The mediator persona is real, and her name is Judith Sheindlin.
As an experienced family and criminal court judge, the titular Judge Judy conducts her courtroom with a sharp wit and a sharper tongue, evaluating legal disagreements between some of the worst human garbage imaginable who couldn't land a spot on Jerry Springer. The standard episode sees Sheindlin hearing the testimony of both parties, peppered 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 Sheindlin is not officially acting as a judge in any of these cases (though she was a real judge for many years). The show is filmed on a set in Los Angeles, 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. What's actually going on is Sheindlin is acting in an official role as an arbiter, a neutral third-party in a legal dispute. Before the case makes it to the show, it's been agreed by both parties in the dispute that they will accept Sheindlin's decision as what they'll do going forward. Also, the settlement is paid by the show itself, though Sheindlin has the power to determine how much of the remainder (if any) goes to the litigants themselves. While this may sound like cheap justice, several litigants have found that an appearance on Judge Judy is enough to ruin their reputations forever once word gets out about them.
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; former NYC mayor Ed Koch, who appointed Sheindlin as a criminal court judge in 1982, also presided over The People's Court from 1997-1999).
In 2014, Sheindlin, through her company Queen Bee Productions, created another court show called Hot Bench, which is similar to her own show but uses a three-judge panel hand-picked by Sheindlin herself, similar to and inspired by the court system in Ireland. Sheindlin is not one of the judges, although she has appeared on a few episodes as a guest judge (as has her husband). Interestingly, Hot Bench was the original working title of Sheindlin's own show, as she initially didn't like the title Judge Judy.
On March 2, 2020, Sheindlin announced that the show will end after its 25th season in 2021, though the show will live on in reruns. Sheindlin will move on to a new show called Judy Justice.
The show's longtime announcer, Jerry Bishop, passed away on April 21, 2020.
Judge Judy contains examples of the following:
- 419 Scam:
- In a 2017 case, a wealthy Nigeria man scammed the defendant out of thousand of dollars that she borrowed from the plaintiff so he could meet her as they had been in contact on a free dating site. Judge Judy didn't laugh and felt pretty sorry for the woman as she was naive and was generally felt that she had been scammed. However, her excuse as to why she didn't need to pay the plaintiff back was laughed out of court.
- In a 2019 case, a contractor (the defendant) was asked to rebuild a driveway for the owner of a house. However, the contractor was the victim of a scammer who was asking for the driveway to be rebuilt. One huge red flag that should have tipped off the defendant was that the scammer asked to be wired $300 before paying the defendant $6,000. The defendant not only lost $300 but went over to the plaintiff's house to do the contracting work, destroying part of the driveway before the real home owner (the plaintiff) came and stopped them. The plaintiff was suing the defendant for rebuilding the driveway. Judge Judy could hardly get though the case without laughing the whole time over how stupid the defendant was and awarded the plaintiff the money to rebuild the driveway.
- Abusive Parents: A plaintiff in one case was accused of knocking her two-year-old daughter across the room while sleeping off a night of drinking, and then putting her hand over the girl's mouth to muffle her cries. The defendant in the case (who had been the plaintiff's roommate and was being sued for past-due rent) claimed that the plaintiff illegally evicted her and her daughter in retaliation for the defendant's contacting the police about the abuse. Judge Judy agreed and dismissed the plaintiff's case, despite the plaintiff's loud protests, and further advised the plaintiff's sister, in court as a witness, to watch for further signs of abuse.
- Actually Pretty Funny: Occasionally, someone will get a genuine laugh out of Judge Judy:
- In one case, a subcontractor defendant gave a ridiculous excuse as to why he was in the plaintiff's newly purchased home, at night, with a woman, in a state of undress. Judge Judy asked Byrd what he thought. Byrd replied, "That's funny. I thought he was gonna make something up." The judge let out a loud laugh.
- One little girl told Judge Judy that she wasn't beautiful because she was "old."
- In another case, the plaintiff's dog, who was allegedly attacked by the defendant's dog and was brought into court by its owners, started barking while the defendant was giving testimony, and the plaintiff's witness, who was holding the dog in his lap, quipped, "That doesn't mean we lost the case, did it?" This elicited a laugh from everyone, including Judge Judy. The plaintiffs did win.
- On occasion, litigants have accidentally referred to Judge Judy as "Sir" and quickly corrected themselves. She once laughed it off and admitted it comes with her personality.
- Whenever Judge Judy uses a slang term correctly and can't figure out why the audience and/or the normally stoic Byrd are laughing.
- Appeal to Flattery: Some litigants try this with Judge Judy. It never works:Plaintiff: By the way, Your Honor, you look beautiful today.
Judge Judy: Don't go there, Mr. Missry, because that'll be the fastest way for you out the door, sir.
- As the Good Book Says...: In one case, a defendant began quoting Scripture to justify herself. Judge Judy cut her off right away:Judge Judy: I don't care what the Word of God says. This is a court. Don't preach to me.
- Asshole Victim:
- A few people have come on the show with unclean hands.note Judge Judy won't let them get away with it.
- In her summaries, Judge Judy makes it a point to chew out anyone for dumb behavior, no matter the side, if she feels like they deserve it. Interrupting one of these speeches will only increase the vitriol.
- Audience Participation: On very rare occasions, she has solicited "shows of hands" from the audience to make a point. For example:
- While berating a defendant for not bringing her driver's license to court, Judge Judy asked for a show of hands from the audience as to how many people had their licenses with them. All of the audience members raised their hands.
- Another example where Judge Judy solicited a "show of hands" was when a defendant was being sued for damaging her friend's car, by sitting on the hood, and she claimed it was normal for her and her friends to sit on others' cars. Judge Judy found this ridiculous, and asked the members of the audience to raise their hands if any of them regularly sat on other people's cars. No one raised a hand.
- In a case aired on May 20, 2020:Judge Judy: [to audience] Raise your hand if you don't know who Rip Van Winkle was.
[About half the audience members raise their hands]
Judge Judy: [sighs] It's almost time to die.
