Series / Judge Judy

Real cases. Real people. Judge Judy.

Thus begins the most popular judge show on TV. Judge Judy can be summed up in one sentence: "What if the mediator persona was a real person?"

Judge Judy focuses on the courtroom of Judge Judith Sheindlin, an experienced family and criminal court judge who brings her extreme pithiness to everyday cases involving some of the worst human garbage this side of Jerry Springer. One can only watch and wonder, "where did they find these people?" The standard episode sees Judy evaluating the testimony of both litigants, interspersed with her own biting comments as needed, determining which has the better case and why, and then issuing a ruling. After the case, the litigants have a chance to speak to the camera and comment on how justice was, or was not, served.

Note that Ms. Sheindlin — though she was a real judge for many years — is not actually acting as a judge and the show is filmed on a set, not in a courtroom. The guy in front of her is a former New York City Court Bailiff, not a police officer, and the "public gallery" is filled by paid extras. She is actually acting as an arbiter (a third party whose decision both parties in the dispute agree to abide by). Both "litigants" will be paid; Judy is determining the balance of the two.

Spawned a whole bunch of judge shows; however, it was not the originator of the judge show — that honor belongs to The People's Court, which premiered fifteen years before the show in 1981 (and starred Sheindlin's husband Jerry from 1999-2001).

In 2014, Sheindlin created another court show called Hot Bench, which is similar to her own show but uses a three-judge panel, similar to and inspired by the court system in Ireland. Sheindlin is the producer for that show, and is not one of the judges.

Contains examples of the following:

  • Asshole Victim: It's a court show. It's inevitable.
  • Berserk Button: Judge Judy has several. Most of these can be avoided with simple politeness and common courtesy:
    • Don't answer her questions with "Um" or some variant instead of "Yes" or "No."
    • Don't interrupt her, unless you want to hear one of her favorite catchphrases (see below).
    • Don't try obfuscating stupidity; she will swiftly cut you down with some variant of these two lines: "Either you're playing dumb or it's not an act" or "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."
    • Don't wear extremely revealing, or extremely casual, clothing to court. As she sometimes puts it, (paraphrased) "Dress like it's a funeral, because it is. Yours."
    • Don't sue someone, and then not bring the relevant documents, such as suing your landlord and then not bringing the lease; if you do that, expect a tongue-lashing about your idiocy.
    • Do not play with your papers. On at least one occasion, Judge Judy has had Byrd confiscate the documents of a litigant who could not keep from shuffling them around.
    • Don't contradict your written complaint or response in your in-court testimony. Since both are provided under oath, one has to be a lie.note 
    • Do not attempt to show her a signed affidavit.
  • Blatant Lies: Lots of people try to pull this, but as a "truth machine," Judy has none of it.
  • Brainless Beauty: Litigants like the "rocket science" girl, who say a lot of stupid things but certainly look nice while saying them.
  • Break the Haughty: A common occurrence. A certain case against a 13 year old school bully in particular (said bully was reduced to tears) showed that she has no tolerance for children with attitude.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
    • In one case involving a 20 year old who got caught the first time he used a fake ID, Judge Judy lampshades this by calling him "the unluckiest person on Earth."
    • On more than one occasion, the judge has actually sent - or at least announced that she would send - a copy of the case in question to law enforcement in the litigants' jurisdiction if she's convinced that a litigant got away with some wrongdoing. This has included, on varying occasions, submitting cases to Child Protective Services involving neglectful parents and requesting that one defendant who had been stopped for speeding (once while drunk) - and then subsequently used her cousin's name, forcing her cousin to take the punishment for her - have her driver's license confiscated by the LAPD.
  • Catch Phrase: Quite a few:
    • "Just a second!"
    • "I'M SPEAKING!"
      • "Are you trying to talk over me? You're not gonna talk over me. You know why? They can turn off your mike and leave mine on."
    • "Don't speak to me until I speak to you!"
    • "This is my playpen!"
    • "You're an idiot!"
    • "Answer my question!"
    • "'Um' is not an answer!"
    • "Baloney!"
    • "On your BEST day you're not as smart as I am on my WORST day."
    • "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining."
    • "You're a MORON!"
    • "Put on your listening ears!" Often used in conjunction with "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason!"
    • "Stop playing with your papers!"
    • "Beauty fades, dumb is forever."
    • "They don't keep me up here because I look good."
    • "You know when teenagers are lying? When their mouths are moving."
    • "That's all.", "Step out!", or more recently, "We're done!" note 
    • "Parties are excused, you may step out."note 
    • "What?! Where did you think you were going?! A tea party?!" or " a dance?!" or " a tea dance?!" etc.note 
    • "I know EXACTLY who you are!"
    • "I'm like a truth machine. Someone starts to lie and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up."
    • "I've been in this business for 40 years."
    • "There's something wrong with you."
    • "If you interrupt again, your case is dismissed, and I'm throwing you out. Do you understand?"
    • "I don't care about how you feel. Your feelings are irrelevant to me. If you want to talk about your feelings, go on Dr. Phil."
    • "You're as thick as this table!"
    • "(You look like a fool, etc.) in front of ten million people."
    • "Don't (or "You can't") tell me what he/she/they said."note 
    • "Don't (or "You can't") tell me what he/she/they knew."note 
    • "I don't care what you think."note 
    • "So what?"/"Who cares?"
    • "You ate the steak!"note 
    • "You can't do that!"note 
    • "Put your hand down!"
    • Also, the occasional use of Yiddish terms, such as "bubbe meise."note 
  • Courtroom Antics: The Judge herself will often disrupt the proceedings to offer her opinions about her clients or society in general. She's not above asking litigants non-rhetorical questions and then shouting them down when they try to answer.
  • Creepy Monotone: With emphasis on creepy. One case where the plaintiff's husband sat quietly with a blank, expressionless stare, until he interrupted the defendant in the middle in the episode with "You lied about it" with a tone so creepy that everything felt silent as he said it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Both Her Honor and participants have their moments.
    • Her Honor during a case involving a harmed dog.
    Judge Judy: Are you nervous? Do I make you nervous?
    Plaintiff: A little bit.
    Judge Judy: Perfect.
    • A case involving a destroyed couch.
    Judge Judy: Is this your first time in Los Angeles?
    Defendant: You bet.
    Judge Judy: Are you having a good time?
    Defendant: Not right now.
  • Dirty Coward: Several times, especially when the person who represents the plaintiff or defendant is not the sole person responsible for the incident. For example, in the case of Kelli Filkins, the defendant known as the "eBay scammer," the fraudulent listing was the work of Filkins and her husband but Filkins came alone. Judy castigated the absent husband for throwing his wife to the lions.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Some of the cases that come to Judge Judy's court are a result of this. One example includes a woman who thought her husband was cheating on her, so her response was to pour bleach all over his jeans (as opposed to, for example, confronting him about it).
  • Dumb Blonde:
    Judge Judy: This is not rocket science. What is rocket science?
    Ashley Hunter: Rocket science is when the scientists find out things about space. [gallery laughs, followed by a lengthy and uncomfortable beat] I think.
  • Embarrassing Ringtone: A plantiff's witness's phone went off in the middle of Judge Judy's ruling. The ringtone was a crowing rooster. Her Honor mocked him for it while she was chewing him out for not turning it off.
  • Emphasize EVERYTHING: The Opening Narration is clear about many things. Such as, "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 her courtroom!)) This is Judge Judy!"
