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Judge Judy is an Americanmarker court show featuring former family court judge Judith Sheindlin arbitrating over small claims cases. The series is in first-run syndication and distributed by CBS Television Distribution, the successor company to its previous distributors Worldvision Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television, and CBS Paramount Domestic Television.

Since premiering on September 16, 1996, Judge Judy has been the ratings leader in courtroom-themed reality-based shows. As of 2009, the Judge Judy program has been nominated twelve times for Daytime Emmy Awards. In January 2008, Judge Judy was extended through the 2012-13 season (the show's seventeenth).

The program earned Sheindlin a star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker, which she was awarded in February 2006. Two DVDs have been released; the first in 2007 and the second the following year.

Court show background


The show's creation stemmed from Judith Sheindlin's reputation as one of the most outspoken family court judges in the country, becoming the topic of a Los Angeles Times article in February 1993. The piece caught the attention of 60 Minutes, leading to a segment about Sheindlin on the show, which brought her national recognition. This led to her being approached by television producers, who asked her to preside over her own courtroom reality show. The title of her show was originally going to be "Hot Bench." Unhappy with that title, however, Sheindlin convinced her television producers to change it. Although Judge Judy is the title of the show, it has also become a nickname for Judith Sheindlin. Judy Sheindlin became the first television judge whose name was included in the title of the show. Randy Douthit and Timothy Regler are the show's executive producers.

At the beginning of each court proceeding, Sheindlin gives a summary of the case; she then questions the parties regarding dates, times, locations, and other matters involved in the lawsuit. Judge Sheindlin demands decorum in her court. She will sometimes chastise participants, even audience members, for showing up in inappropriate clothing, and silence audience outbursts, even if they are in response to quips she herself made. Order is maintained by her bailiff, officer Petri Hawkins-Byrd. After this process, Sheindlin renders the judgment, either by finding for the plaintiff (typically by saying "judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of ... dollars".) or by dismissing the case. When a counterclaim has been filed, it will be handled during the same show segment.

In the first two commercial breaks, a preview of the upcoming case is shown. When the show returns from the first two commercial breaks, it airs the voice-over, "Real cases! Real people! Judge Judy!" (recorded by announcer Jerry Bishop), followed by a recap of the current case. After the third commercial break, the voice-over is heard again, providing the show's telephone number and the 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. At the end of a case, the plaintiff and the defendant express their feelings about the case, although sometimes this part of a case is omitted.


In order to ensure a full audience, the producers of Judge Judy hire extras who compose the entire gallery. 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. Once all the cases are through, all of the audience members receive payment. The extras must be dressed formally 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" and "Parties are excused, you may step out". As far as the court cases are concerned however, what is seen on Judge Judy is neither staged nor scripted. The plaintiffs have actually sue the defendants and that very case is heard and decided upon by Judith Sheindlin. The court show acquires cases by people submitting claims into them via their website or phone number.

The producers' employees call both parties and ask them questions about their case to make sure it is 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 she 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 each case. About forty percent of the cases are money judgments, while the remaining sixty percent are either dismissed or there is an order for an exchange of property.

Both the plaintiff and the defendant receive $100 for their appearance as well as $35 a day, paid to them 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. If there is an exchange of property, Sheindlin signs an order and a sheriff or marshal oversees the exchange. There are no lawyers present and participants defend themselves on Judge Judy, as is standard in a small claims court. 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, without any footage deleted to meet the time constraints of the show, usually last anywhere from twelve to forty-five minutes.

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. A week's worth of episodes consists of approximately ten cases. Anywhere from thirty to thirty-six cases are filmed over the three days they tape per week. However, Sheindlin and her producers sometimes only tape 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 Hollywoodmarker 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 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 because people are more interested in taking vacations than in filing lawsuits around that time.

Altogether, there are 260 new episodes per season of Judge Judy. There's at least one new episode for every weekday, with the exception of a few hiatus during most of the summer and a couple of holidays. 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 the beginning of November.Throughout the very beginning of each season, two new Judge Judy episodes air per day. After two weeks, it shortens down to one new airing a day, followed by a repeat afterwards. There are also various other moments throughout the year where two new episodes are shown for a few weeks. This usually includes January, when the show returns from its short winter hiatus. Two new episodes are also shown daily during the "sweeps" months of November, February, and May. Unlike most television shows, Judge Judy does not air its season finale in April or May. Rather, it will air its last few new episodes sporadically over the summer months, with many repeats in between, and its season finale taking place some time in July or August.


Judge Judy tapes at the Tribunemarker production studios, now known as Sunset Bronson Studios as of early 2008, on Sunset Boulevard, in Los Angelesmarker, Californiamarker. Every other week, Sheindlin flies out on her private jet to tape Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The Judge Judy set is directly beside the Judge Joe Brown set, in the same studios. Both shows are produced by Big Ticket Entertainment. The two shows alternate taping weeks.

