Sheindlin at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
|Born||Judith Susan Blum
October 21, 1942
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Other names||Judge Judy
|Education||American University, BA
New York Law School, J.D.
|Occupation||Lawyer, judge, television personality, author, arbitrator|
|Known for||Judge Judy (1996–present)|
|Spouse(s)||Ronald Levy (1964–1976)
Jerry Sheindlin (1977–1990; divorced, remarried 1991–present)
Judith Susan Sheindlin (née Blum; born October 21, 1942), better known as Judge Judy, is an American lawyer, judge, television personality, and author. Since 1996, Sheindlin has presided over her own successful Daytime Emmy Award winning reality courtroom series named after her, Judge Judy.
Sheindlin passed the New York bar examination in 1965, and became a prosecutor in the family court system. In 1982 Mayor Ed Koch appointed her as a judge, first in criminal court, then later as Manhattan's supervising family court judge in 1986.
It was reported in mid-2012 that Sheindlin is the highest paid television personality, making $123,000 per episode of Judge Judy, which amounts to $45 million annually for the 52 days she tapes her show a year. It was later reported in October 2013 that Sheindlin is still the highest paid TV star, earning $47 million per year for Judge Judy, which translates into just over $900,000 per workday (she works 52 days per year).
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Legal career
- 3 TV court show: Judge Judy
- 4 Other media
- 5 Lawsuits
- 6 Personal life
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Early life and education
Sheindlin was born Judith Susan Blum on October 21, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York to Jewish parents, Murray Blum, a dentist and Ethel Silverman. Her paternal grandfather, Jacob Blum, emigrated from Ukraine to the United States, while her paternal grandmother, Lena Mininberg, emigrated from Russia. She described her father as "the greatest thing since sliced bread" and her mother as "a meat and potatoes kind of gal."
Sheindlin attended James Madison High School in Brooklyn before going on to American University in Washington, D.C. where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, majoring in government. She then enrolled at the Washington College of Law at American University where she was the only woman in a class of 126 students. She finished her law school education at New York Law School, where she graduated as Juris Doctor in 1965.
Sheindlin passed the New York bar exam in 1965, the same year as her graduation, and was hired as a corporate lawyer for a cosmetics firm. Within two years she became dissatisfied with her job and left to raise her two children. She was soon made aware of a position in the New York court system as a prosecutor in the family courts. In her role as a lawyer, Sheindlin prosecuted child abuse cases, domestic violence, and juvenile crime.
By 1982, Sheindlin's no-nonsense attitude inspired New York Mayor, Ed Koch, to appoint her as a judge in criminal court. Four years later, she was promoted to supervising judge in the Manhattan division of the family court. She earned a reputation as a "tough" judge (though she has disagreed with the labels "tough" and "harsh"), known for her fast decision-making and acerbic wit.
In February 1993, Sheindlin's outspoken reputation made her the subject of a Los Angeles Times article, profiling her as a woman determined to make the court system work for the common good. She subsequently was featured in a segment on CBS's 60 Minutes, bringing her national recognition. This led to her first book, Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining, published in 1996. She retired as a family court judge that same year after hearing over 20,000 cases. After her retirement, Sheindlin continued to receive increasing amounts of public attention.
TV court show: Judge Judy
Not long after a 60 Minutes special on Sheindlin's career in the family court, spawning from a Los Angeles Times article on her, she was approached about possibly starring in a new reality courtroom series, featuring "real cases with real rulings." She accepted the offer.
Sheindlin's ongoing syndicated court show, Judge Judy, debuted on September 16, 1996, and is currently in between seasons, having just completed its 18th season. Sheindlin has stated that the number one goal of her court show is to send the message to the public to do the right thing and that each individual must take responsibility for his or her actions.
Ratings and reception
Able to maintain preeminence within its genre, Judge Judy has been the number one rated court show since its debut. Having had notably high ratings since its beginnings, the program has regularly averaged approximately 9 to 10 million viewers daily. During the 2009–10 television season, Judge Judy became the first TV series in a near decade to score higher numbers of daytime viewers than The Oprah Winfrey Show. Since that point, Judge Judy has been the highest rated show in all of daytime television, this streak continuing through the 2012–13 television season.