- A case were an ex-police officer, who was being sued by his ex-wife, said that he called the non-emergency line to help defuse an issue and said everyone knows the number. Judge Judy said she didn't know hers and asked the audience to raise their hand if they knew what the non-emergency number was for the police, nobody raised their hand.
- Judge Judy has asked members of the audience for their names before when trying to describe multi-level marketing jobs.
- Berserk Button: Judge Judy has several. Most of these can be avoided with simple politeness and common courtesy:
Judge Judy: The only people I allow that close to me are my Shih Tzu and Byrd. [audience laughs]
- Don't answer her questions with "Um" or stammer over your words instead of "Yes" or "No." She'll immediately shoot back with "'Um' is not an answer!"
- Don't use filler words such as "basically" or "like".
- Don't use egregiously incorrect grammar or syntax. For example, saying "tooken" instead of "taken." If you do, she'll make you look like a fool, and will also offer a comment about how America is going down the toilet because people no longer know how to write or speak properly.
- Don't interrupt her, unless you want to hear one of her favorite Catch Phrases.
- Don't interrupt your adversary's testimony, even if said testimony is a lie. If you interrupt too often, your case will likely be dismissed, especially if Judge Judy has already told you to be quiet.
- Don't try Obfuscating Stupidity; she can see right through it:Judge Judy: Don't give me the dumb routine. If you're dumb, I'll know you're dumb. If you give me a dumb routine, I know it's a dumb routine. I know the difference, sir.
- Don't wear casual or revealing clothing to court. It may affect your credibility. In one early case, Judge Judy responded to a plaintiff who refused to remove her hat in court by dismissing the plaintiff's case, without prejudice, without even hearing it.
- Don't look away from her when testifying. If you do, she will quickly remind you to look at her.
- Don't pour a glass of water while she is talking to you. Judge Judy wants your undivided attention when she addresses you.Judge Judy: DON'T DRINK WATER NOW! I'M SPEAKING!
- Don't call her "Judy". Calling her "Judge Judy" is fine, but not just "Judy". If you do, she will interrupt and remind you that you're not friends, and this isn't a talk show; therefore you cannot be on a first name basis.
- Don't sue someone and then not bring the relevant documents. If you do that, expect a tongue-lashing about your idiocy.
- Don't sue your landlord if you continued to stay without paying rent. Any chance of winning the case once that is known is slim to none, because Judge Judy hates squatters. Expect also to be the recipient of one of Her Honor's trademark catchphrases: "You ate the steak."
- Don't come into court with unclean hands: for example, driving an uninsured car. Usually such cases are swiftly dismissed, because courts don't help people who break the law.
- Don't come to court late. Judge Judy may spend as much time chewing you out for it as on the case at hand.
- Don't come to court drunk or high. Drunk or stoned litigants annoy Judge Judy because, in addition to the litigant's lack of respect for the court, she can't ask questions if she believes the litigant is an "altered" state of mind. On occasion, she has actually halted a case and asked a litigant who was acting loopy to submit to a drug test. If the litigant refuses, she won't continue with the case.
- Don't play with your papers. Occasionally, 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
- Don't speak incoherently; it may affect your credibility:Judge Judy: Those who babble usually are lying.
- Do not attempt to show Judge Judy a signed affidavit. She won't even look at it because she and the other person will be unable to cross-examine the witness.note
- Don't try to introduce hearsay as evidence.note
- Don't tell Judge Judy about what someone else was thinking or what they knew. If you do, she'll tell you that you can't do that because that's speculation and calls for the operation of someone's mind.
- Don't bring a witness to court unless they're directly involved with your case. Otherwise, Judge Judy will typically identify your witness as somebody "just here to annoy [her or your adversary]," and unfailingly treats this classification as the first order of business. She may even remove your witness from the courtroom before the case even starts. If you have a minor son or daughter as a witness, she'll typically have the child removed right away, so the child won't have to witness whatever tongue-lashings she has in store for you.
- Don't argue with Judge Judy when she's explaining the law to you. If you do, she'll berate you.
- Don't ask Judge Judy questions. She'll remind you that you aren't in the position to do so.
- Don't swear. If you do, your case will swiftly be dismissed: note Defendant: Or because you were jealous.
Judge Judy: What did you just say?
Plaintiff: I said bull-[redacted].
Judge Judy: Goodbye! Case is dismissed. We're done. [over defendant's protests] You don't know where you are, that's your problem.
- Dont continue to argue with Judge Judy after she's made her ruling. If you do, she might return to the bench to berate you.
- Don't argue with Judge Judy about the relevance of a question she asks you. Accept that she knows what she's doing and answer her questions honestly; otherwise she'll wipe up the floor with you. Refusal to answer a question may result in your case being quickly dismissed and/or a ruling in favor of your adversary.
- Don't ask for damages for minutiae such as food, household products, or makeup. She'll remind you that she didn't complete nine years of post-graduate legal education to hear such cases.
- If you're a non-custodial parent, don't try to claim you support your child when all you do is buy necessities such as food, formula, clothes, etc. Judge Judy will point out that this doesn't count as child support, and she doesn't go any easier on women than men for this.
- Do not explain the law to her. She will remind you that she has been studying law for decades.note
- Don't ask Judge Judy to divide property or go though joint bank records if you aren't married. She will remind people that courts exist for married people and doesn't get involved for people who "play house".
- Do not abuse the system, such as getting a temporary restraining order to evict someone or using loopholes to cheat the system for money. Doing that will cause her to berate you to the point that she will dismiss your claim quickly and will sometimes award the other party the maximum amount allowed ($5,000) even if the other party didn't request that much as she feels it is a gross abuse of a system.
- Do not try to approach her at the bench in order to talk with her directly or giving her evidence. That is Officer Byrd's job. Judge Judy or Office Byrd will typically give a pass the first time this happens as it is common mistake.note
- Do not try to sue for false arrest and have been found guilty to the charge. Any chance that you had in the case will quickly be dismissed. She will remind you that while you may have taken a plea deal, in the eyes of the law you are still guilty and not allowed to sue for damages to something that you admitted to doing.
