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The Judge

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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 The Outer Limits (1995), 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 Judge, Jury, and Executioner, who combines cop, judge and executioner all in one; Hanging Judge, who always pursues conviction, almost always of the capital kind; and Circuit Judge, who moves within their jurisdiction rather than operate from a courtroom.


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     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.
  • Primal Fear has Judge Shoat, a no-nonsense black woman who oversees Aaron's trial.
  • Intolerable Cruelty features a black woman judge. In defiance of the way these things usually play out, she is completely disinterested and her reaction to objections ranging from the absurd (poetry recital!) to the ludicrous (STRANGLING THE WITNESS!) is "I'll allow it."
  • Presumed Innocent has a black judge too, however he got a more prominent role in the plot than the usual. He dismisses all the charges against the protagonist on the threat of being exposed as corrupt and a possible suspect in the very case he is attending.


  • 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 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.
  • Randyll Tarly serves as a judge in A Song of Ice and Fire. While he is undeniably an asshole he seems to be a pretty good judge.
  • The Stand has a character who was a former judge and everyone calls him The Judge as a nickname.

     Live Action TV  

  • Our Miss Brooks: Miss Brooks appears before a judge in "Trial By Jury".
  • 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.
  • Judge Judy is Caucasian, but certainly has the attitude right. Memetic Mutation about her tends to be high. ("This just in, Judge Judy was just kicked off the New York City subway for being rude to passengers.")
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Billions, recurring character Judge Adam DeGiulio, played by Rob Morrow, is both a Deadpan Snarker and a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • 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.
  • An episode of the Richard Pryor CBS TV show Pryor's Place had a scene in which a young girl had to appear in Family Court. The woman who played the judge was named Rose Bird, who formerly was Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. (She was voted out of office because of her opposition to the Death Penalty.)
  • The episode of La caméra explore le temps dealing with the Courier of Lyons focuses on Judge Daubenton, who becomes obsessed with rehabilitating Lesurques after pushing for his death sentence. In the post-episode commentary, Alain Decaux highlights what Dubosc notes in the end, that is, Daubenton's tendency to pressure witnesses into confirming his latest theories (which leads to at least one new death sentence at each new trial).
  • Hand of God: Main character Pernell Harris is a state criminal court judge. He fits the gruff older white man model.


  • The judge in The Wall. He's a Large Ham 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.
  • Comedian Pigmeat Markham coined the late 60s phrase "Here Come de Judge!" which became a phrase on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. He put out a 45 rpm single under that phrase with the B-side as "The Trial." He's hearing a nudist case, but he starts the trial off by giving himself six months.

    Professional wrestling 

  • Wrestlers are the most important part of the show, but putting one in charge creates a conflict of interest. This role is commonly taken by a commissioner, board representative, matchmaker, general manager or company owner. They want fans to tune in or attend, so they cater to audience. A promoter shouldn't show open bias toward wrestlers fans like, that would be unprofessional, but one can level the playing field when a face is facing particularly unfair odd. Jim Crockett, Verne Gagne and Antonio Peña after retiring from the ring, Theodore Long as general manager, Nigel McGuinness after his retirement, they all count.
    • This was sort of The Undertaker's thing back when he was full-time, both in and out of the ring. He was the voice of the company in the locker room.

  • King Solomon in The Bible served as a judge in addition to being a king. A memorable story involves two woman with a single child both claiming that the child is theirs and that the other woman stole their child when theirs died. Solomon declares that he will simply cut the child in half and give half to each of the mothers, which one of the mothers is horrified by and one is okay with. Naturally Solomon declares that the concerned mother was the true one and gives her the living child.
    • As the name implies, The Book of Judges in the Bible tells us stories about many of the tribe of Israel's judges, although the judges were more like village elders than conventional judges, and most of the stories in this book focus on military warfare instead of judicial stories.
    • Prior to both of these, in Exodus Moses (a older "white"note  male) "settl[ed] disputes among the people." His father-in-law watches him do this for a little while and basically tells him he's nuts for trying to do it all by himself and that he should appoint a number of trusted men as judges to take care of the simple cases and only refer the difficult ones to Moses for personal handling.


  • 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.

     Video Games  

  • Eiki Shiki in Touhou is the judge of the dead. Her boss subtitle is even Highest Judge of the Court of Paradise.
  • 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 Investigation 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  

  • On DuckTales (1987), Scrooge appears before a judge in "Duckman of Aquatraz" and "The Bride Wore Stripes". His judges are gruff, older, anthropomorphic male characters. To make a long story short, it's fair to say Duckburg, USA has an injustice system, not a justice system.
  • 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, an older white man with a prep accent.
    • The Chief Justice in Futurama in an fifth season episode is an older Asian woman. The Supremes appear again in a later episode when the head of Snoop Dogg has been elevated to Chief Justice (he was "only" a Justice in the earlier episode).
    • The judge at Zapp Brannigan's trial (possibly actually a Court Martial or Captain's Mast) for blowing up DOOP headquarters is Glab, a female Amphibiosan (Kif's species) of indeterminate age (though she is probably at most middle aged for that species). Nor really a very good judge, as her catch phrase is "I'm going to allow this," which she says to an increasingly outrageous series of legal (and other) stunts, and she believes Leela's corroboration of Zapp's version of events.note 
  • Batman: The Animated Series features this in the episode entitled "Second Chance" Apparently Two Face hadn't lost the capacity to feel guilt even after his evil side took over and a third personality was born. This one is fittingly named "The Judge". Instead of helping the others with their various crimes, he is a vigilante that uses far harsher methods than Batman. He tries to take out ALL of Gotham's major villains including himself.
  • Heckle and Jeckle: In the cartoon "The Lion Hunt," Heckle is the judge in an impromptu trial against a lion the two birds are after, accused of "killing" Jeckle.


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


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