As a result of continuous high ratings and popularity, Judge Judy has been renewed numerous times over the course of its existence. The court show was most recently renewed on April 4, 2013, with Sheindlin extending her contract through 2016–17 season (the show's 21st season). Judge Judy is especially popular among female viewers between the ages of 25 and 54.
Author Brendan I. Koerner commented in regard to the popularity of Judge Judy:
Court-show viewers don't seem to want moral conundrums or technical wrinkles. They love Sheindlin's show because she offers them a fantasy of how they'd like the justice system to operate—swiftly, and without procedural mishaps or uppity lawyers. They get to see wrongdoers publicly humiliated by a strong authority figure. There is no uncertainty after Sheindlin renders her verdict and bounds off the bench, and there certainly are no lengthy appeals.
A 2013 Reader's Digest poll supported Koerner's statements, revealing that Americans trusted Judge Judy more than all 9 justices of the United States Supreme Court. Due to the show's popularity, the program quickly and effectively integrated itself into American pop culture. In 2003, VH1 named Sheindlin one of the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons." Moreover, references to Sheindlin—typically as "Judge Judy"—have appeared in multitudes of television programs and other media, including ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!; FOX's The Simpsons as Judge Constance Harm (voiced by Jane Kaczmarek); NBC's Will & Grace; UPN/The CW's America's Next Top Model; NBC's The Weakest Link; ABC's The Practice and tapings of the Academy Awards; the book "America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction" by Jon Stewart; a skit by Vicki Lawrence portraying Thelma Harper/Mama on "Betty White's 2nd Annual 90th Birthday" celebration, drag queen Bianca Del Rio portraying Judge Judy on RuPaul's Drag Race, etc.
Just prior to the show's 18th season and in celebration of the fact, a flash mob consisting of scores of random people dressed in judge's robes took to the streets and created a Judge Judy music video. Spawning from her well-known presence in pop culture, Sheindlin has been parodied in the media. Examples include Celebrity Smacktalker's Competition, which features multiple parodies of Sheindlin versus other popular public figures, such as Nene Leakes as shown, Tyler Perry's Madea as shown, and The Golden Girls' Sophia Petrillo as shown. In addition, Sheindlin has been parodied on Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, The Amanda Show, etc.
Awards and honors
The court show has earned Sheindlin numerous awards and honors. Among these awards and honors have included—receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 2006; induction into Broadcasting & Cable's Hall of Fame in October 2012; being awarded vice presidency of the UCD Law Society in April 2013; being presented with the Gracie Allen Tribute Award from the Alliance for Women in Media; being awarded the Mary Pickford Award by the Hollywood Chamber Community Foundation at the 2014 Heroes of Hollywood; etc.
One award that Sheindlin had difficulty winning, however, was a Daytime Emmy Award. By 2011, the Judge Judy program had been nominated 14 consecutive years for Daytime Emmy Awards, though without ever winning. In mid-2012, an article from the New York Post reported—Judge Judy was snubbed by the award show by not even being nominated that year despite being the highest-rated court show. In an interview with Entertainment Tonight on May 3, 2013, Sheindlin stated, "I have my walls full of Daytime Emmy Award nominations." Also in the interview, when asked whether or not she thinks she'll win the award, Sheindlin answered:
- I don't know. You know, somehow it would sort of break the spell. The show has been such a tremendous success that I'm almost afraid to think about winning—because so many of those shows that did win are no longer with us. So I say to myself 'you want the Emmy or you want a job? (laughing) Which one do you want?'
In 2005, Sheindlin's salary was US$15 million per year. Her net worth at the beginning of 2007 was $95 million, and she ranked number 13 on the Forbes magazine top 20 richest women in entertainment. In July 2010 when Sheindlin's contract was renewed, her salary increased to $45 million per year. It was later reported in October 2013 that Sheindlin is the highest paid TV star, earning $47 million per year for Judge Judy, which translates into just over $900,000 per workday (she works 52 days per year). Sheindlin owns several homes in several states: Connecticut, New York, Florida (to which she travels every winter), and most recently Wyoming. She commuted to Los Angeles every other week for two to four days to tape episodes of Judge Judy. However, in May 2013, Sheindlin bought another home, this time in the same city as her court show. It is a $10.7 million condo in Beverly Hills, California.
