Are you a fan of the popular courtroom reality show Judge Judy? It premiered in 1996 and has entertained American audiences ever since. While we’re always fascinated by the law and courtrooms, it’s often the lawyers who provide us with the entertainment.
Judy Sheindlin changed that forever. While she wasn’t the first TV judge, her personality, razor-sharp wit, and no-nonsense attitude made the show into an American phenomenon.
But how did Judy Sheindlin get started with Judge Judy? And what’s in her future?
Judge Judy is coming to an end, but America’s favorite judge will be starring in a new show called Judy Justice. Let’s look back at her fascinating life and career and see what she’s got in store for us in the future…
Within two years of Judge Judy’s premiere, it surpassed the popularity of The Oprah Winfrey Show. In fact, for over 10 years it held this record.
Anyone who has watched an episode of Judge Judy will understand why this is. We’re used to judges being dry and neutral in most courtrooms. Judy Sheindlin changed this through the Judge Judy show.
Judy is originally from New York and earned her Juris Doctor from New York Law School in 1965. She passed her bar exam the same year and began her career as a corporate lawyer.
However, this job didn’t satisfy her, and she eventually quit to become a stay-at-home mom. Looking back at her life, one may have thought that this would be her destiny: that she’d be unknown to the public and wouldn’t have a legacy to leave.
In 1972, she found work as a prosecutor in New York’s family court system. It was through this job that she developed the “no-nonsense” attitude that she’d become known for. By the 1980s, she had developed a credible reputation among New York prosecutors.
She was eventually promoted to a supervising judge in the family court system. This brought her more fame and notoriety for toughness and fast decision-making. It also led her to write her first book and land a few television interviews.
After she gained her initial fame, she realized that she could take it a step further. When Judge Joseph Wapner stepped aside from his role in the courtroom reality show, People’s Court. Judy stepped up and offered to take up the job. The producers agreed and the show Judge Judy was born…
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Once American audiences got a taste of Judy’s razor-sharp wit and her “no-nonsense” attitude she instantly became an American treasure.
But how exactly does the show Judge Judy work? Essentially, the producers scout out cases in small claims courts. They approach the defendants and plaintiffs in these cases to offer them to display their altercations for national television. Judy herself doesn’t get to decide on the cases or the defendants and plaintiffs that stand before her.
Now, you may wonder why the defendants and plaintiffs would want their personal matters to be broadcast to millions of viewers across the country? Apart from the publicity that many of us crave, there’s actually a practical reason to appear on Judge Judy.
The producers of the show pay whatever fines Judy assigns to the loser of the court case. As such, even if someone loses the case – they don’t have to worry about losing their shirt!
But it’s also another way to make money in court without having to serve on a jury! Every defendant, plaintiff, and witness who appears on Judge Judy is entitled to a paycheck from the show’s producers. While this renumeration won’t be a King’s Ransom, it’s still a great way to make some fast cash.
In fact, the publicity and money from Judge Judy can be so enticing that there have been a few fake cases! We now know that much of reality TV is indeed staged. However, for Judge Judy the staging has been done by the alleged plaintiffs and defendants!
One of the most famous fake cases involved Jonathan Coward along with his friends Kate and Brian. The “case” involved a dead cat and two broken television sets! Yeah, we think it sounds crazy and far-fetched too!
But the producers believed that there was some validity to this case and invited Jonathan and his pals to go on the show. Jonathan Coward later bravely stated that he had no regrets for appearing on the show.
One may be tempted to wag their finger at anyone who fakes a case as it seems that they are making a mockery of the legal system. But before you get on your sanctimonious high horse, did you know that Judge Judy isn’t really about resolving actual legal disputes?
On the show, Judy Sheindlin works as a mediator rather than a judge. The set is in the style of an actual courtroom, but Judy focuses on helping the plaintiffs and defendants resolve their disputes outside of the courtroom.
It may be a courtroom show, but Judy is actually helping individuals settle their disputes without going to court!
Nevertheless, her powers of persuasion don’t go unnoticed. Her show has undoubtedly helped countless individuals resolve their issues and make some money on the side as well!
But Judy isn’t the only reason why the Judge Judy show became a huge hit. Much of the credit has to go to Judy’s sidekick and Bailiff, Petri Hawkins-Byrd. The banter between the “judge” and the bailiff are some of the most memorable parts of any Judge Judy show.
But their relationship goes way back to much before the Judge Judy show. They worked together in the Manhattan Family Court and began their friendship during this time. They even shared a similar dark sense of humor.
In fact, there was one incident where Byrd donned the judge’s robes and began doing an impersonation of Judy. Judy saw this impression and thought it was hilarious!
Needless to say, they were made to be a great double-act for television. In fact, Judy helped Byrd get his life back together.
Byrd was living in California as a high school counselor. He was working as a high school counselor earning $30K a year. With this meager salary, he even had to deliver pizzas on the side! He had left behind his career as a New York Family Court bailiff. Little did he imagine that he’d ever return to this job.
However, one day he saw an article in a magazine about a new courtroom reality show. He saw that his former colleague Judy Sheindlin was going to appear as a judge.
Byrd thought this was wonderful and sent a letter of congratulations to Judy. In the letter he joked, “If you ever need a bailiff, I still look good in a uniform.”
But this joke ended up changing Byrd’s life. The new show, Judge Judy, was, in fact, looking for a bailiff. Byrd was hired and he reunited with Judy and became a star as she did. He’s no longer struggling financially, and it’s believed that he has a net worth of at least $3.5 Million.
Now, if the bailiff makes bank then the judge must own the mint! While there isn’t a clear number of Judy’s net worth, we know that she had a contract which brought her $47 Million per year. Without a doubt, she’s one of the highest paid women in the history of American television.
She owns five homes, a private jet, and once owned a yacht! As the show continues to run, she becomes even more of an American treasure. She’s been praised and parodied and has become almost ‘idyllic’ to what many Americans want to see in a judge!
In fact, she holds a Guinness World Record for being the longest running TV judge in American television history. The show has over 4,000 episodes and she’s handled over 9,000 cases.
But the show isn’t just about entertainment. While Judy may be more of a mediator on the show, she hasn’t forgotten her roots as a court prosecutor.
She helped take down a phony school that was run by unaccredited staff who claimed to have expertise in helping special needs children.
Spoiler alert: they didn’t, and the entire school was a scam! Judy helped expose them which eventually led to her closure! No doubt many aspiring lawyers and judges have been inspired by Judy’s confrontational-style and have pursued careers in the law because of her.
So, what’s next for Judy? Well, it looks like Judge Judy is going to come to an end soon. But fans of Judy can expect her to continue her work in the show Judy Justice.
There’s still not enough information on this mysterious new show. However, it seems that it’ll be very similar to Judge Judy. Perhaps Bailiff Byrd will also join Judy and we can expect her to tackle more interesting arbitrations. As of now, we aren’t sure if Judy Justice will appear on cable television or on a streaming service.
Whatever Judy Justice will be, we’re sure that fans of Judy will not be disappointed. Now in her late 70s, she still continues to entertain fans – both old and new. We expect that for many more years we’ll continue to be enchanted with her “no-nonsense” style!
Are you a fan of Judy Sheindlin? Do you think that Judy Justice will surpass the legacy of Judge Judy? Or will Judy have challenges reaching new audiences, particularly the younger generation?
Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments.
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