- Beware of Vicious Dog: Judge Judy entertains a lot of dog bite cases, often involving pit bulls. She never misses a chance to berate pit bull owners for harboring a vicious animal in their homes, especially if the owners have young children, and often reads said owners a letter she received from a heartbroken grandfather whose three-year-old grandchild was mauled by a pit bull. She'll also often point out that there's a reason why most insurance companies won't cover pit bull attacks.
- Blatant Lies: Lots of people try to pull this, but as a "truth machine," Judge Judy will have 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 thirteen-year-old school bully showed that she has no tolerance for children with attitude. Given that Her Honor saw litigants who were much worse in the Manhattan Family Court system, she has no patience for any of it.
- Bridezilla: It's common for a bride to sue her wedding planner, baker, DJ, horse drawn carriage, etc. for making one small mistake and then whine in court that because of that one small mistake, the whole wedding was ruined. Judge Judy doesn't let these brides get their way and typically refuses to hear the cases. Her usual response will be to tell them that that they shouldn't recommend the people again and remind them that some mistakes are unavoidable, as she knows because of all the weddings she's been to or arranged for family.
- Brooklyn Rage: Judge Judy herself. She's a native of Brooklyn, accent and all, and is definitely not someone to trifle with.
- Brutal Honesty: Judge Judy doesn't mince her words about anything.
- Bully Hunter: Judge Judy has no patience at all for kids who bully other kids, especially if the victims of the bullying are younger and/or weaker. She'll quickly point out that she isn't someone who can be bullied into submission, and will sometimes reduce the bully to tears. This is true even for parents and siblings of bullies who make excuses for the bully. One case in which two sisters beat up a younger girl, Judge Judy had both the mother and older sister in tears near the end of the case as it was pretty clear that the plaintiff was going to press criminal charges on everyone involved.
- But We Used a Condom: Said to a woman who claimed she got pregnant despite using contraception: "Well, I suggest you sue the birth control company, because it failed."
- Canine Companion: Judge Judy has three Shih Tzus, as she often points out in cases involving dogs. In an early case involving a fight over custody of a Maltese, she even brought one of her dogs onto the set to illustrate to the litigants that although dogs are considered property under the law, they are living creatures. Judge Judy once owned cats as well, until, as she pointed out in another case, she developed an allergy.
- 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, she 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 confiscation of one defendant's driver's license for using a cousin's identity fraudulently during a traffic stop.
- She doesn't suffer financial fraud and states "I hope the IRS is listening." And has no patience for illegal landlords, people who "eat the steak without paying for it" (i.e., renting premises without paying rent), deadbeat parents (whether moms or dads), or driving without insurance or a license.Judge Judy: You know who's getting the first tape of this case, before it even airs? Three initials. Starts with an "I". Because my sense is that you haven't had anything to do with the "I" in a long time.
- Judge Judy:
- "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!"
- "Not a 'well'!"note
- "I know who I am."note
- "OUTRAGEOUS! YOU ARE AN OUTRAGEOUS PERSON!"
- "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."note
- "You're a MORON!"
- "Put on your listening ears!"
- "God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason!"
- "Don't look over there. Look over here."note
- "Stop playing with your papers!"
- "This is not a give-and-take. You speak, I rule, and then you shut up."
- "The questions are going to get harder."note
- "Don't try to figure out where I'm going. Just answer my questions truthfully." - often used in conjunction with, "If you tell the truth, you don't have to have a good memory."
- "I'm not a therapist. I don't like people well enough to be a therapist."note
- "Beauty fades, dumb is forever."
- "Don't you watch this program?" note
- "You got into a kerfuffle."note
- "If this were Pinocchio, your nose would be growing."
- "They don't keep me here because I'm gorgeous. They keep me here because I'm smart."
- "You know when teenagers are lying? When their mouths are moving."
- "Well, where did you think you were coming today, to the beach?!"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 ___ years." Or the similar "I've been doing this job for longer than you've been alive!"
- "There's something wrong with you."
- "You're a hustler!"
- "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!"
- "There's only one attitude here, and that's the one that CBS pays for: mine."
- "You wanna get to the facts, you go to a therapist. You wanna get to the law, you come to court."
- "Look at this face. Is that what you want this face to believe?" note
- "The ball's in your court." note
- "I am an ecumenical abuser." note
- "You say no, I say yes; I win, I'm the judge."
- "I'm old; I can only do one thing at a time. Otherwise I get confused and then I can't trick you."
- "(You look like a fool, etc.) in front of ten million people."
- "Don't (or "You can't") tell me what [they] said."note
- "Don't (or "You can't") tell me what [they] knew."note
- "I don't care what you think. What you think is irrelevant to me."note
- "Have you ever been psychiatrically hospitalized? Are you on any psychotropic drugs?" note
- "So what?"/"Who cares?" Often couched as:
- "Who cares what you feel?"note
- "Who cares what you want?"note
- "If you want to make a fool of yourself, I'm more than happy to let you."note
- "Believe me, you don't want to fall into my mouth." note
- "That's not happening."note
- "Don't go off into tributaries. Just stay right there in that river." note
- "You picked [them]!" note
- "You ate the steak!"note
- "You can't do that!"note
- "I can't help you."note
- "Put your hand down!"
- "I don't give a rat's behind!" note
- "Don't ask me; I wasn't there."note
- "Get to the point. I have other cases to do today."note
- "You have thirty seconds to tell me (about something)."note
- The occasional use of Yiddish terms, such as "bubbe meise."note
- While not a catchphrase per se as it isn't verbal, barely an episode goes by without Judge Judy rapping on her desk to get the attention of a litigant who is talking out of turn, interrupting her, or otherwise not listening.
- "Listen to me very carefully!"
