|Genre||Arbitration-based reality court show|
|Created by||Kaye Switzer|
|Directed by||Randy Douthit|
|Narrated by||Jerry Bishop|
|Theme music composer||Arden Hofheins, Lisle Moore, Randall Thornton|
|Opening theme||Symphony No. 5, First movement|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||23|
|Executive producer(s)||Randy Douthit|
|Running time||22 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Big Ticket Entertainment|
Queen Bee Productions (CBS Primetime Special)
Paramount Domestic Television
CBS Paramount Domestic Television
CBS Television Distribution
|Picture format||480i (SDTV) (seasons 1–16)|
1080i (HDTV) (season 17–)
|Original release||September 16, 1996– present|
Judge Judy is an American arbitration-based reality court show presided over by Judge Judy Sheindlin, a retired Manhattan family court judge. The show features Sheindlin adjudicating real-life small claim disputes within a simulated courtroom set. Prior to the proceedings, all parties involved must sign arbitration contracts agreeing to Sheindlin's ruling, handling and production staff management. The series is in first-run syndication and distributed by CBS Television Distribution.
Judge Judy, which premiered on September 16, 1996, reportedly revitalized the court show genre. Only two other arbitration-based reality court shows preceded it, The People's Court (its first life canceled in 1993 from low ratings) and Jones & Jury (lasting only the 1994–95 season, short-lived from low ratings). Sheindlin has been credited with introducing the "tough" adjudicating approach into the judicial genre, which has led to several imitators. The only two court shows that outnumber Judge Judy's seasons, The People's Court and Divorce Court, have both lasted via multiple disunited lives of production and shifting arbiters. Thus Sheindlin's span as a television jurist or arbitrator has lasted longer than any other—a distinction that earned her a place in the Guinness World Records in September 2015. With no cancellations or temporary endings in its series run, Judge Judy also has the longest-lasting individual production life of any court show.
A three time Emmy Award winner, Judge Judy won its first Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program in 2013, its 15th nomination. It was the first long-running, highly rated court show to win an Emmy. The court show won Emmys in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
Since its premiere, Judge Judy has gained enormous popularity and has had the highest ratings in courtroom programming in the United States. The show was also the highest-rated daytime television program from its 3rd (1998–99) through 5th (2000–01) season. After that, the show's Nielsen ratings moderated but regained the number one spot by its 14th season (2009–10) and has kept this reign to date. For its 16th season (2011–12), it was named the highest-rated program in all of daytime as well as syndication, averaging a 7.0 rating. It regained the position as leader in all of syndication for its 18th season and has kept that title henceforth, 5 consecutive years to date through its 22nd season.
- 1 Court show background
- 2 Episode Specials
- 3 Judge Judy Sheindlin
- 4 Reception
- 5 Lawsuits involving Sheindlin, executive producer, Big Ticket, and CBS
- 5.1 Racism termination lawsuit
- 5.2 Ageism lawsuit
- 5.3 Conspiracy/fraud allegations
- 5.4 Lawsuit by production against YouTube user
- 5.5 Copyright lawsuit filed by Judy Sheindlin
- 5.6 Lawsuit by Rebel Entertainment aimed at CBS and Sheindlin's salary
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Court show background
Sheindlin's pre-court show reputation as one of the toughest family court judges in the country was the topic of a February 14, 1993 edition of The Los Angeles Times written by—perhaps the man responsible for initiating her entertainment career—Josh Getlin. On May 21, 1993, Joseph Wapner was released from The People's Court. Sheindlin called up the program and said, "You know, if he doesn't want to do this show any more, I can do it." The receptionist snapped, "Are you crazy, lady?" and hung up. Getlin's Los Angeles Times article on Sheindlin caught the attention of 60 Minutes, which aired a segment on her on October 24, 1993. The segment brought her national recognition and first led to an offer for her to write her own book. Sheindlin accepted the book offer, writing Don't Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining.
In early 1995 two former People's Court producers, Kaye Switzer and Sandi Spreckman (now involved in a lawsuit against Sheindlin and CBS as of January 2018, claiming they are owed compensation for discovering her), asked Sheindlin if she would like to preside over her own courtroom series, and she eventually accepted. Sheindlin and her producers originally wanted the show title to be "Her Honor" but the production company, Big Ticket Television, decided on calling it "Hot Bench" instead, even promoting the show as "Hot Bench With Judge Judy" for some time prior to the show's début. However, Big Ticket ultimately decided on "Judge Judy".
Petri Hawkins-Byrd, the court show's bailiff, was also Sheindlin's bailiff throughout her career in the Manhattan Family Court system. When Byrd found out about Sheindlin's show, he sent her a congratulatory letter, stating, "If you ever need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform." She phoned Byrd at his home in California to accept his offer and he has been the show's bailiff since its debut. Byrd is the longest-running bailiff in courtroom programming history. Sheindlin has stated that the show's producers desired different individuals for the role, but she refused.
Sheindlin appeared again on 60 Minutes on April 30, 2003. During the interview, Sheindlin 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."
On September 14, 2015, Sheindlin began celebrating her 20th season anniversary presiding on Judge Judy. The program is the first in the court show genre to make it to 20 seasons without cancellation as well as the first to make it to this extent under one arbitrator. Three years later by September 2018, the Judge Mathis court show entered its 20th season and became the second and only other court show to accomplish this feat. Sheindlin's distinction as television's longest serving judge or arbitrator rewarded Sheindlin a place in the Guinness World Records on September 14, 2015.
