges wore collared white dress shirts and colorful neckties whereas women had no buffer. Sheindlin also believed that people across the aisle would think, “That nice little lady with the lace collar sitting behind the bench couldn’t hurt a fly!” ~Scoff~
The Big Apple
Even though the scenes show a New York background, Judge Judy is actually taped in California. Sheindlin spends 52 days a year taping the show. Even though there are views of the Manhattan bridge between takes and a New York state flag behind her chair, not all is what it seems! Sometimes during taping an earthquake might occur and you might even see it happen on-screen if the editing team doesn’t do a bang up job. Therefore she flies to California every other Monday and hears cases on a Tuesday and Wednesday (sometimes Thursday if there are any production delays). And get this – one full week’s worth of shows are just filmed each day.
Before arriving on set, Judge Sheindlin does not go unprepared! Producers will FedEx the sworn statements and all relevant information on each upcoming case to her home. She familiarizes herself with some details to provide background, but not enough information so that the case doesn’t seem “fresh” when she first questions the litigants during filming.
Guys, all of the cases you see are REAL. There are some 60+ researchers from all over the globe who process lawsuits filed in local, small claims courts all over the country. Due to the Freedom of Information Act, the researchers are then able to photocopy cases they believe will make for interesting TV. Those copies are then forwarded to the show’s producers. Around 3% of these cases make it through to the next stage which involves contacting those litigants and asking them if they are interested in forgoing their civil court hearing in exchange for a free trip to L.A., an $850 appearance fee and also a per diem of $40 (as of 2012).
The Audience On The Other Hand…
When it comes to the audience, it’s not so real. Viewers who regularly tune in will note that sometimes the same faces appear in the audience. Those people are paid extras, who are often aspiring actors, earn $8 an hour just to sit and look attentive. Those who wish to join the audience need to email their contact information and a clear headshot to the production coordinators of Judge Judy.
As we all know, Jude Judy will criticize litigants who show up to her courtroom dressed in “beach attire” or skimpy clothing. However she herself is usually dressed in jeans and a T-shirt or tank top. Guess it’s easy to hide when you’ve got a long robe on and sit behind a massive desk.
I Really Am A Bailiff
Folks, Officer Byrd is a real life bailiff who earned his B.Sc. degree in 1989 from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Byrd worked in the Brooklyn Family Court system before transferring to the Manhattan Family Court, where he met Judge Sheindlin. “We [the court officers] used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system,” he said in a 2004 interview. “She was just hilarious.”
Sense of Humor
Even though Officer Byrd comes off as imposing in the courtroom, he’s actually got a brilliant sense of humor. Judge Judy says he’s a great impressionist. Although his sense of humor did almost once cost him his job, or so he thought. Back when he worked with Judge Sheindlin in New York, he wore her robe and reading glasses in order to make his co-workers laugh with a spew of Judyisms. And of course, the real Judge Judy herself walked in as he was doing so.
Sometimes celebrities appear on Judge Judy! The actress from Happy Days Roz Kelly appeared on the show back in 1996 as the plaintiff when she sued her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that was as a result impeding her acting career. Former Sex Pistol John Lydon (Johnny Rotten) was the defendant when the drummer Robert Williams, who was hired to support Lydon during a solo tour, sued the singer for lost wages and assault. Actress and comedian Amy Schumer also appeared on the show in 2017.
Judge Judy actually wanted to call the show “Hot Bench” which is a term used often in appellate court. She didn’t want the show to be named after her! However producers felt that the name was meaningless to viewers. Next she thought “Judge Justice” was a good name. Producers were persistent in naming the show after her and eventually she gave in. It’s not like she could be easily replaced, after all.
Judge Sheindlin credits her sense of humor to her father, a dentist who calmed nervous patients with his gab. For years, she listened to her father’s jokes at the dinner table and we suppose it rubbed off. And it certainly makes watching her show more interesting!
After The People’s Court was canceled, it was time to revitalize court show TV, which is how Judge Judy hit the ground running back in 1996. Currently the show is celebrating 23 years on air!