- "You two deserve each other." note
- "MOVE!" note
- "We're done!" or "We're finished!" note
- "If it doesn't make sense, it's not true!"note
- "Does it sound like you're losing?" or "Do I look like I need any help from you?"note
- "Don't get too comfortable." note
- "Then it doesn't exist." note
- "Order! All rise! Your Honor, this is case number X in the matter of [Plaintiff] versus [Defendant]. Parties have been sworn in, Judge. [to the audience] You may be seated."note
- "Your honor, this is a recall of case number X in the matter of [Plaintiff] versus [Defendant]. Parties are reminded you're still under oath." note
- "Parties are excused, you may step out."note
- "All Parties in the matter of [Plaintiff] versus [Defendant]. Step Forward.note
- Judge Judy:
- Caught on Tape: A number of cases are resolved because of video evidence. One memorable case had a man suing his former girlfriend for loan payments and ownership of a car where the girlfriend said it was a gift. The man had almost no evidence and the girlfriend made a convincing case that the car was a gift but the plaintiff had saved a video of the two of them talking about the deal and how the deal was signed. Judge Judy said that if it wasn't for the video evidence he would lost the case and she would have ruled in the defendant's favor.
- Chick Magnet: A 2012 case involved a guy who was suing two of his ex-girlfriends for allegedly trashing his house and stealing his money. The plaintiff had been in sexual relationships with both women and was arrested for allegedly assaulting a third girlfriend, after which he claimed the two defendants met for the first time and committed the vandalism and theft in question, which they denied. One of the defendants in fact claimed the plaintiff had had seven ex-girlfriends, and he had yet another girlfriend in court as a witness. Judge Judy did not rule in his favor as she wasn't convinced one of his other exes hadn't committed the vandalism and theft. She also mocked the plaintiff mercilessly, calling him a "nerdy looking guy" and saying she'd need x-ray vision to determine what all these women saw attractive about him. The plaintiff was argumentative and sarcastic throughout the entire case and finally cursed and stormed out, which meant his case was dismissed, although Her Honor would have dismissed it regardless of his behavior since he had no concrete proof to implicate the defendants.
- Citizenship Marriage: A 2016 case involved a man who got married to a Russian out of a Russian Bride catalog. He spent over $45,000 on her and her daughter to come to the United States. After a few months of being married, the woman said that she never loved him and was only using him for citizenship during an argument. He was granted an annulment and was suing her for the money he spent on her. While he was sobbing opening in court, she had a blank expression. When asked for the reason that she shouldn't pay him back, she said that he was controlling, abusive, and wanted her to be a prostitute, but Judge Judy pointed out that the other Judge in the annulment case didn't believe her story as the other judge would have granted her a divorce. Judge Judy granted him the money on airline tickets only (over $10,000) as it was more than two times her maximum amount she was allowed to grant and told the defendant that she hopes the immigration office is listening.
- Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: Judge Judy has committed this fallacy several times. A notable example involved one case 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 Judge Judy didn't believe her, her opponent spoke up in her defense, confirming that yes, she in fact did walk that distance every day. Judge Judy admitted her mistake and apologized.
- Cool Car: There are a few cases that involve damage and/or ownership of a classic cars which will have Judge Judy remark that she's so old she remembers when those classics were new models.
- Cool Old Lady: Usually subverted with Judge Judy, as she often makes jokes about her failure to stay up to date with popular culture. This makes it all the funnier when she gets a pop culture reference right, because it will usually be used in a tongue-in-cheek way and/or with a side question to Byrd: "Did I get that right?" She also tends to admit to her ignorance of computers as "I don't use that machine."
- Courtroom Antics: Judge Judy 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 Judge Judy and participants have their moments, though Judge Judy is often too loud and animated to truly qualify as deadpan:
- Judge Judy 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.
- Judge Judy is, however, usually quick to cut down litigants who try this with her with a little deadpan snarkery of her own:Judge Judy: [to one particularly snarky litigant] The name of the program is Judge Judy. One day, if you are deemed amusing enough, you may be given your own program.
- A case about unpaid rent.Defendant: To tell you the truth, your honor-
Judge Judy: No, I want you to lie to me.
- Judge Judy during a case involving a harmed dog:
- Destroy the Evidence: While there are a few cases where the plaintiff and/or defendant say the evidence was destroyed, there is one case had a woman who was paying a loan on a car from the defendant. She was to get the title when making her last payment. A few months before the end of the payments, the defendant started acting weird about giving her the title and she was smart enough to back-up her text messages via screenshots.note When she made the last car payment, the defendant refused to release the title, broke her phone and deleted his text messages. When she showed the text messages to Judge Judy, with time stamps of the screenshots, his face turned white before going into Insane Troll Logic.
- 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. Judge 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 boyfriend was cheating on her, so her response was to pour bleach all over his clothes.
- Judge Judy will very quickly lower the boom on litigants who use calls to Child Protective Services, DCFS, DFS etc. to accomplish this:Judge Judy: Calling Child Protective Services is like calling 911. You call 911 when you feel as if there is some emergency, when you feel as if somebody is being threatened, when you feel as if somebody is being placed at risk. Now I'm not saying that those things weren't the case with these allegations that were made, by whomever they were made, but it should be made a FELONY in every jurisdiction, a very serious crime, for people to use calls to Child Protective Services in order to either incite, or resolve, or for retaliation, or for retribution, about some other issue, because they have limited enough resources at Child Protective Services to investigate REAL allegations of neglect and abuse. And when people use that Child Protective hotline for other reasons, it INFURIATES me, and if it was MY world, THEY'D BE IN JAIL, if that's what they're using the hotline for!
- Domestic Abuse: One case involved a young man named Justin who was suing his ex-girlfriend, Tasha, for the return of property he claimed she stole. Tasha countersued for the $5,000 maximum, claiming Justin had severely beaten her. Justin admitted to the beating, confessed he had a history of domestic abuse in previous relationships, and claimed to be repentant, but the smirk on his face suggested otherwise, as Judge Judy pointed out when she berated him for smirking. Tasha was visibly still scared of her ex, as she spent much of the case trembling or in tears. Judge Judy was outraged when Justin's mother, in court as a witness for her son, tried to make excuses for his behavior. It turned out Justin's mother was herself a victim of domestic abuse on the part of her husband. Just before dismissing Justin's case and ruling in favor of Tasha on her counterclaim for the full $5,000, Judge Judy pointed out that Justin's being raised in an environment where domestic abuse was normalized led to Justin growing up to become an abuser himself.