Despite its California location, the show displays various images of New York Citymarker upon returning from commercial breaks, including a subway train that is passing by the camera which reads World Trade Centermarker, but is only noticeable if the footage is paused. It also features the phrases "State of New York" and "Family Court" (Sheindlin was previously a New York family court judge) within the letterboxes used going to and from breaks since the ninth season. The set features a New York State Flag behind Sheindlin's seat. Furthermore, the title sequence features Judge Judy posing in white robes with light emanating from a raised hand, evoking the Statue of Libertymarker and therefore New York City (though it should be noted that Judge Judy is actually posing as Lady Justice, as evidenced by the blindfold over her eyes and the weighing scale suspended from her left hand). Immediately before each episode, the Judge Judy version of Lady Justice is shown lifting the blindfold of neutrality to greet the audience with a mischievous and alluring wink.


In the past, the show changed very little from season to season. The show's music and graphics are the only thing that have changed repeatedly over its past twelve years. The ninth season (2004-05) is one of the few seasons in which the show made a major alteration; the Judge Judy intro had been changed drastically. A jazzed version of a theme from Beethoven's 5th Symphony was adopted as the new theme music. For its scenes, Judge Judy is shown in a different courtroom from her own (part of a proposed renovation to the courtroom but 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.

Before the ninth season, the show used an original tune for their theme music. Various versions of this original tune were used, as the song was altered every few seasons. Used as the scenes for the theme song before the ninth season, was a computer animated approaching scene towards a courthouse, up until that scene entered into the courthouse. From there, several shots of Sheindlin presiding over different cases were displayed, moving from one side to the other. Those shots developed into the courthouse symbol that represents her program (this symbol is always displayed inside of the letter D, in Judy), by the end of the theme music. Before these scenes, there was a scene of the courthouse symbol that represents her program, over a green background. Shots of Sheindlin, presiding over different cases, flew into the scene and moved into each of the square-shaped designs of the courthouse, correspondingly.

The colors that represent the show have altered several times over the years. The first couple of seasons of Judge Judy were represented by the colors sea green and saffron. Blue and saffron represented the fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons. An array of many bright colors, along with blue and saffron represented the eighth season. Since the ninth season, the various graphics on the show have been falu red and saffron. As of the twelfth season, prussian blue has been added to the show's color scheme for the opening previews of each episode.

The only changes made to the Judge Judy set were all mostly made in the early seasons of the show, which includes: the wooding that takes up most of the courtroom was a much lighter shade of brown in the beginning of the series; the wall behind Judge Judy did not always have the shiny surface it has now, with the black and dark brown color mixture (it used to be plain brown); the fake window display along the sides of the courtroom has gone from displaying designs, to going plain and only showing whiteness, to displaying the current scene of fake buildings; the carpeting was light pink in the beginning of the series; there were two different podiums that were replaced by the two currently used podiums; altogether, Sheindlin has had four different chairs throughout the show's existence. She had three smaller chairs before she got her current chair. Her very first chair was Persian indigo, and her second chair was hunter green with diagonal square designs. Sheindlin's third chair was similar to her current chair, only with a lower back behind her shoulders. Though these chairs had low backs, they were all still executive chairs. They were replaced early on by the traditional, executive chair she has been sitting in for the majority of the show's existence. The chair is button-tufted, with a high back and thick padding. It is a burgundy leather chair.

Judge Judith Sheindlin

Judge Judy is known for being strict towards either the defendant or the plaintiff. If the litigants attempt to lie, or deviate from directly answering her questions she is known to become impatient. Because of her straightforwardness of expression and impatience in making litigants get to the point, to keep them from wasting time on irrelevant and unimportant details, Judith Sheindlin is well-known as a no-nonsense jurist. Combining those qualities with her swift handling of many of the matters brought up throughout the course of each proceeding, Judge Judy is touted as, "A show where justice is dispensed at the speed of light."

Disbelieving many of the questionable affirmations of the parties that appear before her, lying is the main problem that the incredulous Judith Sheindlin has with both litigants and their witnesses. In fact, one of her most popular catchphrases is "Baloney!", and she is also convinced that "If something doesn't make sense, it's not true."

Of all her characteristics, Judge Judy is noted most for her very tough, but fair attitude. If a plaintiff files an unreasonable complaint, Judge Judy may tell him or her to "get over it." Judge Judy also tends to be highly irascible generally towards both parties that appear before her, mostly in her startling explosions at litigants who speak out of turn, try to argue with her, or ramble. Sheindlin often makes such remarks as "I'm speaking!," "Liar, liar, pants on fire," "Sir, you want to say something to me? You sure you want to say something to me?", and "You mess around with me young lady, I'll wipe the floor with you. We follow each other?" In fact, the show's tagline is Justice with an Attitude. She has explicitly stated that she sometimes sets out to cause embarrassment "in front of ten million people", to someone who has acted badly, as a way of punishing them. Though Sheindlin has a sense of humor as well, it’s normally presented in combination with her gruff disposition. In fact even for reactions to her own humor, she will often say something along the lines of "Hey!" to an audience member who is being too noisy and has occasionally had particularly disruptive audience members removed.

Sheindlin has many catchphrases which are referred to as “Judyisms”. Many of these Judyisms are intended to provide a lesson, such as "Beauty fades, dumb is forever." and "Don't cook a pineapple if you went for a jog." Judge Judy has stated that the main message she wants viewers to take from her show, is that people must take responsibility for their own actions.



