Judge Mathis

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This article is about the television series. For the eponymous arbiter of this court show, see Greg Mathis.
Judge Mathis
Genre Court show
Presented by Greg Mathis
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 16
No. of episodes 5,394[1]
Camera setup Multiple
Running time 407 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original channel Syndication
Picture format 480i 4:3 (SDTV)
480i 16:9 (SDTV)
Original run September 29, 1999 (1999-09-29) – Present
External links
Production website

Judge Mathis is a long-running syndicated arbitration-based reality court show presided over by retired Superior Court Judge of Michigan's 36th District Court, Greg Mathis.[2] The syndicated series features Mathis adjudicating small claims disputes.

The series was originally produced by Black Pearl Productions but is currently produced by Syndicated Productions and Telepictures Productions, while distributed by Warner Bros. Television Distribution.[3] It is taped at NBC Tower in Chicago but includes cases and litigants from other U.S. jurisdictions.

Greg Mathis' "inspirational and positive messages to young people" won the court show a PRISM Commendation in May 2002. The court show also won an NAACP Image Award in 2004.[2]

Each Judge Mathis episode runs for one hour and typically consists of 4 cases.[2] The show is broadcast five days a week in every U.S. state, as well as Canada through Omni Television.[4][5] The show has been on the air since 1999 and has taped well over 2000 episodes.

With the show having made it into its 16th season as of 2014-15, Mathis is the longest African American court show judge, having beat out Judge Joe Brown whose program lasted 15 seasons.

Show format[edit]

The cases on Judge Mathis are classified as tort law, civil disputes with a maximum $5,000 claim, a typical amount for small claims court. The producers of the show select the cases. To acquire cases, the show solicits real-life litigants with pending disputes or individuals with potential disputes. If litigants agree to be on the show, they must enter into a legally binding agreement in order to be held under the judgment.

Mathis does not have prior knowledge of the cases besides reading typical material fact claims filed with a small claims court. Thus, like the typical small claims court, the plaintiff has the burden of proof and must argue his/her case before the Judge and answer any questions directed to him/her. Moreover, as with most court shows, there are no lawyers present and litigants defend themselves.

Before every case, each litigant is assigned a case manager who helps make the case more interesting to television audiences. They are also instructed to add extra details to "beef up" their case for added entertainment purposes.[6] Typically, Mathis asks for documents that verify a claim. He occasionally leaves the courtroom to deliberate and then returns with his verdict.[7] Upon final judgment he may briefly explain the legal principle guiding his decision, especially if his ruling is based on a particular state's law. Reportedly, Mathis' rulings conform to the laws of the state where the case was originally filed.[8]

Incorporation of life story into court show[edit]

It has been stated that the key to Greg Mathis' success as a judge and arbiter is that he's relatable. As a unique role model and personality, he stands out from other court show arbiters. So concerned is the arbiter with helping steer troubled youth in the right direction, the show's second season featured a documentary on Greg Mathis' life:

Mathis was brought up in one of the worst housing projects in Detroit.[9] During his youth, he was involved with gangs, dropped out of school, spent time behind bars. Growing up as a gang member and heroin dealer in the mean streets of Detroit, Michigan, Mathis had done plenty of time in juvenile detention centers before age 17. All this changed when a judge gave him an ultimatum of: either get a G.E.D. or go to jail. At the same time, Mathis found out his mother was dying of cancer. Rushing to her side, he promised her he'd turn his life around and so did: he attended college; passed the bar and earned a law degree; became the youngest judge in Michigan’s history and then served as a Superior Court Judge for Michigan’s 36th District.[2]

Mathis has frequently used his courtroom series to highlight his troubled-youth-turned-success-story as a way of motivating and inspiring his audience (especially youth audience) that there's no adversity that they can't pick themselves up from. It is from his background where Mathis derives much of his courtroom formula. For example, his show's opening theme was formerly a brief documentary of his powerful life story. As another example, he takes a liking to litigants who've seen the err in their ways and have made efforts to improve and better their lives.[10]

Mathis believes rehabilitation is within almost everyone's reach if they just receive the right guidance, which is what he tries to provide. In addition to upholding the rule of law in court, he makes a point of emphasizing that education is key to a brighter future. The continued success of his courtroom series has led to the growth of a new generation of younger court show viewers. People understand that it's his concern for their futures that motivates many of his decisions.[2]

Judge Gregory Mathis[edit]