- Drunk Driver: One case involved a defendant who was stopped for speeding twice and fraudulently gave the plaintiff's (her cousin's) identity to the arresting officer both times. The defendant admitted she was drunk the second time she was stopped - it was, after all, her birthday. Judge Judy was not amused and announced she was sending a request to local authorities to have the defendant's driver's license confiscated.
- Dude, Not Funny!:
- Judge Judy has little patience with litigants who respond to her tongue-lashings with laughter. In one memorable case, she ruled against a defendant for filing false abuse charges against her ex as a ploy to get sole custody of the couple's child. The defendant had been unable to stop herself from giggling throughout the whole cross-examination and continued to laugh after Judge Judy announced her ruling, leading to her to pause as she was returning to chambers and give the defendant an extra tongue-lashing. After it was over, the defendant wasn't laughing anymore:Judge Judy: I don't know why you find it funny. I don't find it funny, actually, I find it very sad. Because if what you're telling me is that since this all happened, he's been on a supervised visitation schedule, you, madam, are outrageous!
- Judge Judy will sometimes admonish audience members for laughing too loud. On at least one occasion she had Byrd eject people in the audience for just this reason.
- Another case in which a man and his dog was attacked by the defendant's dog while he was taking his dog for a walk. The defendant's (mother and daughter) not only were giggling during the whole case but Judge Judy also found out they were giggling when the man was attacked. Judge Judy couldn't believe how crazy the defendant's were acting and said they need to get their head checked out.
- Judge Judy has little patience with litigants who respond to her tongue-lashings with laughter. In one memorable case, she ruled against a defendant for filing false abuse charges against her ex as a ploy to get sole custody of the couple's child. The defendant had been unable to stop herself from giggling throughout the whole cross-examination and continued to laugh after Judge Judy announced her ruling, leading to her to pause as she was returning to chambers and give the defendant an extra tongue-lashing. After it was over, the defendant wasn't laughing anymore:
- Dumb Blonde:
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- The first season had a variety of differences compared to what were used to, including a slightly different set. Notably, Michael Stull was the announcer for the first season before Jerry Bishop took over.
- Early clips showed Judy holding a gavel, something that she never does anymore, preferring to rap the desk with her hand instead.
- The music was an original soundtrack until 2004 when a remix of the iconic Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony took over.
- During the interviews at the end of the case, the Plaintiff and Defendant were shown together in the same room behind one another, unlike later seasons where it appears they are not in the same room. Byrd was also visible in the background.
- There were no shots of New York City, only a CGI court house during the commercial bumpers.
- The Easy Way or the Hard Way: Played straight on occasion with Judge Judy, usually with a litigant who's blatantly lying or not giving her a straight answer to a question. "The easy way" will be telling her the truth. "The hard way" will involve her making the litigant look like a fool, and finding out the truth anyway.
- Embarrassing Ringtone: A plaintiff's witness's phone went off in the middle of Judge Judy's ruling. The ringtone was a crowing rooster. She mocked him for it while she was chewing him out for not turning it off:Judge Judy: And how do you think everyone in the audience turned theirs off? By telepathy?
- 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 didn't buy that:Judge Judy: I don't believe it. I don't believe that you hire a bouncer to come to two of your parties and you don't even know his first name. What do you call him, "hey"?
Defendant: We just call him Bouncer.
- Evil Laugh: Judge Judy isn't evil but she will laugh cartoonishly evilly when a litigant says something stupid or lies poorly.
- Evil Pays Better: One case involved a purse snatcher (the defendant) who had been injured when the boyfriend of the purse's owner (the plaintiff) chased him down, and subsequently sued his attacker's homeowner's insurance for damages and won. Judge Judy was incensed and couldn't believe an insurance adjuster actually bought the purse snatcher's story and awarded him money, saying it reminded her of a recent case in New York City in which a mugger who had just savagely attacked an elderly man was shot and paralyzed by police and was subsequently awarded a $4.3 million settlement. She usually doesn't second-guess the rulings of other judges or courts, but she won't let litigants get away with unjust enrichment if she can help it.
- 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."
- "Fawlty Towers" Plot: Judge Judy loves playing with this. Typically, a plaintiff and/or defendant starts with one lie then when she starts to ask questions, the person keeps continuing it on with more lies to until it gets to be so crazy that the person looks like a fool in the end.
- Frivolous Lawsuit: There are a number of cases that are frivolous that Judge Judy hears. She typically makes very short work of such cases, quickly chewing out the plaintiff for wasting her time before dismissing the suit. One of her most frivolous and laughable cases involved a plaintiff who sued the defendant for the $5,000 maximum for harassment and defamation (among other things). The plaintiff had broken windows out of a tractor trailer on the defendant's property and had been ordered to pay the defendant over $300 in restitution, but at the time the full amount was due still had an unpaid balance of $80, which forced the defendant to hunt her down at work to serve her with a small-claims summons in order to finally collect the rest of the judgment. Judge Judy didn't buy the plaintiff's Insane Troll Logic, pointing out that the whole thing could have been avoided if she'd paid what she owed and especially if she hadn't vandalized the defendant's property in the first place, and dismissed the case:
- Judge Judy: Do you think that there is a snowball's chance in hell that I am going to award you a quarter against this lady?!
- Fun with Acronyms: In some older cases, when a litigant (usually a child) tried to blame someone else for some wrongdoing:Judge Judy: When I was in family court, we used to call that the SODDI principle. S.O.D.D.I. - "Some Other Dude Did It."
- 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, such as a plaintiff trying to interrupt Judge Judy, while he was winning the case: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!
- Get Out!: Occasionally used by Judge Judy, usually with litigants (and witnesses) who don't follow her instructions to not talk while she or the other litigant is speaking. As in this instance, if the person persists in talking despite Judge Judy's warnings, they will be ejected from the courtroom and whatever case they have will be dismissed.