  • Everybody Calls Him "Barkeep":
    • A defendant once asserted that he didn't even know the first name of a bouncer he had hired to come to two of his parties.
    Judge Judy: I don't believe it. What do you call him, 'hey'?
  • Evil Laugh: Judge Judy isn't evil but she tend to laugh cartoonishly evil when litigants says something stupid or lies poorly.
  • Exact Words: The technique used by some litigants to get around responsibility for this or that action. For example, one defendant accused of jumping on the plaintiff's car and denting the trunk denied responsibility since she'd offered him a ride and told him to "hop on the car."
  • Genre Blind:
    • There are many plaintiffs and defendants who lack basic courtroom etiquette, like providing evidence, waiting for their turn to speak, speaking formally instead of in slang, dressing appropriately, and so on.
    • Occasionally lampshaded.
    Plaintiff: Your Honor, there was...
    Judge Judy: Just a second, listen to me. Does it sound like you're losing? I know you want to have your fifteen minutes, but I've already done the fifteen minutes with him!
  • HAHAHA–No: Occasionally her honor will pretend to laugh only to then lay down the law.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Litigants who act stupid, litigants who act "cool," litigants who are lying on the stand and think they can get away with it.
  • Hypocrite: When Joseph Wapner criticized Sheindlin's behavior, she responded with:
    I refuse to engage in similar mud slinging. I don't know where or by whom Judge Wapner was raised. But my parents taught me when you don't have something nice to say about someone, say nothing. Clearly, Judge Wapner was absent on the day that lesson was taught.
  • Implausible Deniability: Most of the defendants pull this and they are inevitably answered by one of Her Honor's catchphrases, "Don't pee on my leg and tell it's raining".
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: This idiot's epic fail at least amused her Honor and everyone else. The gist of it is that the plaintiff sued the defendants for stealing her purse and listed some of its contents. One of the defendants then denied that one of the items was in there, and in the process, admitted that they stole the plaintiff's purse and went through it.
  • Insult to Rocks: Used to describe a particularly annoying defendant.
    Judge Judy: [The defendant]'s got the moral character of an amoeba. Well amoebas may be alright, I don't know about amoebas. I'm apologizing to the amoebas, I don't wanna hear from any amoeba lovers, don't write me letters don't send me emails.
  • Jerkass: Her Honor herself, who always speaks her mind, regardless of the litigants' feelings. Then again, the truth hurts.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: The whole point of the show, with Judge Judy herself as the "jerkass". She's harsh, argumentative, and rude. She frequently insults the intelligence of plaintiffs and defendants alike. She is in a position of authority and has no problem with reminding people of this. But, given the types of people she has to deal with on her show (people who can't follow simple instructions like bringing necessary legal documents after being told to bring them in advance, defendants who tell obvious lies and somehow expect an educated judge not to see through them, plaintiffs who sue people when the defendants have better reason to sue them, etc.), she's actually justified in her behavior because, unlike your average everyday rational person who can be reasoned with by logic and civility, the people who appear on her show are so perpetually clueless that nothing but jerkass behavior will wake them up to reality.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Judge Judy sometimes shows a softer side. Her tone of voice is much kinder when a litigant is mature and respectful, and is especially so in cases where innocent children are victimized.
  • Karma Houdini: Judy is vocal on stating that the show is all about being a living example of her belief that those who do wrong should suffer consequences. This case is a complicated example. While those who do wrong don't suffer monetary consequences note  they suffer big in terms of dignity; millions of television viewers worldwide will get to see how inhuman they really are. Being plastered all over the media and having the nation know who you are can make your life hell if you're good, like Oliver Sipple who saved Gerald Ford's life and got ruined by the publicity. If you're bad, like that one defendant who committed identity theft on her own sister and insisted she did nothing wrong, everyone you know and care about could turn on you after learning what you did. Another case would be Kelli Filkins, the defendant known as the "eBay scammer." Appearing on Judge Judy was the worst thing she ever did; the negative publicity resulting from her amoral behavior ruined her. Try having a positive personal life after that.
  • Kubrick Stare: Judge Judy directs these and Death Glares at litigants who are demonstrating unusual dishonesty, stupidity, or are otherwise trying her patience.
  • Laxative Prank: One defendant pulls a variation of this, giving a cookie laced with marijuana instead of a laxative to the plaintiff. Judge Judy is not amused, pointing out that this is assault, not a prank.
  • Living Lie Detector: Judge Judy herself is, in her own words, a "Truth Machine". Very rarely does she acknowledge the possibility that she might be wrong.
    • One case where she was proven wrong was where she accused a woman of lying when the woman claimed that she walked over a large distance to and from work every day. When her opponent spoke up in her defense when the judge didn't believe her, confirming that yes, she in fact did walk that distance every day, Judge Judy admitted her mistake and apologized. This rarely ever happens. Generally speaking, Judge Judy will get more and more irritated if she asks questions she thinks will embarrass defendants and make them look like feckless bums and then gets answers that don't suit her and prove otherwise. She's then most likely to simply change the subject.
  • Mama Bear: Having worked in family court for decades prior to starting the show, it's no surprise that Judge Judy is a fierce advocate for young people. Here's one example.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: When she's not in the courtroom, Judge Judy's a sweet grandmother.
  • Never Lend to a Friend:
    • A lot of the cases involve the plaintiff suing a former friend for an unpaid loan. The defendant's usual defense will be "it was a gift, not a loan," such as in this case. Judge Judy almost always rules in favor of the plaintiff, as well as giving them the advice: "Never lend money to anybody. As soon as you lend money, you become the bad guy."
