Judge Judy is the longest-lasting court reality show in the genre’s history. And the titular judge – Judy Sheindlin – is now one of the most famous people in America. Her no-nonsense attitude and tough talking made her a very good TV star and very much admired judge to boot. But what goes on behind the cameras, and what is Judy really like when the wig comes off? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, the terrifying courtroom titan tends to remain tight-lipped about her private life. But some details have still leaked out, even if she’d rather they hadn’t…
40. People who appear in front of Judy are carefully selected
Plenty of boring cases go through the court system every day, but you won’t see them on Judge Judy. That’s because 60 researchers sift through cases throughout the country – putting forward only the juiciest to appear on the show. People suing family members are particularly sought after. Executive producer Randy Douthitt told WDRB in 2012, “That way it pulls in the audience a little bit more, there’s an emotional tie that’s been broken, and you end up with a bit of a mini soap opera.”
39. Judy competed against her husband for ratings
In 1999 Judge Judy rival The People’s Court employed the eponymous star’s husband Jerry Sheindlin as a reality TV judge. Luckily, though, it didn’t seem to cause much marital friction. Jerry told Variety after retiring in 2000, “Part of the adventure was trying to nip at the heels of my wife. Unfortunately, I could never catch up with her.”
38. She also competed against a former boss
It was Ed Koch – New York’s mayor in 1982 – who appointed Judy as a criminal court judge. He was impressed by her sharpness and tough attitude – but then he got a little taste of it himself when he got a job on The People’s Court. Rival Judy was reportedly proud to have her show constantly come out on top.
37. She makes millions every year from the show
For those of you who don’t know, Judge Judy is an almost unfathomably wealthy woman. Since 2012 she’s been raking in a whopping $47 million every year from her show, according to Forbes. The publication’s website added that her net worth totaled $445 million in 2020. Naturally, this makes her one of the highest-paid TV stars in America. So she’ll be able to keep buying lacy collars for a long, long while.
36. The show has been accused of racism
In 2007 a former producer on Judge Judy filed a lawsuit claiming that producer Randy Douthitt had vowed to stop featuring black people on the show. He allegedly told his staff to look only for “white, upscale, pretty people” instead. Though an anonymous insider told TMZ that the case had “no merit.”
35. Another judge once deemed Judy ‘a disgrace to the profession’
Not everyone is a Judge Judy fan. Indeed, one-time People’s Court star Judge Joseph Wapner never liked her. He told Metropolitan News in 2003, “She’s 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.” Judy, however, largely ignored him.
34. The show looks like it’s filmed in New York, but it isn’t
Judy used to work in New York, her show’s intro shows images of New York, and there’s a New York state flag behind her chair. But Judge Judy actually filmed in California. And it became abundantly clear to viewers that the show was filmed on the West Coast when an earthquake hit the studio in 2008.
33. Judy owns several million-dollar properties
What do you do when you’re a multi-millionaire reality TV star? You invest in real estate, of course! Judge Judy owns four expensive properties – in Connecticut, Rhode Island and California plus a main home in Florida. The latter home alone features eleven bathrooms and six bedrooms, according to Cheat Sheet. Yep, it’s alright for some.
32. An insider has claimed she treats her staff badly
An anonymous source who went to Radar Online in 2016 claimed that Judge Judy treated her staff “like dirt.” It’s an unsubstantiated report, but the unnamed person said that Judy’s “unwritten rules” included, “Don’t say something stupid or you pay the price. Avoid speaking. Avoid eye contact.” Yikes.
31. The Judge Judy audience make $8 an hour
The eagle-eyed viewers among you may have spotted that certain members of the audience keep repeatedly cropping up in the background. And that’s because they’re actually paid to be there! Yes, would-be actors keen to get their faces on TV can apply to the show’s producers and reportedly make $8 an hour for their troubles.
30. Her husband has publicly discussed their sex life
Judge Judy might have wished in April 2015 that her husband wasn’t quite so talkative. Because when the pair of them gave an interview to the Daily Mail, she said that she never kept any of her TV awards in her bedroom. And her husband chimed in with, “No awards? She just gave me an award last night.” Cheeky!
29. She was once sued over some expensive china
In 2013 Judge Judy suddenly became involved in her producer Randy Douthit’s expensive divorce. His ex-wife claimed that Douthit had sold Judy some $514,421 worth of china for just $50,000 as part of some sort of revenge conspiracy. Judy told TMZ at the time, “I don’t owe this lady a cent.” And indeed, the eventual ruling was that she did not.