- Give Me Back My Wallet: One case stemmed from an incident in which the defendant stole the plaintiff's girlfriend's purse at a nightclub, and the defendant was injured in the scuffle once the plaintiff chased him down to get the purse back. The crux of the plaintiff's case was that the defendant had sued the plaintiff's homeowners insurance and, much to Judge Judy's chagrin, had been granted financial damages for a situation he caused, which caused the plaintiff's premiums to increase. Judge Judy was incensed that the defendant's claim for damages had been deemed valid, and also didn't buy the defendant's story that he thought it was his own girlfriend's purse that he had taken. She awarded the plaintiff the full amount of his $5,000 claim.
- Good Is Not Nice: Judge Judy's first objective, before entertaining, is to find the truth. It doesn't mean that she won't have biting comments for everyone involved, especially if the person who is owed money isn't free of culpability extraneous to the particular case she is overseeing.
- HA HA HA No: Often whenever a litigant says something outrageous, Judge Judy will pretend to laugh only to then lay down the law.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Judge Judy has one when litigants either act stupid, try to act "cool," or are lying on the stand and think they can get away with it:Judge Judy: Your hot temper started this whole mess! My hot temper's gonna finish it!
- Hairstyle Inertia: With a few minor tweaks, Judge Judy's hairstyle remained more or less the same from the series premiere in 1996 until March 2019, when the 76-year-old judge unveiled a new, more youthful look, with her former bouffant gone and a short, clip-on ponytail at the base of her neck. The new look has been compared to that of associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
- Hanging Judge: Averted. Judge Judy does try to follow the letter of the law, admitting that her hands are tied on a few cases. And while she's rather mean to everyone, she at least tries to be fair in her rulings. That said, don't expect to get away with things in the long run; someone might win the case, but their reputation will be destroyed in the process once word gets out about them.
- Hollywood Restraining Order:
- There have been a handful of cases where people believe a restraining order works like this. One example is where a former girlfriend filed a restraining order and her ex-boyfriend thought the restraining order only meant he couldn't touch her, not show up to her work and stare at her while getting his current girlfriend to beat up on the victim. Judge Judy points out that Hollywood isn't real life and even shows the restraining order to prove her case.
- This also goes the other way. People who come to sue believe that with a restraining order, they can use the order to get money. One case had a man who got a restraining order on his sister in-law's husband. The plaintiff would purposely walk and cause trouble to the defendant just to get him arrested and then sued for the defendant breaking the restraining order. Judge Judy threw out the case and had to remind the plaintiff that it is an order for protecting him from the defendant, not becoming a bully and said that now for his actions and greed, the defendant has a strong case for removing the restraining order.
- Some litigants create trumped-up restraining orders to evict an unwanted tenant or to bar a live-in former lover from their premises. Judge Judy won't let them get away with this and will chastise them for wasting law enforcement authorities' time and resources.
- Homeschooled Kids: One case involved a grandmother who was suing her grandson's other grandmother for assault. The boy was in the custody of the defendant and her son (the boy's father), and Judge Judy was outraged to learn that the defendant and her son, neither of whom had completed high school, had been home-schooling the boy for the past several months. After pointing out that taking the boy, who had been an honor student, out of school (allegedly because he had severe asthma) was a serious form of neglect, Judge Judy advised the plaintiff to do whatever she could to obtain custody of her grandson. Just before ruling in favor of the plaintiff's complaint in the amount of $2500, Her Honor also announced that she was sending a tape of the episode to Social Services in Fort Worth, Texas (where the defendants resided), which drew thunderous applause from the gallery.
- Honest John's Dealership: There are a lot of people, both plaintiffs and defendants, that work like this with scams and people who are selling cars. Typically, Judge Judy will spot these people and call them out. She'll also educate the victims how these are spotted.
- Hypocrite: When Joseph Wapner criticized Sheindlin's behavior, she responded with:Judge Judy: 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.
- I Never Said It Was Poison:
- This Epic Fail at least amused Judge Judy and everyone else. The gist of it is that the plaintiff sued the defendants for stealing her wallet and listed some of its contents. One of the defendants then denied that one of the items was in the wallet, thus accidentally admitting that they stole the plaintiff's wallet and went through it, since that's the only way the defendant could have known what was in it.
- In a case that aired on December 4, 2018, a woman who was being sued by her former friend for vandalizing his car. The plaintiff's evidence included a series of Post-It notes on which the defendant had allegedly scrawled an incoherent confession. The defendant denied writing the notes, but when Judge Judy asked the defendant to explain what "shermed" meant, this exchange occurred, which helped win the case for the plaintiff:Defendant: I was... I was drunk.
Judge Judy: You were drunk?
Defendant: That's what that means. That's what it supposed to mean.
Judge Judy: Okay, good. Glad. Raise your hand if you did the vandalizing. [laughs]
- Another case had a woman, who was raising six young adopted kids, was suing her 18-year-old daughter for wrecking a car. The car was a vintage Mustang and Judge Judy pointed out that it wasn't the type of car for a family. The daughter claimed the car was birthday gift when she turned 18. Judge Judy wanted proof that the car wasn't a birthday gift and asked the plaintiff about the car she brought for the 18th birthday. The plaintiff started to talk about the wreck car she brought for her 18th birthday but noticed she slipped up and tired to correct herself. Judge Judy saw right though it and dismissed the case.
- In another car vandalism case, the defendant was being accused by her ex-boyfriend of vandalizing his car three times on the same day, including throwing a flower pot through the windshield, denting the car with a rock, and attempting to break out the rear window with a brick. The defendant slipped up not once, not twice, but three times, despite her insistence that she wasn't guilty. She kept talking out of turn, piping up to point out that nobody saw her vandalize the car. The third time clinched the case for the plaintiff: the defendant pointed out that the car didn't run anymore, which led to this exchange:Defendant: No, I'm just saying, like, that's why he doesn't drive his car. It's not 'cause of what I di- I mean, what he thinks...
[Uproarious laughter from audience]
Judge Judy: What a dummy. Oh my God! So glad we did this case first today. [more audience laughter] Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $2500. You're getting the $2500 partially to fix the stuff on your car, and partially because this was the most fun I've had in a long time. [more audience laughter]
- Implausible Deniability: Defendants who try to do this will inevitably cause Judge Judy to use one of her catchphrases:Judge Judy: You know what my father used to say to me? He used to say to me, "Don't pee on my leg and tell it's raining."