    • This also works in reverse when a plaintiff who gave the defendant gifts as part of a relationship sues for recompense after the relationship ends, claiming it was actually a loan. These cases almost invariably fail, since proving a loan requires certain paperwork which the plaintiff doesn't have.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Judge Judy is one of the most intimidating people on television (that isn't sports related). She's tough as nails and doesn't take crap from anyone, no matter what person she has to deal with.
  • Never My Fault: Almost everybody that appears denies fault. Even when Judge Judy rips them to shreds either by exposing their lies or by throwing the law in their face, quite a bit of them will continue to deny that they did anything wrong.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Judge Judy has never once been swayed by litigants who are in short skirts or low-cut tops. In past years, if the outfit was particularly ridiculous, she would send them out to either change or find something to cover up with. She rarely if ever does this anymore, though she's certainly not above making snarky comments about a person's attire. For example, in one case, she obviously disapproved of the attire of a very scantily-clad young woman, but she just asked sarcastically, first-off, "Would you like a shawl?", and then let the matter go after no response was forthcoming, and continued with the hearing.
    • In another case, the defendant's sister came to court wearing a suit/skirt combo in which the skirt was so short that her jacket came down lower than the skirt. When Judy questioned her about it, the defendant's sister replied that she'd assumed the outfit was appropriate since she'd bought it at a business apparel store (which prompted the comment from Byrd, "Must be a different kind of business"). Judy asked the witness if she'd wear such an outfit to church, and when the defendant admitted she wouldn't, Judy commented, "I just wanted to see where your head was at," and continued with the case.
  • Point-and-Laugh Show: Lots of stupid people appear on this show and try to fool Judge Judy. In the end, they "(look like a fool, etc.) in front of ten million people."
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: She may be harsh, but Judy’s job is a judge and she doesn’t take anyone’s side. She’s only to help who’s in the right or wrong, meaning regardless on who’s the plaintiff or the defendant. It’s her job to be impartial, and while she does make a final decision, she has to hear both sides of the case before doing so. (Unless she only hears one side before ruling against them.)
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: What Judge Judy's one of the best at, whether they actually suck or not, but most of them definitely do.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Her Honor and the bailiff. Judge Judy gets furious at the drop of a hat; Byrd has not once expressed anything other than absolute stoicism (with a few exceptions). It's like the two leads from Samurai Champloo were transplanted into the body of a judge and bailiff.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The infamous "rocket science" girl is from Alamo, California, a very affluent San Francisco suburb and definitely comes across this way. She doesn't seem to comprehend that a good person would replace a friend's property she damaged accidentally or not respond to a rhetorical question.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: Judy makes a comment about "rocket science", which the defendant interprets as a request for information, as quoted under Dumb Blonde.
  • Rousseau Was Right: There are quite a few cases wherein the people more or less are at an agreement that something needs to be done, they're just trying to figure out who owes how much and what they should do, and are going to Judy to have her act as an arbiter. (and getting a check in the process)
    • One case featured a dog mauling that resulted in the death of a chihuahua. Both the plaintiff and the defendant admitted fault on their parts (Not watching their dogs, not doing enough to prevent digging, not intervening in time), and the plaintiff was trying to keep the defendant from losing his dogs too. Judy found them both liable for 50/50 of the vet bills, which they both nodded at and agreed to.
    • A customer accidentally broke a glass bird bath, and paid for it. However, the owner wanted her to pay more (the sticker price) rather than the cost of the supplies (Which they both agreed to). The mother went on the show to prove a point about honesty to her kids.
  • Shown Their Work: Judge Judy is a legitimate legal authority. Even if the litigants are clearly getting on her last nerve, she will try to explain which legal areas are in play and why the plaintiff/defendant does or does not have a case.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: A lot of defendants try to pull this, but Judy undoubtedly sees through it.
  • Tagline:
    • "Real cases. Real people. Judge Judy."
    • "The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final." (used in the introduction of the show until the 2015-16 season)
  • Teens Are Monsters:
    I've raised several teenagers, so I know that the first thing that teenagers do when they open their mouths is lie.
    • That and she was a supervising judge in New York City's juvenile division during the late 80s and early 90s, when crack cocaine was an epidemic and the murder rate was the highest in the city's history. She saw the monsters up close and personal every day for years.
    • Averted when she discovers that some teens are genuine victims. In one case, she tells the teenage son of a defendant in a claim he had nothing to do with in a heartfelt voice to get away from his father and sister any way he can, believing he was too good a person to be corrupted by their influence.
  • The Unfair Sex: Averted. Judge Judy is impartial when it comes to genders.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Some of the plaintiffs and/or defendants fit this description. One example: a teenager's mother whose daughter got a urinary tract infection and a plaintiff, a guest in their home, ended up taking her daughter to the hospital to have the infection treated. Then when the plaintiff was stuck with the medical bill, the teenager's mother refused to help pay the bill, showing a lack of gratitude to the plaintiff who got her daughter out of a jam when the teenager's mother didn't do it herself.
  • Unwanted Assistance: When a litigant who seems to be winning the case interrupts unnecessarily: "Do I LOOK like I need your help?" or "Does it LOOK like you're losing?"
  • Your Mom: Inverted by one lovable piece of work who claimed to have ten children by "about four" women and "your daughter." Judge Judy wasn't amused.