28. She lost her private jet in a storm
Judge Judy has millions of dollars, five houses, and a yacht… but does she have a private jet too? You bet she does. Or rather, she did. She used it to fly to tapings of Judge Judy, but it was wrecked in the 2016 El Nino Storm. It’s unlikely she’s flying coach now, though.
27. A show participant said Judy ‘ruined his life’
In 2015 David Kohalisky, a one-time Judge Judy participant, told Radar Online the show had “destroyed” him. He claimed that the producers had tried to get him to look “money hungry” and outed him as gay on television. David added, “Being on the show ruined my life.”
26. Judy and Petri Hawkins-Byrd don’t actually socialize much out of court
Onscreen, Judge Judy and Bailiff Petri Hawkins-Byrd seem like the best of friends. Yet off screen – while the pair are friends – they don’t really socialize much. Petri told the LA Times in 2012, “We have a good working relationship, and we have friends in common, but we travel in different circles.” He also intriguingly added, “We’re diametrically opposed on some issues.”
25. Judy’s son had a defamation lawsuit leveled against him
In 2013 Sheriff Don Smith claimed that D.A. Adam Levy – Judge Judy’s son – had knowingly interfered with the investigation of a rape case. But it wasn’t true, and Smith had to issue a written apology to Levy… and pay him $150,000. Yep, it was just another courtroom victory for the family.
24. Morrissey once wanted to ‘slam her face into spaghetti’
Singer Morrissey is known for being quite a volatile person. But even so, his furious description of eating at the same restaurant as Judge Judy was a bit surprising. He told the Daily Mail in 2017, “Judge Rude-y could not shut up. I was ready to ram her face into her own spaghetti.”
23. The stakes on the show are much lower than in a real courtroom
Guests are sent an interesting letter when they’re selected to be on Judge Judy. It reads, “If 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.” And it’s an offer most people find hard to refuse.
22. People have accused her of exploitation and hypocrisy
Considering the selection process for guests, and what guests are given for appearing, it’s easy to see how people might label the show as “fake.” People have also accused Judy of exploiting guests by ensuring they confirm stereotypes. And they’ve accused her of hypocrisy too, since the criminals she claims to be hard on actually get out of paying their fines.
21. She cried at her grandson’s wedding
For all that Judge Judy can be a hard, cold person, she is actually human underneath. So when her first grandchild Casey got married in 2013, she practically welled up. Her husband Jerry joked to Entertainment Tonight, “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen her get so emotional. I thought a tear was going to come out of her eye.” Who knew?
20. Judy was an argumentative kid
Unsurprisingly, Judy was the sort of smart, back-talking kid you wouldn’t have wanted to argue with. Her father Murray Blum didn’t try and curb this type of behavior though – he encouraged it. And Judy’s dad even thought she might go into politics. In 2012 she remembered to WDRB News, “It was a good kind of upbringing. It gave me a confidence, and when you have confidence that’s the best gift you can give a child.”
19. She was aggressive on meeting her husband
You’d never have thought from their first meeting that Judy would end up marrying Jerry Sheindlin. He remembered the moment in an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 1999. Apparently, Jerry was talking to a reporter when “Judy came walking in and put her finger in my face and said, ‘And who is this?’ I said, ‘Lady, get your finger out of my face.’ We’ve been together ever since.” Awww.
18. She didn’t think she was good at school
Are you struggling with your grades right now? Fear not, you could still very much end up rich and famous like Judge Judy. The lawyer didn’t believe she was a good student, either. In 2019 Judy told the New York Times newspaper she wasn’t good at “touchy feely” subjects. But look at her now!
17. Petri Hawkins-Byrd once made fun of Judy behind her back
Before Judge Judy shot to fame, she worked at Manhattan Family Court and a familiar face – Petri Hawkins-Byrd – was her bailiff. One day, though, the latter did a snarky impression of Judy to their co-workers when he thought she wasn’t around. But the TV personality was, and Petri absolutely assumed he was about to lose his job. Nope! Thankfully, it turned out she had a sense of humor.
16. There were plans for a show based on her life
Once you get mega-famous like Judge Judy, screenwriters start to take an interest in you. At one point there were plans for a drama based on Judy’s real life – appropriately titled Her Honor. Alas, then came her highly publicized split from the CBS network, so that idea might be dead in the water.
15. She wears the lace collar for a reason
Judge Judy’s trademark is that white lace collar. But what’s the deal there? In 2015 she explained to the Entertainment Tonight show, “I started to wear the lace collar, because I figured… it’s disarming. People walk into a courtroom and think, ‘Look at that sweet lovely judge that I was lucky to get. She wears a lace collar, how bad could she be?’” Well, we all know the answer to that one.
