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The Judge

Judge: For now I am a Judge!
Chorus: And a good Judge too.
Judge: Yes, I am a Judge!
Chorus: And a good Judge too!
Judge: Though all my law is fudge,
Yet I'll never, never budge,
But I'll live and die a Judge!
Chorus: And a good Judge too!

Sooner or later, everyone winds up in front of The Judge.

If the part of a judge is a small role, it is generally filled by stern black women (with hair pulled tightly back) or gruff older white men. Sometimes these archetypes mix, leading to the stern, slightly below middle age black male or white female judge.

If there's a tribunal or other situation with more than one judge, both the stern black woman and the gruff older white man will usually appear, though a Bald Black Leader Guy is a distinct possibility. For example, Charlton Heston played the gruff older white man in one of the last episodes of the 90s The Outer Limits, and there was also a stern black woman present.

It's been said that the above-average presence of black judges in popular media, particular American television is a sort of Political Correctness Gone Mad designed to show African-Americans in positions of authority. This is often a convenient Writer Cop Out in shows that otherwise feature very few black characters of any importance.

Supertrope to the Hanging Judge who always pursues conviction, almost always of the capital kind.


Examples:

Fan Fic

Films — Animated

Films — Live-Action
  • The Dark Knight has an stern, older woman as judge. She gets killed by a car bomb.
  • In The Hurricane, The Judge appears memorably at the film's end with the trial.
  • Judge Weaver in Anatomy of a Murder was played by Joseph N. Welch, a Real Life lawyer most famous for his Take That against Senator Joseph McCarthy ("Have you no sense of decency, sir?") during the 1954 Army–McCarthy hearings. Welch joked that he took the movie role because it was the closest he'd ever come to being a judge.
  • Bicentennial Man had the gruff older white man variety in Andrew's first court appearance, and the stern black woman variety in his second.
  • The murder trial in My Cousin Vinny has Judge Heller, a stern stickler for proper procedure who repeatedly jails the title character (a lawyer who needed six tries to pass the bar exam) for contempt of court for failure to follow said procedures. Eventually, his irritation with Vinny leads him to overrule a perfectly valid objection to a Surprise Witness.
  • Law Abiding Citizen: She oversees Shelton's trial, and plays right into his plan. She's also something of a Hypocrite, such as answering her phone in a meeting with a lawyer she repeatedly chastised for leaving his phone on. Her phone then explodes, killing her.

Literature
  • Judge J.J. Ford, from the children's mystery novel The Westing Game, fits the stern black woman version of this trope perfectly. She does mention that she worked hard to be the first black or female judge in the state's history.
  • In the Incarnations of Immortality novel "And Eternity", Judge Roque is a pivotal character, first as a Reasonable Authority Figure who helps a black prostitute. Later in the story, he takes on much greater importance.
  • Pontiff (kind of a Judge-at-large) Farrow in Imajica is a wizened old woman.

Live-Action TV
  • One or more examples is visible in every episode of every series in the Law & Order franchise. Sometimes they fall into the "Stern Black Man" or "Stern White Woman" or (on occasion) "Stern Black Woman" castings, but the casting for judges was really quite eclectic (L&O made a point of hiring local New York talent, so any actor of reasonable talent and reasonable age was likely to get a call).
    • One notable recurring judge, Janice Goldberg, was played by journalist, satirist, and latter-day Dorothy Parker Fran Lebowitz. She was exactly as snarky as you'd expect.
  • There was a TV Show called The Judge, starring Robert Shield.
  • On JAG there were several judges as recurring characters.
    • Both Harm and Mac, under various circumstances, gets to serve on the bench in later seasons.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Odo got Judge-like as the series got more and more Arc-ish.
  • Both versions have appeared a couple of times on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
  • Averted in Arrested Development, where the semi-recurring and somewhat bemused Judge Ping (presiding George Bluth's trial) is played by the Chinese American Michael Paul Chan.
  • Generally averted on The Practice. Most judges with recurring roles had physical oddities, semi-disruptive personality quirks, or both.
  • Picket Fences featured judge Henry Bone. It's hard to find someone better fitting the description "gruff older white man" than Ray Walston without venturing into Hanging Judge territory.
  • Averted on Night Court, where the judge is not only the main character but a happy-go-lucky young white guy.
  • This is Wonderland had many judges, being a courtroom drama and all. Perhaps the sternest of them was the African-Canadian woman. There were two old white men, one of whom was the Mental Health Court judge and the Nicest Guy imaginable, although he got pretty tough in Plea Court. The other was a eccentric snarky Jerk with a Heart of Gold and a clown fixation.
  • On an episode of All in the Family, the fact that the judge is a stern black woman is a mild case of Samus Is a Girl, given that at the time, this sort of portrayal was not as common. It's a borderline example of an Unbuilt Trope.

Music
  • The judge in The Wall. He only appears in one song, but he is able to force Pink, however reluctantly, into tearing down the wall he has built against all of outside society. Unlike most examples, he's not actually real, with the entire trial taking place inside Pink's mind.
  • Finnish Rock musician "Tuomari" Nurmio (Judge Nurmio) calls himself as such because he is, in fact, a judge. Or rather, has the degree required to be one.

Theatre
  • Trial By Jury, being a parody of the British legal system of the late 19th century, features a judge who is a greedy and power-hungry buffoon, and gleefully admits to committing and getting away with the same tort the defendant is accused of.

Visual Novels
  • The nameless Judge and his brother (also a judge) from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney and its sequels. He does not resemble the typical judge seen in Western fiction, as he is indecisive at times and is often very forgiving to the defense. The prosecution, however, can manipulate him very easily, often to the point of doing his job for him. Despite the fact that he's outright senile at times, he's supposedly renowned as a fair judge who almost always hands down the right verdict.
    • In Ace Attorney Investigations Case 4, Edgeworth, during an investigation, gets to cross-examine the Judge himself. Hilarity Ensues, including Your Honor trying to deny Edgeworth an objection, only for Edgeworth to deny him that opportunity. That is to say, the Judge gets overruled.
    • Also, the judge's brother is Canadian. For some reason.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2 has Hakari Mikagami, a relatively young female judge who, unlike The Judge and his brother, is all business. This is quite unfortunate for Edgeworth, since she's part of the Prosecutorial Purge Committee and hopes to put an end to his career because she believes he is breaking rules and overstepping his bounds in his investigations.
  • In Professor Layton Vs Ace Attorney you meet a middle-ages version of the beloved Judge- except this one is wearing creepy purple robes and will gladly send your client into a pit of fire as soon as you make any step because all witches must be burnt alive even if they haven't done anything bad- their crime is existing. The judge from the main series is dumb but lovable, this one is downright disturbing.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • The judge on The Simpsons is a gruff older black man, sort of combining the two archetypes.
    • They also have a stern white woman, an over-the-top caricature of TV's Judge Judy.
  • Futurama had Judge Whitey, and older white man with a prep accent.

Other
  • Silvester from Shape Quest is a high judge in his own country.


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