- Induced Hypochondria: One Ungrateful Bastard defendant, rather than repay a loan that his ex-girlfriend had given him, told his ex that he had been diagnosed with gonorrhea and that she had given it to him. The plaintiff's test came back clean, and she came to Judge Judy's court seeking not only the return of the loan but several hundred dollars more for emotional distress. After calling the defendant an idiot, Judge Judy awarded the plaintiff the entire amount of the lawsuit, expressing regret that she wasn't suing for more because she would have been entitled to more.
- Informed Judaism: Judge Judy often peppers her cross-examinations with Yiddish terms and phrases.
- Instrumental Theme Tune: The narration notwithstanding. Since 2004, her show's theme music has been a jazzed-up adaptation of Ludwig van Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Before then, the show used an original piece of score music composed by Bill Bodine.
- 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.
- Insurance Fraud: There are a lot of people who are trying to claim or already claimed the insurance for something that they had no legal right too. Judge Judy will quickly shut them down and will claim that she hopes the insurance company is watching and sometimes has threatened to send the tape to the insurance company.
- Is This Thing Still On?: In one case, Judge Judy had to go back for a moment to take medication for sore throat. The plaintiff then bragged to the defendant how he should have done his research on the show, how he's going to get a good deal from the $4,000 lawsuit on a $2,000 car, and generally being an idiot. Then Judge Judy returned, saying there's a television in her room where she could watch "Waddell being an idiot".
- Judge Judy herself, who always speaks her mind, regardless of the litigants' feelings. Then again, the truth hurts.
- A number of plaintiffs and defendants are jerks to people. Judge Judy normally lets them know why she is in charge.
- 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, she's actually justified in her behavior because, unlike your average everyday rational person who can be reasoned with by logic and civility, many of the people who appear on her show are so perpetually clueless that nothing but jerkass behavior will wake them up to reality.
- This on occasion applies with the litigants themselves, when Judge Judy admonishes a litigant for doing the wrong thing, but admits she can understand why they did it. For example, in a 2002 case, a woman was being sued for pouring a soft drink over the plaintiff's head in a movie theater. She said she'd done it because the plaintiff and his guest, having already arrived late, talked during the whole movie, and then cussed her out her when she asked them to be quiet. Judge Judy made it clear that while the defendant had no right to act as she did, she admonished the plaintiff for his rude behavior and ultimately awarded him only a fraction of the several thousand dollars he was suing for, further advising him to seek psychiatric help.
- 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. This is especially the case if innocent children are victimized. Additionally, when she's not in the courtroom, Judge Judy's a sweet grandmother.
- The Judge: One guess. Legally speaking, Judge Judy isn't acting as a judge; she's a third-party mediator that both the plaintiff and the defendant agree will make a decision about the case on their behalf. It's why she can get away with a lot of Courtroom Antics that would never fly in an actual courtroom.
- Karma Houdini:
- Judge 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 the show 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.
- Plaintiffs get chastised for their bad behavior as often as defendants do, and sometimes end up losing their cases because of it, as in the case of the teenage girl who sued her ex-boyfriend for wrecking her car while acting as a designated driver so she could drink underage.note or the woman who sued her lover's husband for damaging her car, but ended up losing the case because of alienation of affection when she admitted she'd continued seeing her lover even after she found out he was married.
- There have been cases in which Judge Judy has had to rule in favor of a litigant whose behavior she found morally reprehensible because she had no choice. When this happens, she's quick to let the winning party know that she doesn't believe he or she deserves the judgment and is only ruling as she is because her hands are tied. On occasion, though, the monetary awards she has given to such litigants have been humorously minuscule- one young woman who had been driving recklessly through a residential neighborhood and who had been suing a neighbor for pummeling her car to get her to stop was awarded a verdict of one dollar. Even then, they still have to deal with embarrassment and negative publicity.
- Klatchian Coffee: Judge Judy once halted a case because the plaintiff's behavior was so bizarre that she questioned whether the plaintiff was drunk or on drugs and asked her to submit to a drug test before she would continue with the case. The drug test came back clean, but the plaintiff admitted to having had five shots of espresso before coming to court. Judge Judy advised her to curb her coffee consumption.
- 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.
- Like Reality Unless Noted: Despite the TV cameras and studio lights, despite the fact that it takes place in Studio City, California rather than an actual courthouse, despite it being explicitly filmed for broadcast entertainment, Judge Judy would like you to know that her authority as legal arbiter is very real. She considers her courtroom a real court and she expects everyone — litigant, witness and gallery alike — to conform to proper courtroom decorum and respect. "This may be a television court, but it is still a court!"
- Literal-Minded: One defendant being sued for non-payment of rent misunderstood Judge Judy's "You ate the steak" analogy and thought the judge was talking about actual steak.
- Living Lie Detector: Judge Judy herself is, in her own words, a "Truth Machine". Very rarely does she acknowledge the possibility that she even might be wrong:Judge Judy: I could be wrong. I was wrong once in 1942.
- Loophole Abuse: There are some litigants who will try to take advantage of this. However, due to her role as an arbitrator, Judge Judy will close the loophole once she's aware of it.
- Love Makes You Crazy:Judge Judy: People do stupid things when they're in love. That's why I've been in business so long.
- Lured into a Trap: Judge Judy has entertained several cases involving teenagers (typically girls) accused of luring friends or acquaintances into traps to be assaulted. In these cases, she often saves her harshest words for the parents of the defendants, especially if they make excuses for their child's behavior or suggest that their child isn't responsible.
- Malicious Slander:
- It's one of the most common causes of action litigants sue for, and they usually lose, either because they can't prove that the opposing party made the allegedly slanderous comments maliciously, or because said comments were in fact true (for example, a defendant who stiffed the plaintiff on the sale of a car and countersued for defamation because the plaintiff called them a scammer on the Internet doesn't have a leg to stand on). Sometimes, though, Judge Judy determines these cases to have merit, particularly if the charges made are particularly egregious, such as accusing the opposing party of being a child predator or of having a sexually transmitted disease, and if the accuser had no proof or knew the accusations to be false. One plaintiff who was suing her ex-boyfriend for a loan not only had her case dismissed but lost on her ex's $2500 countersuit after Judge Judy determined she'd made and distributed slanderous fliers accusing the defendant of having an STD.