Each episode of Judge Judy begins with an introductory preview of the main case, sensationalizing various moments of the case with dramatic music, voice-over commentary, graphics, etc. This is followed by the show's opening music video. At the beginning of each court proceeding, information regarding who is suing whom and what for is revealed originally by voice-over artist Michael Stull, who was later replaced by the show's current voice-over artist Jerry Bishop. Sheindlin typically begins each case by questioning the parties as to dates, times, locations and other facts central to the lawsuit. Monopolizing the discourse throughout the cases, Sheindlin will sometimes only listen to bits and pieces of each of the testimonies as she is quick to reply, impose her spiel and disallow responses that are not concise or made during her desire to speak. Sometimes, however, Sheindlin will allow one or both of the opposing litigants to recount the entirety of their testimony. While delivering their testimony, litigants are not allowed to hesitate and must maintain fixed eye contact with Sheindlin at all times. Further, litigants are not allowed to speak out of turn or talk to each other. Small children who do not testify are usually removed from the courtroom at the start of the litigation, and unruly co-litigants and witnesses (and once an audience member who laughed too awkwardly during the proceedings) are ejected for disobeying the judge.
Like most modern court shows, cases on Judge Judy imitate small claims court cases in which civil trials (non-criminal cases) are heard and ruled on. Typically Sheindlin handles cases among former lovers, disputing neighbors, or family and friend relations. Disputes generally revolve around issues such as broken engagements, unpaid personal loans, contract breaches, personal injuries from other litigants or their pets, minor property damages (e.g., fender benders, carpet stains, etc.), the fate of jointly purchased household appliances and rightful ownership of property. As is standard practice in small claims court and most reality court shows alike, Judge Judy proceedings operate in the form of a bench trial (as opposed to its more common counterpart, the jury trial). Moreover, lawyers are not present and litigants must defend themselves.
When the show goes into the first two commercial breaks, the voice-over sounds, stating "Judge Judy continues in a moment", followed by a preview of the remainder of the ongoing case, sometimes along with the following case, is typically shown. When the show comes out of the first two commercial breaks, the voice-over sounds, stating "Real cases, Real people, Judge Judy", followed by a verbal recap of the ongoing case. When the show comes out of the last commercial break, the voice-over sounds again, this time providing the show's telephone number and website to submit cases. Generally each show presents two cases, but infrequently, an episode will present a single long case, three shorter ones, or even four shorter ones.
After expressing her views of the circumstances and behaviors of the litigants with regards to their testimonies, Sheindlin renders the judgment either by finding for the plaintiff (typically with the statement, "Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of x dollars. We're done."), by dismissing the case, or by dismissing the case specifically without prejudice. Any counterclaims filed are handled similarly to this. Counterclaims are handled subsequently in the same segment, though often cursorily by Sheindlin as many counterclaims on the program have been filed out of vindictiveness as opposed to legitimacy. At the end of each case, there is typically an afterthoughts segment for the litigants. In these segments, the plaintiff(s), the defendant(s), and sometimes their witnesses deliver a monologue, expressing their feelings regarding the case directly to the viewers at home by speaking into the camcorder. Sometimes, however, these segments are omitted, especially after cases involving resentful litigants, too upset over the circumstances to remain in the studio and provide comment.
The producers of Judge Judy hire extras from an audience service who compose the entire studio. Paid audience members are easier to control due to agreements and employment. They don't have to be trained or debriefed as much as your average person on how to act to make those in the spotlight look good. Producers also seek a certain demographic of individuals and seat them strategically throughout their audience. Most of these paid extras are aspiring actors. Though tickets are not offered for the show, arrangements can sometimes be made with Sheindlin's production staff to allow fans of the show into the audience. The extras must not dress casually, and no logos or brand names may be visible on their clothing. Extras are also instructed to appear as if they are having discussions with each other before and after each case, so the bailiff may make such announcements as "Order! All rise."
Audience members are not to make any noises during the proceedings and, unlike other court shows, may not applaud the judge or rightful litigant upon praiseworthy remarks; although on some occasions when Sheindlin delivers a crushing remark for a particularly egregious or ludicrous act, the audience is seen laughing or applauding without Sheindlin silencing them. For the most part, however, Sheindlin is seen bringing the audience to order (with a fountain pen; she never uses a gavel) and admonishing them for engaging in any such noise throughout the cases.
To acquire cases, the show generally uses one of the following three options:
- Its 60 to 65 researchers, spread out across the country, enter small claims courts and photocopy numerous cases. These photocopied cases are then sent to Judge Judy producers, who review them all in search of lawsuits they believe will make for good television. According to the show's producers, only 3% of the photocopied cases are worthy enough for television.
- Its telephone number posting/announcement presented on each episode for interested individuals to call in with lawsuits.
- Its website whereby lawsuits can be written out and submitted into the show.
After one of these three processes, if the producers are interested, their employees will then call both parties and ask them questions relating to their lawsuit, making sure they're suitable for Judge Judy. If the parties agree to be on the show and sign a waiver, agreeing that arbitration in Sheindlin's court is final and cannot be pursued elsewhere (unless Sheindlin dismisses the lawsuit without prejudice), their case will air on Judge Judy.
