1 9 9 6 – 2 0 2 1 (USA)
7,281 x 30 minute episodes
“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.”
Debuting in September 1996, America’s most famous judge, Judith Sheindlin, presided over a daily series of actual small claims court cases.
With a reputation for her no-nonsense views and abrasive nature – and a propensity for colourful soundbites – Brooklyn-born Sheindlin spent 24 years honing her career in New York courtrooms, eventually becoming supervising judge for Manhattan Family Court.
Diminutive but imposing, sharp-featured and even sharper voiced, Judge Judy had a staccato style of justice, tailor-made for television.
As with The People’s Court, cases were culled from real court cases all over the US – from chump-change disputes involving scratched cars to more serious and complex legal matters, such as misconduct by an over-zealous lawyer – and settled in the TV studio.
In order to appear on the show, the plaintiff and defendant had to sign agreements to dismiss their cases in the relevant court and accept Judge Judy’s ruling as legally binding arbitration without the right to appeal. A maximum of $5,000 could be awarded as damages.
Bailiff Petri Hawkins-Byrd kept order in the court. Following the court case, both plaintiff and defendant were interviewed on camera for their reactions to the ruling.
With a strong inbuilt bullshit detector – plus a great deal of common sense and a vast knowledge of the law – Sheindlin made efficient, entertaining rulings.
In 2012, the series brought in $230,000,000 in advertising for the network. At that time, Judy Sheindlin was reportedly the highest-paid television star, earning $47,000,000 per year.
Sheindlin set the Guinness World Record in 2015 for the longest career as a TV judge. The show ended its 25-year run in 2021 with Sheindlin launching an IMDb TV series online.