Judge Judy has literally outlived its imitators, including The People’s Court and Divorce Court. In fact, the show is in the Guinness World Records as ~the~ longest-running show in the court genre. Now that’s impressive.
Judge Judy’s Moolah
Get this, Judge Judy is actually the highest-paid TV star in Hollywood! Per year, she earns some $47 million which is about $900,000 per work day and she works about 52 days in a year. Being a TV judge pays off we guess.
In just 2012, Judge Judy brought in $230,000,000 in advertising for the network. So it’s not just Judy Sheindlin who racks in the cash, it’s also the series and network! Not bad.
How can Judge Judy tell is someone is lying to her? Well she revealed just how on her show! She said, “When you can’t look at me in the eye and tell me the story, that means you’re lying.” Keep that in mind if you’re ever up against the great Judge! She might even add a “Baloney!” when grilling you.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a member of the Supreme Court Justice, was recently asked by TMZ if she would ever trade jobs with Judge Judy? Both women are considered tough as nails so the question is reasonable, people want to know! Ginsburg immediately replied with a simple, “No.”
When it comes to Sheindlin’s pre-court show reputation – you know, as one of the toughest family court judges in America – we have to thank The Los Angeles Times for this particular crowning. In fact, the reporter Josh Getlin, who penned the article, is basically responsible for starting her entertainment career. See it was Getlin’s article on Sheindlin that caught the attention of 60 Minutes, who then aired a segment on her in October 1993. Nice work, Getlin!
Oh, that 60 Minutes segment not only brought Sheindlin national recognition, but it also lead to her first offer to write her very own book. Sheindlin accepted the book deal and wrote the brilliant, Don’t Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining.
The People’s Court
On May 21, 1993, Joseph Wapner was let go from popular series The People’s Court. Sheindlin decided to do something bold. she called up the program and said, “You know, if he doesn’t want to do this show any more, I can do it.” Dang, she’s got balls. The receptionist immediately snapped, “Are you crazy, lady?” and hung up.
It was early 1995 when two former People’s Court producers, Kaye Switzer and Sandi Spreckman, very boldly asked Judy Sheindlin if she would like to preside over her very own courtroom series. Actually it took some time before she accepted their offer and look at her now. The rest is history.
Kaye Switzer and Sandi Spreckman are currently involved in a lawsuit against Judge Sheindlin and CBS as of January 2018. Why? They claim that they are owed compensation for discovering her way back when. The producers are seeking $4.75 million. Switzer and Spreckman claim that they were denied their rightful 5% stake in the sale of the show’s library in 2017.
In 2003, Judge Judy appeared on 60 Minutes again. During the interview, she stated, “I have a contract with the company to do the program through the 2006 season. At that point, we will have produced this program for 10 years. Right now, I would be satisfied with a good 10-year run. I think that would really be phenomenal. It would be lovely if we could end on a high note and for me to say ’10 years and I still had people watching and I had a second career that was a blast’.”
10 years has come and gone because in 2015, Sheindlin celebrated her 20th season anniversary on Judge Judy! This makes the program the first in the court show genre to go 20 seasons and not get the axe. Moreover it’s also the first to go this far under one arbitrator.
While litigants are delivering their testimony, they are actually not allowed to hesitate in their delivery. Nope, they must maintain fixed eye contact with Judy Sheindlin at all times. Yeah, that sounds intimidating! Furthermore, litigants are absolutely not allowed to speak out of turn nor are they allowed to talk to each other. Intense, much?
When it comes to the extras, they also have a few rules to follow. Such as, extras cannot dress casually! No logos or brand names can appear on their clothing either. She did once say to a litigant, “I am not going to ask you to leave. But, the next time you come into my courtroom, dress more appropriately. You are not going to a beach party.” So the extras really better be on their toes!
Sticking to the extras for a minute. They have strict orders to appear as though they are discussing the case with one another before and after each case. Why, you ask? So that the bailiff may make announcements such as “Order! All rise.”