Longevity and retirement plans
When asked why her court show has so much longevity while most other court shows do not, in the May 3, 2013, Entertainment Tonight interview, Sheindlin answered:
- I think people are comfortable knowing my perspective—because I think if you try as a judge/television personality to do this kind of job and keep your perspectives, your personal perspectives, a secret, you're not being honest. And I think that the American viewing audience can tell when somebody's not being honest—when somebody's peeing on their leg and telling them it's raining. I think part of the reason I was selected to do this job was because I don't filter myself very well. But I was never a great filter of myself even when I sat on the bench in New York. Now sometimes that got you into a little bit of hot water; here they seem to like it. Fortunately for me, I don't have to act. This is it. And if you annoy me, or if you lie to me, or if I feel as if you're trying to obfuscate the truth, you're going to get on my bad side. And that's a side that you don't want to be on.
On March 30, 2011, Sheindlin was admitted to the hospital after she fainted on the set of her show while handling a case. She was released the next day, and it was later learned that she suffered a mini-stroke. In regards to her retirement, Sheindlin has stated that it's up to her viewers and when they tire of watching the program, which she believes will inevitably happen one day. As of the present, however, Sheindlin has stated that fans still seem to be interested and taking something out of the court show. Sheindlin admits the court show is "seductive" and hard to give up. Said Sheindlin, "I'm not tired. I still feel engaged by what I do, and I still have people who like to watch it."
Other entertainment industry work
Since the success of Sheindlin's courtroom series, she's been interviewed on scores of talk shows and cable news programs over the course of her career, such as Katie (numerous appearances), Larry King Live (numerous appearances), The View (numerous appearances), Donny & Marie, The Talk, The Tonight Show, Dateline NBC, 20/20, etc. On October 17, 1998, Sheindlin made a surprise guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, comedically interrupting one of Cheri Oteri's regular parodies of her presiding on Judge Judy. Also as a result of her Judge Judy show stardom, she served as a judge for the 1999 Miss America Pageant.
Early on in her celebrity on February 21, 2000, the Biography program aired a documentary film on Sheindlin, "Judge Judy: Sitting in Judgment" (later released on home video). This 60-minute documentary captured Sheindlin's entire life story (dating back to her childhood), legal career, authoring career, entertainment career, etc. The special also featured input from those closest to Sheindlin and those who knew her best. More recently on December 23, 2008, Sheindlin shared juicy revealing secrets about her life on Shatner's Raw Nerve, in which she was presumptuously interviewed by William Shatner. A year later in December 2009, Sheindlin again told the story of her life, legal career, authoring career, and entertainment courtroom career from an updated perspective in a two-hour interview for Archive of American Television. In a free-wheeling 60-minute interview conducted by Katie Couric on September 17, 2013, for the 92nd Street Y, Sheindlin elaborated on previously-undisclosed fun facts of her life story and long career in the family court.
As confirmed in January 2014, a new court show conceived by Sheindlin titled "Hot Bench" is scheduled for a fall 2014 debut. The upcoming courtroom series will feature a panel of three judges debating and deciding on cases brought to their TV courtroom. Stated Sheindlin, “When my husband Jerry and I were in Ireland recently, we visited the courts and watched a three judge bench, which I found both fascinating and compelling. I immediately thought what a terrific and unique idea for a television program that brings the court genre to the next level. We have assembled three individuals with extremely varied backgrounds to serve as the judges. They are smart and talented, with terrific instincts and great chemistry, and are sure to create a hot bench.” The panel of judges will consist of New York State Supreme Court judge Patricia DiMango, and Los Angeles attorneys Tanya Acker and Larry Bakman. As with Judge Judy, “Hot Bench” will be executive-produced by Randy Douthit, and produced by CBS Television Distribution. It's important to note that Sheindlin originally desired the title of her personal courtroom series to be "Hot Bench" before producers ultimately settled on "Judge Judy."
Sheindlin has authored six books. Her career as an author began prior to her courtroom series. Her most recent book, which hit shelves on April 25, 2013, was inspired by one of her advisory catch phrases encouraging romantic partners to be judicious with regards to domestic partnerships. This catch phrase is: “There is no Court of People Just Living Together.” Sheindlin's six books are as follows:
- Sheindlin, Judith (1996). Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-092794-1.