The award limit on Judge Judy, as on most "syndi-court" shows (and most small claims courts in the U.S.), is $5,000. The award for each judgment is paid by the producers of the show from a fund reserved for the purpose. Sheindlin rules by either A.) issuing a verdict of a specific dollar amount (not always in the full amount of what is requested and rarely if ever in excess of what is requested even if she believes complainants are deserving of more) or B.) by dismissing the lawsuit altogether. When ruled on in these manners, cases cannot be refiled or retried elsewhere. However, if Sheindlin specifically dismisses the lawsuit "without prejudice", that lawsuit may be refiled and retried in another forum. In some instances, Sheindlin has dismissed cases without prejudice deliberately so that complainants pursue defendants in an actual court of law so that the defendants themselves are held financially accountable, this as opposed to the show. In such cases, Sheindlin has expressed particular aversion to the defendants in question. Further, Sheindlin has dismissed cases without prejudice when she has suspected both the plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) of conspiring together just to gain monetary rewards from the program.
Both the plaintiff(s) and the defendant(s) also receive an appearance fee. The appearance fee amount has varied as between different litigants of the show: certain litigants have reported receiving a $500 appearance fee while others have reported receiving $100, and others $250. In addition to the appearance fee amount, litigants are paid $35 a day by the show. The litigants' stay lasts for the number of days that the show does taping for that week, which is two or three days.  In addition, the airfare (or other means of travel) and hotel expenses of the litigants and their witnesses are covered by the show, and the experience is generally treated as an all-expense-paid vacation outside of the actual court case. If there is an exchange of property, Sheindlin signs an order, and a sheriff or marshal oversees the exchange. Sheindlin sees only a half-page complaint and a defense response prior to the taping of the cases, sometimes only moments before. Most of the cases, not including any footage deleted to meet the time constraints of the show, usually last anywhere from twelve to forty-five minutes.
Judge Judy, like most court programs, is inexpensive to produce and thus creates considerable income. A budget for a week's worth of Judge Judy episodes is half the cost of a single network sitcom episode.
Recordings and airings
Three days every other week (two weeks a month), Sheindlin and her producers tape the court show. They usually produce ten to twelve cases for each day they tape the show. This makes for about a week's worth of episodes, all done within one day. Anywhere from thirty to thirty-six cases are taped over three days during the week. Sheindlin appeared as a guest on Jimmy Kimmel Live! on September 13, 2011. When asked by Kimmel how many days a month she works, Sheindlin replied, "Five days." Sheindlin and her producers sometimes tape only five cases per day and two days per week. The show has fifty-two taping days a year. For each season, some 650 claims are brought to the set to be "presided" over by Judge Judy. This means approximately 8,450 claims have been brought to Judy Sheindlin's Hollywood set as of the end of its thirteenth season (2008–09).
For the most part, cases are taped all throughout the year except for two breaks Sheindlin and all of the staff members of her show have for the year. One of the two breaks includes an extra week off in December, as the show is only taped one week out of that month because of the holidays. The other break is from mid-July (only taping one week in July) and all through August. According to members of the show, the reason for this break is that people are more interested in taking vacations than in filing lawsuits around that time. When the show premieres in September, only the best episodes of the ones taped before Sheindlin's break are selected to begin out the season. Thus, the first few weeks (the first week in particular) will consist of what the show feels to be its best episodes. In Sheindlin's words, "It's like drinking wine. You don't serve the really good bottle of wine third."
Altogether, there are 260 new episodes each season. There is at least one new episode for every weekday, with the exception of a few hiatuses during most of the summer, a couple of holidays, and as of more recent seasons, early spring as well (much of March and April). The cases are all pre-recorded for editing purposes and will usually air one to three months after being taped. The cases are mixed up and not shown in order of when they were recorded. While the cases taped in March end the seasons, the cases taped throughout April, May, June, and July start out each season in September and last through October. Throughout the very beginning of each season, two new Judge Judy episodes air per day. After two weeks, this is reduced to one new airing a day, followed by a repeat. There are also various other moments throughout the year where two new episodes are shown for a few weeks. This has sometimes included January when the show returns from its winter hiatus. Two new episodes are also shown daily during the "sweeps" months of November, February, and May. Unlike other television programs, the Judge Judy season finale does not air in April or May; rather, it airs in June, July, or August. When the season finale is extended to July or August, most of the summer episodes preceding it are repeats with new episodes that are few and far in-between.
Two DVDs, featuring "memorable cases," have been released by the show: the first in 2007, "Judge Judy: Justice Served," and the second in 2008, "Judge Judy: Second To None."
Judge Judy tapes at the Sunset Bronson Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. In alternating weeks, Sheindlin, who owns a home in New York among other cities/states, flies out on her private jet to tape Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
As of 2014, the Judge Judy set is located directly beside the set of the courtroom series Sheindlin created and produces, Hot Bench. Both shows are taped in the same studio. Previous to that, the space directly beside Sheindlin's set was used for the courtroom series Paternity Court for the 2013-14 season. Prior to that, the space was used for Judge Judy's long-running sister show Judge Joe Brown until Judge Joe Brown's 2013 cancellation. Like Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown was also produced by Big Ticket Entertainment. The two shows alternated taping weeks. Despite the show being taped primarily in California, it displays various images of New York City upon returning from commercial breaks, including a subway train and official signs bearing "State of New York" and "Family Court" (Sheindlin was previously a New York family court judge) within the letterbox-like graphics used going to and from breaks since the ninth season. The set features a New York state flag behind Sheindlin's seat.