Even though the audience is not allowed to react to anything the judge or litigant says, sometimes they do. Especially when Judge Judy delivers a crushing remark. In this case, Sheindlin does not “scold” them but rather lets it slide. Makes for good TV, we suppose.
Not That Expensive
Unlike most court programs out there, Judge Judy is actually inexpensive to produce! No, really. Therefore it generates a considerable income. The budget for a mere week’s worth of Judge Judy episodes is in fact just half the cost of a single network sitcom episode.
Most of the cases that are on the show, if we don’t include any footage that was deleted to meet the time constraints of the show, typically lasts from anywhere from 12 to 45 minutes. That’s really not much when you think about it.
Just like most small claims courts in America, the award limit on Judge Judy is $5,000. The award that the winning litigant gets for each judgment is paid by the producers of the show. The producers have a fund that is especially reserved for the purpose.
Speaking of money, both the plaintiff(s) and the defendant(s) receive an appearance fee. Yup, that they do. The appearance fee amount varies between different litigants who have appeared on the show. Some have reported receiving a $500 appearance fee while others say they received $100, and others even just $250. Additionally, litigants are paid $35 a day by the series.
In September 2011, our dear Judy Sheindlin was a guest on the Jimmy Kimmel Live! show. during the interview, Kimmel asked just how many days does she work a month? She replied, “Five days.” Well that must be nice.
Why does she work just five days a week? That’s because Sheindlin and her producers only tape the court show three days every other week. Ergo, two weeks a month. Usually they tape 12 cases a day, which means that 30 to 36 cases are taped over the three days during the week.
For each season of the show, around 650 claims have been brought to the set to be “presided” by Judge Judy. Which just means that approximately 8,450 claims have been dealt by Judy Sheindlin as of the end of its 13th season (2008–09). Dang.
Like Fine Wine
The show premieres in September, and when that happens, just the best episodes are selected to start the season. Those first few weeks, especially the first week, offer what the show feels are its best episodes. Sheindlin once described it by saying, “It’s like drinking wine. You don’t serve the really good bottle of wine third.”
Walk of Fame
In 2006, Judge Judy was immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame! The sharp witted judge was given the 2304th star on Hollywood Boulevard to mark the 10th anniversary of her show, Judge Judy.
Over time, Judge Judy has penned two more books for adults. The titles of the books are just as witty as she is. Beauty Fades, Dumb Is Forever and Keep It Simple, Stupid: You’re Smarter Than You Look. Have you read your copy yet? You should, they’re wonderful.
In April 2013, former litigants from a 2010 episode revealed that they conspired together to fabricate a lawsuit, where the only answer was that the payment would go to the plaintiff. Musicians Kate Levitt and Jonathan Coward were successful in their scheme, Sheindlin did indeed award the plaintiff (Levitt) $1,250. Levitt and Coward also earned the appearance fee of $250 each and enjoyed an all expense paid trip to Hollywood, California. The two are actually friends in real life who split the earnings among each other. Reportedly the producers knew of the scam but still let it happen.
Battle of the Spouses
Thanks to Sheindlin’s popularity, the producers of The People’s Court chose to replace Ed Koch with Sheindlin’s husband, Jerry Sheindlin, for their 15th season (1999–2000). This meant one thing, both husband and wife were on air at the same time so they battling it out for rating. Unfortunately the experiment didn’t last long. Midway through season four, Jerry Sheindlin was replaced by the show’s current judge, Marilyn Milian.
From Divorce Court and The People’s Court, just Judge Judy and Judge Mathis have not had to go through a temporary cancellation in their series run before a revival was put in motion. Moreover Sheindlin and Mathis are the only two judges to have been the hosts of their program for their entire run. Therefore Sheindlin is acutally the genre’s longest serving courtroom arbitrator, Greg Mathis is second.