- Sheindlin, Judith (1999). Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever. Harper Paperbacks. ISBN 0-06-092991-X.
- Sheindlin, Judith (2000). Keep It Simple, Stupid: You're Smarter Than You Look. Cliff Street Books. ISBN 0-06-019546-0.
- Sheindlin, Judith (2000). Win or Lose by How You Choose. Harper Collins. ISBN 0-06-028780-2.
- Sheindlin, Judith (2001). You're Smarter Than You Look: Uncomplicating Relationships in Complicated Times. Harper Paperbacks. ISBN 0-06-095376-4.
- Sheindlin, Judith (2013). What Would Judy Say? A Grown-Up Guide To Living Together With Benefits. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. ISBN 1483931676.
Sheindlin launched an advice-sharing website,"Whatwouldjudysay.com," in May 2012. According to Sheindlin, the goal of the new website is to share her personal ideas and outlooks on life, have a forum to discuss a variety of different issues, and have a little fun.
Lawsuit filed by Patric Jones
In March 2013 a lawsuit was filed against Sheindlin by Patric Jones, the estranged wife of Judge Judy executive producer Randy Douthit. Jones alleged Douthit and Sheindlin had conspired to permit Sheindlin to buy Christofle fine china and Marley cutlery owned by Jones. She said Sheindlin had paid Douthit $50,815 for the items without her knowledge to deprive her of her valuables, and she sought $514,421 from Sheindlin. The suit was settled out of court after Sheindlin returned the tableware to Douthit and Jones agreed to pay him $12,500 and have the tableware handed back to her.
Lawsuit filed by Judith Sheindlin/countersuit by Haymond
On Wednesday, March 12, 2014, Sheindlin filed a lawsuit for the first time in her life. The suit was filed against Hartford, Connecticut personal injury lawyer John Haymond and his law firm. In the lawsuit, Sheindlin accuses Haymond and his firm of using her television image without consent in advertisements that falsely suggest she endorses him and his firm. Sheindlin's producer allegedly told the firm that use of her image is not permitted in March 2013, but ads have allegedly continued. The lawsuit filed in federal court seeks more than $75,000 in damages. Sheindlin said in her statement that any money she wins through the lawsuit will go toward college scholarships through the "Her Honor" mentoring program. Sheindlin further stated, "Mr. Haymond is a lawyer and should know better." The unauthorized use of my name is "outrageous" and requires legal action. The lawsuit reads, "By trading, without consent or authorization, on Sheindlin's well-known persona, the Haymond Defendants have irreparably harmed and damaged Sheindlin's hard-earned professional and artistic reputation, dignity, and prestige."
In Haymond's response to Sheindlin's suit, he contended that he wasn't using her image to promote himself but to promote her, that ABC affiliates asked him to appear in a Judge Judy promo and he obliged, and that the promotions no longer air.
In June 2014, Haymond filed a courtersuit against Sheindlin. Haymond seeks punitive damages, costs, and attorneys fees. U.S. District Judge Michael Shea will hear the case in November 2014.
In 1964, Sheindlin married Ronald Levy, who later became a prosecutor in juvenile court; they moved together to New York and had two children, Jamie and Adam. The couple divorced in 1976 after 12 years of marriage. Adam is District Attorney in Putnam County, New York.
In 1977 she married Jerry Sheindlin, a judge who from 1999 to 2001 was an arbiter on The People's Court, the oldest daytime courtroom show on American television. They divorced in 1990, partially as a result of the stress and struggles that Judith incurred after her father's death that same year, but remarried the following year. They have five children – Gregory, Jamie, Adam, Jonothan and Nicole – and 12 grandchildren.
Sheindlin is a supporter of same-sex marriage and, although she has said that she is not a supporter of "big government", she has expressed a dislike of the frequent assumption that she's conservative based on her courtroom demeanor.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Judith Sheindlin.|
- Judith Sheindlin at the Internet Movie Database
- Judge Judith Sheindlin at the Notable Names Database
- Judge Judy marks 10 years laying down the law, CTV News, February 15, 2006
- Biographical article from The Guardian, October 9, 2008