I’m a huge fan of Judge Judy and have watched her syndicated show one and off for over a decade. When in one of my Judge Judy phases and let others know that I enjoy some Judith Sheindlin in my life, a common point of contention is whether Judge Judy is actually real, or in other words is Judge Judy staged?
Is Judge Judy Staged?
Unless we’re talking a more literal interpretation of the word “staged” as in it’s filmed on a TV set, Judge Judy isn’t staged. That’s because the cases are legitimate filings; real small claims court cases culled from around the country. On top of that, any case that is heard in front of Judge Judy and where there is a judgement is the final word on the case — which means that the case cannot be heard by another court.
6 Reasons Judge Judy is Real
Here’s five real reasons why Judge Judy is more like a court than a television show. This is what you can tell all those non-believers that though Judge Judy is a syndicated daytime television show, that it works very much like a court. That’s because:
1. Judge Judy is a real Judge: Judge Judy isn’t just a cute moniker for Judith Sheindlin, Judge Judy really was/is a judge. Before becoming the famous household TV personality Judge Judy presided over New York’s Family Courts in Manhattan — predominantly as a family court judge for over two decades where she was appointed to in 1982 by then mayor Ed Koch.
In fact, Judge Judy’s ornery, short-tempered, suffer-no-fools approach you see T.V. isn’t an act whatsoever,. The reason why she ended up on TV was because she was profiled in a Los Angeles Times article back in 1993 and in that article from nearly 30 years ago described Judy as “tart” “tough-talking” and “hopelessly blunt”. Don’t those adjectives sound familiar?
“I can’t stand stupid, and I can’t stand slow,” Sheindlin told the newspaper at the time. “I want first-time offenders to think of their appearance in my courtroom as the second-worst experience of their lives . . . circumcision being the first.”
Yep, that’s the Judge Judy we all know — she was that Judge Judy in New York City before being our Judge Judy we now see on TV. So yes, Judge Judy was really was a real-life, sitting judge before she retired in 1996. Her next move would happen in that same year when she accepted the opportunity to host her own show. The rest is Judge Judy history..
2. And yes, those are real cases The show has more than 20 field researchers scouring small claim cases from all across the country. From those cases, the researchers hand-pick a few and pass to producers to review. If the case is of interest, the producers will send the litigants involved a letter telling them that they’re interested in broadcasting their case on Judge Judy as well as detailing out some of the perks of having their case heard in front of Judge Sheindlin. Here’s a couple passages from the letter posted online that people involved get from the Producers:
I am a producer for the nationally syndicated, top rated court television program ‘Judge Judy’… Our field researchers have selected and brought to my attention the small claims case that the plaintiff has filed against you… Please call me at as soon as possible if you are interested in the possibility of arbitrating your case on ‘Judge Judy.’ Also feel free to email a quick statement about your case and I will get in touch with you as soon as possible. I look forward to hearing from you.
3. The litigants are real, too Like some of my friends think, a lot of people think that the litigants on Judge Judy are actors. They’re not actors. Not at all. Just as these are real cases culled from small claims courts across the country, these are the real plaintiffs, the real defendants and represent real cases based on their original court filings and applications.
4. The judgments are legally-binding (and final): As the show mentions, the judgments made by Judge Judy are final. Meaning that when the plaintiff and defendant sign on for Judge Judy, they agree that when they present their cases that they have to live by the ruling. The technical that allows for this to work is that though Judge Judy is dressed like a judge, the setting is a court room, the reality is that Judge Judy is acting as an arbitrator on the case. If you’ve been to particularly busy small claims court, they offer up arbitrators that are legally to hear cases
5. The Judgments are real and enforceable Yes, real money is exchanged. If Judge Judy says you have 5 days to pick up your belongings or pay back the rent money and utilities you owe then yes, you have to do that. If Judge Judy awards the plaintiff, they are paid real money. Or if the defendant convinces Judy that they should receive compensation in their counter suit, they get that money, too.
The judgments are real in that the litigants agree to have Judy arbitrate their case, so the litigants have to follow through as they would with real case, and they can’t take any case that she judges on to be re-tried, either.
The arbitrator on “Judge Judy” is Judith Sheindlin, retired Supervising Judge of the New York City Family Court…
This reason has an asterisk because the show ends up paying any award, restitution or monies. As an incentive for them to come onto the show, the show pays the judgments on either/both sides. To further give litigants more motivation with the promise of “no civil judgement against them” win or lose on Judge Judy .
As you may know, if the plaintiff wins (his or her) case in small claims court and obtains a monetary award against you, you are legally obligated to pay the amount of the judgment. If, however, your case is selected to be arbitrated on “Judge Judy” and plaintiff wins the case, we guarantee to pay plaintiff the full amount that was awarded against you, you pay nothing. Furthermore, because the proceeding on “Judge Judy” is arbitration, no civil judgment will be entered against you if you lose the case.
6. And Byrd was a Real Bailiff Byrd, full name Petri Hawkins-Byrd, stands next to Judge Judy with an expressionless face and the latest Blue Book isn’t an act. Like Judy herself, Byrd was the real deal; working as Judy’s bailiff during her stint on the New York City’s courts.
(Byrd) actually had the job before he had “the job” — he often served under Sheindlin when he worked as a bailiff in Manhattan Family Court at a time when she was an outspoken family court and supervising judge.
When Byrd read that Scheidlin was getting her own show based on her work in the courts, Byrd sent her a letter (remember those?) congratulating her, saying: “If you ever need a bailiff, my uniform still fits.” To his surprise, Judge Judy not only ended up reading the letter, but she ended calling him at home to offer him at once again be her bailiff. Obviously, Byrd accepted.
Still, Judge Judy is a Fake T.V. Show in Some Ways
With all that said, Judge Judy is still a television show, so there’s some parts of the show that are fall in line with a successful, syndicated television show with deeeeeeeep pockets. There are appearance fees paid to the litigants if they lose so yes, the guests/litigants get paid either way.
As we talked about earlier, the show pays for the full monetary judgment awarded during the arbitration. On top of that, both of the litigants (and witnesses) have their airfare to Los Angeles and hotel accommodation expenses paid for.
If your case is selected for arbitration on “Judge Judy,” we will guarantee you an appearance fee for appearing on the program, and we will pay the travel expenses and any necessary witnesses to travel to Los Angeles.
Is Judge Judy real? Without a hint of sarcasm, Judge Judy is about as real a judge can be as a television Judge can be. And that’s close enough for me. Can’t get enough of Judge Judy? The good news is there’s nearly 6000 episodes of Judge Judy out there. For the latest episodes, her bio, or submitting your case for consideration go to JudgeJudy.com.