Over its existence, the show has changed very little from season to season. Most modifications to the program have been done in minute detail, such as to the show's book shelf display seen near the courtroom entrance. Aesthetically, the show's theme song, graphics, and color scheme are the only aspects that have changed repeatedly over the course of its lifespan. The ninth season (2004–05) is one of few seasons in which the show underwent major remodeling when music for the show's opening, closing, and to/from commercial portions were modified. A modern version of a melody from Beethoven's 5th Symphony was then adopted as the show's opening theme song. This arrangement was composed by Non-Stop Music Productions. For its scenes, Sheindlin is shown in a different courtroom from her own (part of a proposed renovation to the courtroom that was rejected by Sheindlin for being too dark), approaching the camera, followed by folding her arms and smiling at the camera. This is followed by showing various scenes of her presiding over different cases. As part of these modifications, the show's introductory previews, graphics, and images all began showing up in falu red.
Prior to the ninth season, the show used an original tune for its theme song composed by Bill Bodine. From the show's debut through its eighth season, various versions of this original tune were used, the show making moderate modifications to the tune every few seasons, as shown here and here. The actual full-length version of this original musical, which never played during the show's intro, played during the lengthier litigant-afterthought-segments as shown (full-length musical used for 1999-00, 2000-01, 2001-02). From seasons five through eight, the opening music video commenced with an approaching scene towards a computer animated courthouse display up until that scene entered into the courthouse. From there, several shots of Sheindlin gesticulating from her bench—as though presiding over various cases—were displayed in motion. These motioning images eventually developed into the courthouse logo that represents the program (the logo always displayed within the letter "D" in "Judy") by the end of this opening music video. The music video in seasons prior to this used relatively similar music with disparities in scenes, images, instrumental sound type and theme song length.
Further, early seasons of the show used graphics and images that were sea green and saffron. Blue and saffron then came to represent multiple seasons of the show before the show's current color scheme. By the show's sixth season (2001–02), music and graphics used in the introductory previews no longer resembled the rest of the program as they had previously, but instead used a high blue color scheme and a different song for each episode/intro preview. While the introductory preview's inconstant tunes have continued to the present season, the color scheme in the introductory previews began resembling the color scheme used in the rest of the program (falu red) once again by the ninth season.
Each opening music video consists of Voice-Over Artist Jerry Bishop stating: "You are about to enter the courtroom of Judge Judith Sheindlin. The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final. This is Judge Judy." Originally between the statements "The rulings are final" and "This is Judge Judy" was the statement, "This is her courtroom." This was removed in 2004. Beginning in September 2012, the show made a switch to high definition with its 17th season. The bumpers between commercials are also in HD, although most on-screen graphics such as plaintiff and defendant descriptions are framed to fit a 4:3 aspect ratio.
By the 20th season beginning in September 2015, the show began using a shortened, scanty version of the same intro it had been using for 10 years since its 9th season. Both the Beethoven remix and lyrics have been curtailed. The present lyrics state only "You are about to enter the courtroom of Judge Judith Sheindlin. This is Judge Judy." In addition to not using much of an intro theme any longer, a "20th anniversary" caption is depicted above the "Judge Judy" logo in the intro. These are the only two updates for season 20.
Primetime Judge Judy
On May 20, 2014, CBS aired a one-hour special called Judge Judy Primetime which aired at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The special was a combination of reshown clips from the 1993 60 Minutes Special on Sheindlin, as well as a few never-previously-seen cases. The special marked Judge Judy's first airing in primetime, a landmark for court shows which are typically limited to daytime or late night hours. Although the special didn't rank nearly as high as Dancing with the Stars (14.86 million) and The Voice (11.57 million), it brought in 5.66 million viewers, enough to make it the night's top rated show on CBS. In addition, the special came in just behind American Idol, which brought in 6.61 million viewers.
At least some of the cases on the series have been circumstances that were allegedly contrived by the litigants just to receive monetary payment from the program.
In April 2013, former litigants from a 2010 airing of the show revealed they conspired together in fabricating a lawsuit in which the logical outcome would be to grant payment to the plaintiff. The operation, devised by musicians Kate Levitt and Jonathan Coward, was successful: Sheindlin awarded the plaintiff (Levitt) $1,000. The litigants involved also walked away with an appearance fee of $250 each and an all expense paid vacation to Hollywood, California. In reality, all the litigants in question—plaintiffs and defendants alike—were friends who split the earnings up among each other. It was also reported that the show's producers were in on the sham and knew of the contrivance all along but went along with it. The lawsuit was over the fictitious death of a cat as a result of a television crushing it.
Curb Your Enthusiasm pseudo-Judge Judy case featuring Sheindlin
Sheindlin and her program appeared on the November 26, 2017 broadcast of Curb Your Enthusiasm, presiding over a sketch comedy court case with Larry David as the plaintiff who sued over custody of a sick plant, and ended up losing. The pseudo-Judge Judy case assumed the appearance of an actual case from Sheindlin's program, taking place from the show's courtroom set with trademarked voice-over briefs, theme music and audience response.