Main article: Greg Mathis

Mathis typically begins proceedings by having litigants expound on their side of the dispute, so as to gain insight into the matter. Cases on Judge Mathis tend to be deeper and more revealing than those of most other court shows.[10]

Typically, Mathis displays a relaxed, understanding, and open-minded nature. Never missing an opportunity to create a laugh or poke fun, however, Mathis is given to wisecracks, ridicule, and gibes that frequently rouse his audience to laughter. He often cuts the tension in his courtroom–even tension that he himself has fostered–with wisecracks and taunting remarks. Mathis has bantered directly at audience members, resulting in laughter.[11] He also calls attention to peculiarities or juicy details revealed throughout the proceedings. He uses a high pitched voice to suggest that certain litigants have not recognized the obvious.[10][12]

Shifting between formal and informal styles, Mathis said during one case, "Y’all out here having catfights, tryin’ to become jailbirds," and "Don't nobody know what choo' did. Shoot! Choo' just didn't get caught."[12]

Despite his teasing and comedic approach,[11] Mathis has serious moments as well. In moments in which Mathis is particularly disturbed by a litigant's behavior, he takes to scolding and shaming behaviors. Sometimes in these moments, Mathis makes a point of solemnizing his courtroom, letting the litigants in question and everyone else know that he's not joking and is to be taken seriously. By the last portion of all the cases on the program, Mathis has usually solemnized his demeanor, providing an explanation behind the direction of his verdict combined with a stern lecture to litigants he's found guilty.


Like many TV court shows, only the bailiff, besides the judge, is in a recurring position. The first bailiff on the series, Brendan Anthony Moran, died on December 19, 2002, after he fell to his death from the balcony of his 24th floor Chicago condo. His death was ruled a suicide, but his family feels it may have been an accident.[13]

Since then, Judge Mathis has had two bailiffs. The current bailiff is Doyle Devereux. Sharing a somewhat similar nature as the judge, bailiff Doyle often acts as a comic relief for the show, interjecting lighthearted observations about the litigants and the cases. Among the recurring humorous motifs, both Doyle and Mathis frequently banter back and forth. As just one example of their jocular relationship, he and Mathis will often insinuate that Doyle enjoys smoking marijuana and has an eye for pretty women. As the bailiff, Doyle oversees the parties after the judgment is made out in the studio court room hallway. In this capacity, the litigants respond towards the camera to Judge Mathis' ruling.

In the first season of the show, court reporter Leslie Merrill would appear at the end of each case to interview the litigants after their judgement. She was ultimately dropped from season 2 and onward.


Aspiring singers and rappers who appear on the show may even be granted a moment to showcase their talents from the lectern. In recent years, the show has begun to conduct paternity testing in disputes about child custody, and drug testing in applicable cases. Mathis often offers or compels drug treatment and family counseling for parties.

In other media, the Judge Mathis show appeared in an episode of The Steve Harvey Show. Romeo, Bullethead, and Lydia sued Steve and Regina over a damaged computer that Steve confiscated from them during class. Since Judge Mathis had appeared at the school earlier in the week, the kids took their case to the Judge Mathis show (and won).


  1. ^ "Judge Mathis Episodes". TV Guide. Retrieved November 24, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Judge Mathis Bio". Judgemathistv.warnerbros.com. September 11, 2006. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  3. ^ Judge Mathis website. Online at: "About the Show". Accessed May 8, 2007
  4. ^ Judge Mathis website. Online at: "When its on". Accessed March 5, 2011
  5. ^ Omni Television. Ontario "Judge Mathis" Accessed May 8, 2007
  6. ^ Personal testimony from former litigants. Online at: "judgemathis.vacau.com". Accessed March 5, 2011
  7. ^ The A to Z of African-American Television - Kathleen Fearn-Banks - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ Judge Mathis interview. Online at: "Interview with the Judge Mathis". Accessed March 5, 2011
  9. ^ Gun-Toting Judge Greg Mathis Was Arrested As A Teenager – Showbiz Spy
  10. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Television Law Shows: Factual and Fictional Series about ... - Hal Erickson - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Roger M. Grace (October 2, 2003). "Seven Courtroom Shows Appear on TV’s Fall Docket". Metnews.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 
  12. ^ a b [1][dead link]
  13. ^ PERNELL WATSON Daily Press (July 26, 2003). "Bailiff On 'Mathis' Killed In Fall - Daily Press". Articles.dailypress.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013. 

External links[edit]