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 midrank 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, such as Wheel of Fortune, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the now cancelled The Rosie O'Donnell Show. According to Sheindlin's biography, producers of her show were disappointed that the show was barely making it on the radar. However, it didn't take long for Judge Judy to pick up momentum, as the show rose to a 2.1 rating by the end of that first season. By the end of the second season (1997-98), the court show had already risen into the 4 ranges, as stated in Judy Sheindlin's biography video.

Judge Judy's ratings more than doubled to 5.6 for her third season (1998-99), making her show an early success. This led to the creation of Judge Mills Lane (lasting four seasons) and Judge Joe Brown (into its tenth season as of 2007), both are also by Paramount Television. In fact, it was because of her impressive ratings that year that The People's Court producers decided to replace Ed Koch with Judge Judy's husband, Jerry Sheindlin. However, he lasted only two years on The People's Court, from 1999 to 2001, before being replaced by Marilyn Milian.

During her fourth season (1999-00), Judy's ratings exploded, peaking at a 9.3, just as Judge Mathis was created, and Divorce Court was revived; both court shows, having made it to their ninth seasons as of the 2007-08 season. Because of Judge Judy's success, the court show aired at better time periods. At that point, Sheindlin's show was even surpassing the Oprah Winfrey Show (King World Productions which launched Oprah was a corporate sibling of CBS Television Studios, which distributed Judge Judy). Not only was Judge Judy reported as the top-rated court show, but the top-rated daytime TV show at this point.

Over the next three years, however, the ratings for Judge Judy declined. This decline started in the court show's fifth season (2000-01) and lasted through its seventh season (2002-03). Sheindlin finally reversed this downward turn when her ratings average increased to a 7.1 for her eighth season (2003-04). Of the seven running court shows during the 2004-05 season, most of them earned a 3.63 rating. All of them, that is, except for Judge Judy, which pulled in a 7.8 rating for that season (the show's ninth). For her tenth season (2005-06), Judge Judy averaged a 4.8 rating. Court show ratings for the 2006-07 season: Judge Judy averaged 4.6 rating for her eleventh season; 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. Judge Judy producer Randy Douthit says that "they are guilty of cannibalizing each other. Most of these court shows are lucky to get above a 1 rating today."

As of the early to mid stages of the show's twelfth season, the ratings for Judge Judy have been located in the four to five range. The court show averaged a 4.4 for its premiere week of September 10, 2007. It scored the same numbers for the following week of September 16. For both weeks of September 24 and September 30, Judge Judy averaged a 4.6 rating. The court show finished out the week of October 7 with a two percent increase in its ratings, averaging a 4.7. For the week of October 14, nearly every court show remained the same or fell in ratings except for Judge Judy, which rose two percent once again, averaging a 4.8. The following week of October 21 ended with yet another two percent gain for the court show, as Judge Judy averaged a 4.9 rating. The week of October 28 saw Judy's ratings up two percent more, at a 5.0. For the week of November 4, however, Sheindlin's ratings decreased six percent, averaging a 4.7. In conjunction with the following week of November 11, Judge Judy elevated 8%, averaging a 5.1 rating. For the week of November 18, Judge Judy's ratings lowered 2% to a 5.0. For the week of November 25, Judge Judy sunk 2% again, averaging a 4.9 rating. For the week of January 13, Judge Judy averaged a 5.3 rating. For the week of January 27, Judge Judy averaged a 5.6 season-high rating.

The ratings for Judge Judy have made it one of the top ten syndicated daytime television shows. As of the early to mid stages of its twelfth season, the show's rankings has fallen mostly in fourth place among daytime television shows. In relation to the 2007-08 television season, Judge Judy is the only syndicated show to increase in ratings over the previous season.

Judge Judy is reportedly watched by ten million people daily. Judge Judy's daytime audience is composed of approximately seventy-five percent women and twenty-five percent men.


One of Sheindlin's critics is Joseph Wapner, who was the first star of reality courtroom shows. He presided over The People's Court from 1981 to 1993. On November 26, 2002, Joseph 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."

While the cases on Judge Judy are actual small claims court cases, the show is not a court of law, but rather an arbitration, and all parties must sign contracts agreeing to arbitration under Sheindlin. Even this status has been disputed: in Doo Wop Shoppe Ltd. v. Ralph Edwards, syndi-court justice was determined not to be an actual form of arbitration because a third party pays part of the cost of the judgment. This decision was subsequently overturned.

The American Bar Association notes that:
"B.M. v.
D.L.", the Family Court of Kings County, New York, overturned part of a Judge Judy decision.
The parties had appeared in front of Judge Judy over a dispute involving personal property.
However, Judge Judy made a decision involving child custody and visitation.
The court overturned the custody and visitation part of her decision on two grounds.
First, it was a matter that was not covered by the agreement to arbitrate.
Second, as a matter of public policy, an arbitrator could not decide child custody and visitation rights.
Considering that Judy had been a judge in New York’s family court, it is particularly ironic that she decided to overstep her arbitral authority on this particular issue.


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