Judge Judy Sheindlin
Judge Judy was born on October 21, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York, to German-Jewish parents Murray and Ethel Blum. Sheindlin described her father, a dentist, as "the greatest thing since sliced bread" and her mother as "a meat-and-potatoes kind of gal." It was reported in October 2012 that Sheindlin had a $45 million yearly contract with CBS Television Distribution, in effect until 2015 and up $20 million from 2007. 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).
Judy has gained a reputation for her tough judicial approach in both the family court and televised court, also known widely for her no-nonsense fact-finding, restive nature, and incisive impositions that dismiss attempts at debate. In line with these attributes, her program has been touted as "a show where justice is dispensed at the speed of light." Loosely related is her resoluteness in opinions and rulings, often resulting in the parties arguing, debating and excuse-making to no avail.
Strict in her management of the proceedings, Sheindlin coerces precise compliance of rules and is very quick to scold or even punish what she perceives as disobedience, misbehavior or even annoyance. And as result of her gruff disposition, volatile temper, and cheeky treatment, taglines such as "Justice with an Attitude" have been used to characterize the program. As examples of this, Sheindlin has regularly made such remarks as:
- "Do I have 'stupid' written over my forehead?"
- "I'm here because I'm smart, not because I'm young and gorgeous, although I am"
- "If you live to be 100, you will never be as smart as I am, sir"
- "Clearly you are not wrapped too tight"
- "Where did you think you were coming to today, a tea party?!" "I'm speaking!"
- "If you interrupt again madam, your case is dismissed, and I'm throwing you out. Do we understand each other?"
- "I've been in this business for over 40 years"
- "Do I look like I need help from you?"
- "That's a lot of who shot John"
- "This is my playpen"
Spawning from her "Judge Judy: Justice Served" DVD, Sheindlin's regular phrases on the program have become known as "Judyisms". Some of these Judyisms are intended to provide a lesson, such as "A good deed never goes unpunished", "Beauty fades, dumb is forever", "If It doesn't make sense, it's not true", "Do you know when teenagers are lying? When their mouths move." Sheindlin has used the position of television arbitrator to impart guidance, direction, and life lessons not only to her litigants but her viewers and public at large. An example of guidance often stressed by Sheindlin is to be independent through employment, especially so as to not live off the government where unwarranted or other people directly where oppression from or friction with the provider may eventuate. In the former, Sheindlin can often be quoted as stating, "No, you aren't supporting yourself. Byrd and I are supporting you." Sheindlin has stated that the main message she wants viewers to take from her program is that people must take responsibility for their actions and do the right thing.
Nielsen ratings by season
Judge Judy went on the air in September 1996. By the end of October of that year, the show was averaging only a 1.5 rating, putting it in the mid-rank of the 159 syndicated shows on the air. At that time, it was never expected that the show's ratings would ever compete with highly successful daytime TV shows of the time, such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Rosie O'Donnell Show and The Jerry Springer Show. According to Biography's documentary film on Sheindlin, "Judge Judy: Sitting in Judgment" (aired February 21, 2000), producers of Judge Judy were disappointed that the show was barely making it on the radar. However, it did not take long for the court show to pick up momentum as Judge Judy rose to a 2.1 rating by the end of that first season. By its 2nd season (1997–98), the court show had already risen into the 4 ratings ranges, averaging a 4.3.
The 3rd season (1998–99) of Judge Judy was the show's first season as the highest-rated program in daytime television, having surpassed the highly rated Jerry Springer Show and even then daytime powerhouse The Oprah Winfrey Show for the first time (King World Productions which launched Oprah was a corporate sibling of CBS Television Studios, which distributed Judge Judy): the program's ratings more than doubled to a 5.6 for that season, marking Judge Judy as an early success.
It was due, in part, to this early success that daytime television began to feature more court programming, such as a revival of The People's Court that re-debuted in fall 1997. In 1999, Judge Judy moved from Worldvision Enterprises to Paramount Domestic Television, which also distributed her stablemate Judge Joe Brown and eventually Judge Mills Lane. Many other retired judges were given their own court shows in syndication due in large part to Sheindlin's popularity. These include Greg Mathis, Glenda Hatchett, Alex Ferrer, Maria Lopez, Karen Mills-Frances, Cristina Perez, David Young, and many others. In addition, the series helped to spawn various nontraditional court programs. These include the reality-based revival of Divorce Court, which was originally presided over by Mablean Ephriam and now helmed by Lynn Toler; the short-lived Power of Attorney, capturing various high-profile attorneys arguing cases for litigants in front of Andrew Napolitano; Street Court, which took litigation outside of the courtroom; Jury Duty, featuring an all-celebrity jury hearing cases presided over by Bruce Cutler; etc. Furthermore, the role of Judge Judy in the rise in popularity of daytime court shows enabled several other non-real life judges to preside over courts, such as Nancy Grace, Jeanine Pirro, and Gloria Allred.
Also, partly due to Sheindlin's popularity, the producers of The People's Court decided to replace Ed Koch with Sheindlin's husband, Jerry Sheindlin, as their presiding judge during The People's Court's 3rd present life season/15th overall season (1999–2000); this meant that husband and wife would be either part of the same afternoon lineup or competing for ratings against each other. This experiment, however, did not last long as midway through The People's Court's fourth season, Sheindlin was replaced by the show's current judge, Marilyn Milian.
For its 4th season (1999–00), Judy's ratings exploded to their highest to date, peaking at a 9.3 rating. At this point, Sheindlin's courtroom series was still more than ever the highest rated program in daytime. It was also at this point that Judge Judy held a record of increasing its ratings for each successive season since its debut. Because of the program's success, Judge Judy began airing at better time periods.