During a January 2018 interview, Judge Mathis claimed that Judy Sheindlin has benefited from a white female privilege. Whereas he doesn’t have the same luxury. Mathis said, “I tried to be like Judge Judy. And she was mean all the time. And then ultimately [my] producers said, ‘Well, no, an older white woman can talk to white folks like that, but a young black man can’t.’ So I learned that lesson early on. White folks love to see black people sing and dance and crack jokes. They do not want you to be too serious and political.”
When it comes to the audience of Judge Judy, it is mainly seventy-five percent women and twenty-five percent men. In fact in February 2014, it was reported that Judge Judy’s audience is mainly composed of older women, blacks, and Latinos. Make of that what you will.
Joseph Wapner. Wapner, who presided over The People’s Court from 1981 to 1993, has been a long-time critic of Judy Sheindlin. In November 2002, Wapner openly criticized Judge Judy’s courtroom behavior, saying, “She is not portraying a judge as I view a judge should act. Judge Judy is discourteous, and she’s abrasive. She’s not slightly insulting. She’s insulting in capital letters.”
Don’t worry, though Judge Judy was quick to offer her reply, even if it was through her publicist. She said, “I refuse to engage in similar mud slinging. I don’t know where or by whom Judge Wapner was raised. But my parents taught me when you don’t have something nice to say about someone, say nothing. Clearly, Judge Wapner was absent on the day that lesson was taught.”
The Battle Rages On
It didn’t stop there though, Wapner replied to her comment, “She is a disgrace to the profession. She does things I don’t think a judge should do. She tells people to shut up. She’s rude. She’s arrogant. She demeans people. If she does this on purpose, then that’s even worse. Judges need to observe certain standards of conduct. She just doesn’t do it and I resent that. The public is apt to gain the impression that this is how actual judges conduct themselves. It says ‘judge’ on the nameplate on the bench and she’s wearing a robe.
The Last Word
You didn’t think that was the end of it, did you? Of course Sheindlin replied to that statement, “As a young person, when I had watched The People’s Court. . . I said ‘you know what, I could do that.’ And at least as well because while Joe Wapner is a very good judge, [he] didn’t have much of a sense of humor. And I always knew from a very practical perspective that you have to marry those two things in order to be successful in entertainment.”
In August 2010, the rapper, singer and songwriter Nicki Minaj revealed that she is obsessed with watching Judge Judy. Any free time she has is spent watching the show!
The Whole Truth
In February 2013, the then head Football coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh, was asked truthfulness and enthusiastically, especially its importance. He said, “Somebody that’s not truthful? That’s big to me. I’m a big fan of the “Judge Judy” show. When you lie in Judge Judy’s courtroom, it’s over. Your credibility is completely lost, and you stand no chance of winning that case. So I learned that from her. It’s very powerful and true. If somebody lies to you, how can you trust anything they ever say after that?”
A few months after Jim Harbaugh made his statement, he and his father appeared as audience members on Judge Judy. Moreover they also had lunch with Sheindlin and even visited her before and after the tapings.
My Thoughts Exactly
While some viewers may not like Judge Judy’s style, there have been many who have supported her remarks. Especially as they feel the parties on her show are an “endless parade of idiots” which Sheindlin has had to put up with. Ah, that’s special.
The Judge Judy executive producer Randy Douthit has actually been sued twice by former staff members of the program. Their claims are all for alleged wrongful termination, discriminatory practice, and mismanagement while on the job.
In October 2013, Big Ticket Television and producers of Judge Judy both filed a lawsuit against Ignacio De Los Angeles. The lawsuit was made against the individual who posted an episode of Judge Judy on YouTube. According to the lawsuit, Big Ticket had directed Ignacio to remove the 2006 episode that he had posted. Ignacio did not follow the command.
President and CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves, has said previously, “Over the last few decades, there have been very few shows that have achieved the remarkable success that she has. Not only has Judy sustained that success year after year, how many shows grow in their 15th or 16th year in syndication? She started as a fresh voice and she’s been a remarkable presence in daytime television ever since.”