14. Judy had other ideas for the title of her show
Of course, these days it’s impossible to imagine the show Judge Judy being called anything else. The lady herself originally suggested some different titles though – these being Hot Bench and the superhero-sounding Judy Justice. And as many of you will know, she ended up getting to use the former for a new show in 2014.
13. Judy’s kids followed in her footsteps
Judy and Jerry had five children together, and three of them ended up becoming lawyers. This works pretty well, because apparently the whole family frequently question each other in matters of law. In 2019 a journalist from the New York Times saw Judy “cross-examine her grandchild” during an interview session.
12. She once got a school shut
Yep, Judge Judy really did once get a school closed. Though by all accounts, the institution deserved to be closed. After taking on the case of a student called Tony Robb, Judy discovered his school housed abusive teachers who were locking kids in closets. It wasn’t shown on the show, but she reportedly got the whole place shut down.
11. She hates pit bulls
Look away, dog lovers. Judy dislikes pit bulls and considers them dangerous – she’s said as much on her own show. According to The New York Times newspaper, Judy even keeps a newspaper clipping about the dangers of the breed behind her desk. She has a good reason for all this though. A relative of one of her staff was reportedly killed by a pit bull.
10. She once owned a yacht
What better symbol of wealth and luxury than a yacht? And Judge Judy once owned one – a very appropriately named one to boot. It was called “Triumphant Lady” and it featured among other things a gymnasium and a glass-bottomed pool. Eventually Judy sold it – but apparently for less than she paid, so someone somewhere might have gotten very lucky indeed.
9. Judy had to ‘drag’ her husband into marriage
It definitely wasn’t all smooth sailing for Judy and Jerry. The famous judge revealed in the 2020 book What Makes a Marriage Last, “I actually had to drag him to the altar… He had no intention of divorcing his wife, even though they had been separated for three or four years. After we were together for about a year, I said, ‘I want to see your divorce in the newspaper or don’t bother calling again.’”
8. Someone told a lie in order to appear on the show
Back in 2010 a man called Jonathan Coward appeared on Judge Judy. He’d been accused of killing a cat… but it was all made up. He and his roommates later admitted they’d lied in order to get a free Los Angeles trip and the Judge Judy appearance money. Obviously, there’s a silver lining there though, since it meant a cat didn’t die after all.
7. Petri Hawkins-Byrd approached Judy directly about being on the show
Sometimes the best way to get a job is to straight-up ask – even if your boss is a super intimidating person. In 2020 Bailiff Petri Hawkins-Byrd told the New York Post that he sent Judy a fax saying, “If you ever need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.” Amazingly, it worked, and how.
6. Judy wears casual clothes under her robes
Sure, Judy has a lot of money. Yet she apparently doesn’t spend it on fancy clothes. Underneath that famous robe is usually just jeans and T-shirts – sometimes even tank tops. This isn’t bad in itself, but considering that she often scolds people for not dressing appropriately in her courtroom…
5. Judy once divorced Jerry
Judge Judy and her husband were actually briefly divorced, which might seem surprising since their marriage appears so strong. But in 1990 Judy was grieving her father’s death, and she didn’t feel like Jerry was supporting her enough. So she divorced him… but it didn’t last. The following year they were husband and wife again.
4. The audience aren’t supposed to clap
Audiences usually sit in on TV shows assuming they’ll have to clap at some point, but not the Judge Judy one. They’re not allowed to applaud for the litigants or even the eponymous star herself, no matter what ends up being said. Though they are permitted to laugh at Judy’s frequent cutting remarks.
3. Judy doesn’t consider herself a feminist
In 2010 Judge Judy gave an interview to website The Daily Beast and brought up something controversial. She apparently didn’t consider herself a feminist, adding, “I never felt I didn’t have equal opportunity as a woman.” And yet commentators pointed out that in the interview she made statements that would otherwise be interpreted as feminist.
2. Two producers sued the show
Back in 2008 two producers of Judge Judy sued the production company – each having separate and quite damning-sounding allegations. One woman called Karen Needle claimed to have been fired because she’d had health problems. And the other – a man named Jonathan Sebastien – said he was let go for raising concerns about racism. Yet the show ploughed on.
1. Judy is allegedly feuding with CBS
In 2020 the lawyer made a shocking announcement. Judge Judy would stop airing on CBS and the eponymous star would move to a different channel. But rumors spread that there had been a falling out between the network and Judy herself. After all, official statement on the matter ended with the words, “I wish them good luck with their experiment,” which doesn’t exactly sound amicable…