It was by the show's 5th season (2000–01) that Judy's streak of growing in ratings from season to season since its debut had ceased. However, the court show still remained the highest-rated program in daytime that season with a 5.6 rating. By the 6th season (2001–02), Judy was no longer the highest-rated program in daytime, beaten out by The Oprah Winfrey Show. The court show averaged a 5.0 rating that season. Likewise, for her 7th season (2002–03), she also averaged a 5.0. For her 8th season (2003–04), Sheindlin finally reversed the season-to-season downward turn in her ratings by averaging a 7.1. Of the seven running court shows during the 2004–05 season, most of them earned a 3.63 rating; however, Judge Judy pulled in a 7.5 rating for that season (the show's 9th). For her 10th season (2005–06), Judge Judy averaged a 4.8 rating. Judge Judy averaged 4.6 rating for her 11th season (2006–07). Meanwhile, other programs in the genre were trailing Sheindlin from a vast distance (as has been the case since the debut of Judge Judy): Judge Joe Brown averaged a 2.9 rating; The People's Court averaged a 2.7; Judge Mathis averaged a 2.4; Divorce Court averaged a 2.0; Judge Alex averaged 1.9; Judge Hatchett averaged a 1.5; rookies--Cristina's Court averaged a 1.4, and Judge Maria Lopez came in last, averaging a 1.0 rating.
For its 12th season (2007–08), Judge Judy averaged a 4.8 rating (4.8 HH AA%/7.4 HH GAA% rating) and 9.9 million average daily viewers. Judy was the only first-run syndication program to increase in ratings for that season from the previous, leading CBS to immediately extend her contract through the 2012–13 season. For its 13th season (2008–09), the show averaged a 4.2 rating (4.2 HH AA%/6.5 HH GAA% rating) and 9.02 million average daily viewers. Its 14th season (2009–10) marked the first season in nearly a decade since the 2000–01 season that any daytime television program had been able to surpass The Oprah Winfrey Show's ratings (Judge Judy is also the show in question that during the 2000–01 television season surpassed The Oprah Winfrey Show in daytime TV ratings): Judy broke Winfrey's near decade-long streak with a 4.4 rating (4.4 HH AA%/6.9 HH GAA% rating) and 9.6 million average daily viewers. It was also at that point that Sheindlin's courtroom series became the highest rated show in all of daytime television programming. Judy secured this title in its 15th season (2010–11) as the program remained ahead of Oprah in her [Oprah] final season and the highest-rated daytime television offering, averaging a 5.11 rating and 9.6 million viewers. During this season, Judy also became the highest rated show in first-run syndication. Late that same season in May 2011, as a result of continued high ratings, CBS again extended Sheindlin's contract, this time through the 2014–15 season (the show's 19th).
In the first post-Oprah television season, the court show continued its reign as the most dominant show in daytime and also became the top-rated show in syndication, its 16th season (2011–12) racking up a 7.0 rating and 9.29 million average daily viewers. As the top-rated show in all of syndication at this point, Sheindlin defeated first-run syndication programs and off-network syndication programs (rerun episodes of programs off their original network). The title of overall syndication leader was previously held by off-network syndicated program Two and a Half Men (2010–11) and before that, first-run syndicated program Wheel of Fortune (2009–10).
- Judge Judy's ratings boost in its 16th season and late into the show's 15th season was at least partly due to Nielsen's change in methodology, in April 2011. This variation benefits programs that air multiple, differing episodes a day. The updated method is totalling ratings points through adding all viewings for each daily episode–even if one of those viewings come from an individual already counted in as having watched another of the show's daily episodes. For example, as Judge Judy airs two different episodes per day, two ratings points are counted for every one person who has watched both the first and second daily airings. This is as opposed to one person's viewing of the two daily episodes amounting to only one ratings point. Prior to the convert, the latest method was only used in GAA numbers, while the previous method was used in average audience measure. Some court shows air in one hour blocks and thus do not benefit at all from the updated method. Worth noting, however, is that shows airing multiple daily episodes may not directly benefit monetarily as the rating system that local stations use to sell to advertisers is based upon the prior method.
For its 17th season (2012–13), Judge Judy once again pulled in a 7.0 household rating. The series delivered 9.63 million average daily viewers that season, growing by +32,000 viewers over the prior season. Despite this, Judy lost its 1st place spot as the ratings leader in all of syndication that season, descending to 2nd place, only a tad behind The Big Bang Theory (off-network syndicate) which took home a 7.1 for that season. Still and all, this was the 3rd season in a row that Judy earned the title of ratings leader in all of first-run syndication. Moreover, this was the 4th consecutive season that Judy was the ratings leader in all of daytime television programming. For the 18th season (2013–14), Judy rose to a 7.2 household rating and brought in 9.94 million viewers, gaining 8% over its prior season. Also for this season, the show reclaimed the title as highest rated program in all of daytime (5th consecutive time, 8th time overall) and all of syndication (3rd time). The show's 19th season (2014–15) pulled in a 7.0 household rating and remained the highest rated program in both daytime television as well as all of syndication. The 20th season (2015–16) was Judy's 3rd consecutive year as syndication's top strip, the court show averaging a 7.0 full-season household rating.
For its 21st season (2016-17), Judge Judy trounced all of its competitors in daytime and all of syndication. The court show scored a 6.8 household rating for its 21st season. For the 22nd season (2017-18), Judy attained a 6.9 live plus same day household average, well ahead of anything else in syndication. It marks the show's 5th straight year as the leader in all of syndication ratings and the 9th straight year as the leader in first-run syndication ratings.
Judge Judy's daytime audience is composed of approximately seventy-five percent women and twenty-five percent men. In February 2014, it was reported that Judge Judy's audience is mostly composed of older women, blacks, and Latinos.
Sheindlin vs. Joseph Wapner
Despite her widespread popularity, Sheindlin's behavior and treatment of the parties that have appeared before her has often been the subject of criticism. Regular viewers of the program have also been criticized as sadistic for their delight in watching Sheindlin engage in her typical behaviors. One such example of criticism has come from the first star of arbitration-based reality court shows, Joseph Wapner. Wapner, who presided over The People's Court from 1981 to 1993, was a long-time critic of Sheindlin. On November 26, 2002, Wapner criticized Judge Judy's courtroom behavior, stating "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."
Judge Judy replied through her publicist, stating, "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."
Since then, Wapner has stated, "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."
Sheindlin has since stated, "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 a November 2013 interview with Larry King, Sheindlin was asked whether she enjoyed watching Wapner on The People's Court. She replied, "Meh! Oatmeal!" Following this, King asked her what if any other television judges then did she enjoy, to which Sheindlin answered "Mills Lane" of Judge Mills Lane.
In a September 2014 Rickey Smiley Morning Show interview, Judge Mathis (second longest reigning TV judge/arbitrator, three seasons behind Sheindlin with 20 seasons as of 2018-19) was asked what 3 other court show judges he'd most enjoy sharing a meal with. For his first choice, he answered (laughing) "Are you kidding?! It would be Judge Judy at the head of the table. Oh my goodness, that Judge Judy is something else." His second choice was Judge Marilyn Milian, and third Judge Mills Lane.
In February 2013, then head Football coach for the San Francisco 49ers, Jim Harbaugh, was asked about the importance of truthfulness and enthusiastically remarked, "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 couple months later, Harbaugh would even attend tapings of Judge Judy along with his father as audience members. As part of the experience, Harbaugh and his father had lunch with Sheindlin and visited with her both before and after tapings. After meeting Sheindlin and seeing cases in person, Harbaugh stated, "I've never seen Judy adjudicate one improperly. She is so smart. She is so good. I could sit there and watch those cases all day. I really could. It's fun to watch somebody that does their job well. I could watch Judge Judy do cases all day. I could watch people play football who do their job really well. People who direct traffic. I get a real kick out of watching people who direct traffic do it. I've done it for hours. I like football the most, but Judge Judy is right up there. She's the best."
Brad Adgate, senior vice president of research for Horizon Media, said "Judge Judy is the new Oprah of daytime TV-actually, she was [already] beating Oprah while Oprah was still on."
President and CEO of CBS, Leslie Moonves, stated "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."
Many regular viewers and supporters of Judge Judy have defended Sheindlin's treatment of the parties that have appeared before her by describing the parties as an "endless parade of idiots" that Sheindlin has had to put up with.
Lawsuits involving Sheindlin, executive producer, Big Ticket, and CBS
Judge Judy executive producer Randy Douthit has been sued twice by former staff members of the Judge Judy program for alleged wrongful termination, discriminatory practice, and mismanagement while on the job.
Racism termination lawsuit
In December 2007, Jonathan Sebastien, a former producer of the Judge Judy show of 7 years, filed a lawsuit against the production company in L.A. County Superior Court for wrongful termination. Sebastien claimed that when he proposed certain cases for the show involving black litigants, Douthit turned them down with his alleged reasons being he didn't want to see any more black people; their behaviors were too ghetto and more suited for then active television jurist Joe Brown; and they needed more pretty, upscale white people. Sebastien claimed that in January 2007, he objected to the alleged discrimination in a meeting and was verbally abused by Douthit. Three months later on March 30, Sebastien stated he was fired with the reason given that rating numbers were down. Sebastien claimed that the real reason he was fired was because he opposed his boss's alleged "discriminatory selection process."
That same day in December 2007, the show's former associate producer Karen Needle was also fired. She later sued Douthit, claiming that she was wrongfully terminated because she was too old, 64 at the time. Sheindlin was not named as a defendant. Needle, who helped book audiences for the program, stated the reason she was given for being fired was "unspecified conflict from her audience work." Needle said she began suffering from back pain, sometimes even resorting to lying on the ground in pain, and when she asked her bosses for a new chair, nothing was done. According to the complaint, two weeks before Needle was fired, she took off four days to assist her ailing 88-year-old mother. Needle stated, "There is a lot of terrible stuff going on if two people file separate lawsuits. It's a toxic situation over there. This is supposed to be Judge Judy, the voice of justice, and yet her own staff isn't treated well. What is she getting paid all that money for if her own staff is treated with such little decency?"
In March 2013, a lawsuit was filed against Sheindlin by Patric Jones, the estranged wife of 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 ended after Sheindlin returned the tableware to Douthit and Jones agreed to pay Douthit $12,500 and have the tableware handed back to her.
Lawsuit by production against YouTube user
On October 17, 2013, Big Ticket Television and producers of Judge Judy filed a lawsuit against Ignacio De Los Angeles. The suit was made against the individual for posting an episode of Judge Judy on YouTube. According to the suit, Big Ticket directed Ignacio to remove the 2006 episode of Judge Judy that he had posted. Ignacio ignored the command.
Copyright lawsuit filed by Judy Sheindlin
On Wednesday, March 12, 2014, Sheindlin filed a lawsuit of her own 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 accused Haymond and his firm of using her television image without consent in advertisements that falsely suggested she endorsed him and his firm. In March 2013, Sheindlin's producer allegedly told the firm that the use of her image was not permitted, but ads continued. The lawsuit filed in federal court sought 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 described the unauthorized use of her name as "outrageous", stating, "Mr. Haymond is a lawyer and should know better." Haymond later filed a countersuit for punitive damages and attorney's fees, alleging defamation of him and his firm by Sheindlin. Haymond insisted that local affiliates asked him to appear in Judge Judy promos to promote Sheindlin for which he obliged. On August 8, 2014, it was reported that the case between Sheindlin and Haymond settled out of court in a resolution that favored Sheindlin. Haymond will be donating money to Sheindlin's charity, Her Honor Mentoring Program.
Lawsuit by Rebel Entertainment aimed at CBS and Sheindlin's salary
On March 14, 2016, talent agency Rebel Entertainment and its president, Richard Lawrence, filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against CBS Television, claiming the media giant failed to pay the agency its contractually-agreed-to share of the show's profits, totalling millions of dollars. Rebel also claims they are owed for their contributions to launching the program and discovering Sheindlin through their terminated employees Kaye Switzer and Sandi Spreckman. The lawsuit alleges that CBS hasn't paid Rebel for the past six years, claiming that the show operates at a loss, and alleging that this is primarily due to Sheindlin's annual salary boost to $45 and then $47 million. The lawsuit goes on to attack Sheindlin's salary as being far too high. Rebel described it as "exorbitant" and "grossly inconsistent with customary practice in the television industry" and claims that similarly successful talk show hosts aren't paid nearly as much. Further, Rebel claims they were entitled to be consulted before any spin-offs of the show were produced, but were not when Hot Bench (another courtroom-arbitrated show) was launched by Sheindlin and her producers in 2014. In response to the lawsuit, Sheindlin has stated:
- "The fact that Richard Lawrence is complaining about my salary is actually hilarious. I met Mr. Lawrence for 2 hours some 21 years ago. Neither I nor anyone involved in the day-to-day production of my program has heard from him in 20 years. Not a card, not a gift, not a flower, not a congratulations. Yet he has somehow received over $17,000,000 from my program. My rudimentary math translates that into $8,500,000 an hour for Mr. Lawrence. Not a bad payday. Now complaining about not getting enough money, that's real chutzpah."
When Sheindlin was deposed for the case in the summer of 2016, she said "CBS had no choice but to pay me what I wanted because otherwise I could take it wherever I wanted to take it or do it myself. Their back's to the wall. They pay me the money that they do because they have no choice. They can't find another one."
In an April 2018 verdict on this case, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O'Donnell found that Sheindlin is not grossly overpaid and that her salary does not constitute a breach of contract, rather her salary is as result of the "resounding success of her program and without its namesake star would not continue". On a plaintiff's motion however, Judge O'Donnell ruled partially in their favor, agreeing that it was a breach of contract for the defendants to have failed to consult Lawrence before the launching "spin-off" series, Hot Bench. Dissatisfied with being granted one part of their motion while denied the other, Bryan Freedman (Lawrence's attorney) stated that the plaintiffs intend to appeal Judge O'Donnell's verdict. Freedman is quoted as stating, "As for admitting and then ignoring Rebel's uncontroverted expert opinion evidence that frontloading the 45 million dollar salary of Ms. Sheindlin was not consistent with the United States television industry, the court committed a reversible error. That issue will be decided by the court of appeal."
Lawsuit by Kaye Switzer and trust of Sandi Spreckman against Sheindlin, CBS and Big Ticket
On January 19, 2018, a breach-of-contract lawsuit—similar and loosely related to the case filed by Rebel Entertainment—was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court against Sheindlin, CBS Corporation, CBS Studios and Big Ticket Television by Kaye Switzer and the trust of the now deceased Sandi Spreckman. Switzer and Sandi Spreckman are former employees of Rebel Entertainment, terminated by the employer. Switzer and Spreckman's trustee, Jay Robinson, claim they "discovered" and introduced Sheindlin to producer Larry Little, asserting that if not for this move that there would be no Judge Judy and thus they are owed monetary royalties. The lawsuit also states that Sheindlin sold "The Judge Judy Library" to CBS Television Distribution for over $95,000,000. Switzer and the Spreckman's trustee contend that they were not paid any monetary rewards by Sheindlin, CBS or Big Ticket related to this transaction. The two women have a long history of filing lawsuits over the same matter against Sheindlin and her Judge Judy business partners dating back to the year 2000.
An insider claims that Sheindlin is not concerned about the lawsuit, regards the subject of "who is owed what as just background noise", and believes that the success of her show came from nothing more than the "sweat of her brow" and the force of her personality. According to the same insider, Sheindlin says she "was always fond of Kaye and Sandi", they were fired before her show ever made it on the air, and that she "never entered a contract with Kaye and Sandi personally."
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