- There is a few cases where both parties have to agree the comments or news in question is slander. One case had a woman suing another woman over a horse rescue newspaper article where the plaintiff was written in nasty context about rescuing horses. The defendant had agreed the news article was slander and Judge Judy moved on with the case.
- On occasion, this goes hand in hand with Disproportionate Retribution. One case, circa 2008, involved a young couple who alleged that the husband's sister had called Child Services claiming that their child had been born drug-addicted and that they were neglectful parents who kept an untidy home. Judge Judy was originally going to dismiss the case because the plaintiffs couldn't prove they were clean at the time their child was born, but then the defendant admitted that her call to Child Services was made after she'd had an argument with her brother after which he allegedly threatened her and spread rumors about her. This admission convinced Judge Judy that the call was indeed made maliciously because the timing was so suspicious, and she ruled in the plaintiffs' favor in the amount of $5,000.
- 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. On the other hand, she'll severely roast Mama Bears or Papa Wolves who encourage, ignore or make excuses for bad behavior on the part of their children.
- The Napoleon: Judge Judy stands at a mere 5'1" (155cm), and is very outspoken with no patience for fools. She's also quick to point this out when it comes to litigants:Judge Judy: [after throwing a smart-alecky, argumentative defendant out of court] See what happens when you're short? You tend to become aggressive. And nasty. Aggressive and nasty.
- 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 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:Judge Judy: You know when a gift becomes a loan? When the relationship is over.
- There is cases in which a plaintiff will loan money to a friend more than once. If the person doesn't give back any money on the first loan before the second loan is asked for, Judge Judy will typically only be interested in the first loan. This is typically averted if the defendant did make payments on the original loan before a second loan is given as it proves the plaintiff had a expectation to be paid back:Judge Judy: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.
- Never Mess with Granny: Judge Judy is one of the most intimidating people on television. She's tough as nails and doesn't take crap from anyone.
- 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. In one memorable case, a woman was suing the defendant as the defendant's son, who was 16 at the time, carjacked her, had a high speed chase with the police and crashed her car. The son claimed that it was the plaintiff's fault as it was her car (even though he stole it) and the police's fault as they set up barriers to stop him. Even his own father couldn't believe what he was hearing.
- New Media Are Evil: Invoked in one episode in which Judge Judy offered this interpretation of the social networking website MySpace:Judge Judy: MySpace is one of those Internet sites where people who have nothing better to do with their time go and chat about a whole bunch of nonsense. ... You know, I've always said we could eliminate probably about a third of the problems in this country if people actually had to shovel coal in a furnace for heat, instead of wasting their time doing things other than the useful things for which computers were designed.
- 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 does this since the start of the 2010s, though she's certainly not above making snarky comments about a person's attire. This includes questioning litigants about whether they'd wear such an outfit to a funeral or to church.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
- Whenever Judge Judy drops her combative tone and speaks softly, it's either because she's really and truly pissed off or she genuinely feels for whomever she's addressing. The latter is especially evident when she's addressing children and (some) teenagers, because she dealt with a lot worse when she was a judge in Manhattan Family Court and is genuinely a Mama Bear for young people who have been genuinely handed a bad lot in life. One notable example is when Judge Judy awarded the plaintiff much more than she originally asked for after she heard the testimony of plaintiff's daughter, who tearfully talked about how the defendant, her aunt, threw out her belongings following a misunderstanding. Some of the things the defendant threw out were pictures and belongings of her niece's deceased father.
- She'll drop her combative tone whenever she is dealing with someone who is trying to stay sober and is currently in a program or is activity working to get clean of drugs. She says that she understands that it is very hard to stay clean and doesn't want to cause them to fall off the wagon.
- There are a few cases where Byrd had to drop his stoicism personality and physically stand between the parties or break up small fights between the parties. While he has never physically stop a fight (they have bodyguards for the full assaults that have happened) he has been able to defuse the parties such as stopping a plaintiff from punching the defendant while leaving the court and talking with the upset party.
- Off on a Technicality: Some cases are ruled differently than anyone would like due to a technicality, such as the current law being in favor of one party, another pending court case or unsigned documents. One example is where a boyfriend was suing his ex for a loan, but she was countering for harassment as he posted nude photos of her on an adult dating site. It was clear that he was the guilty party. However, because the counterclaim document wasn't signed saying that he received the claim, Judge Judy had to dismiss the counterclaim without prejudice because the court documents weren't in order. She would dismiss his original suit, though.
- Parental Neglect: As a former family court judge, one thing Judge Judy will absolutely not tolerate is deadbeat parents (whether fathers or mothers). One case involved a father suing his children's grandmother for the return of child support money she had received while the children were in their mother's custody. Judge Judy became furious when she learned that the plaintiff hadn't contributed one cent to make up for child support arrears incurred during a two-year period when he was incarcerated. Not surprisingly, his complaint was dismissed.
- Point-and-Laugh Show: Lots of stupid people appear on this show and try to fool Judge Judy. In the end, they look like fools on national TV.
- Police Brutality: Averted. A handful of cases have involved traffic cops suing for defamation and associated damages when the motorists to whom they gave speeding tickets accused them of brutality and unprofessional conduct:
- One defendant, a young woman, complained to the police department after she was unable to talk her way out of her speeding ticket; another, who was of Iranian descent, accused the cop of racial profiling. Both plaintiffs had recorded the traffic stops in question, and the recordings proved that they had been courteous and professional at all times; thus, they won, and the defendants, one of whom had even filed a $5,000 counterclaim for emotional distress, received severe admonishments from the judge.
- Another case was where a police officer was suing for defamation and damages after a motorist claimed that he was unprofessional and the officer called the motorist stupid. The defendant first said the officer said, "You are stupid if you fight this" then changed his story by saying, "Don't be stupid". However, when the officer's recording was played, the defendant was the one fighting with the officer over the ticket and said this is stupid, while the officer was professional. Judge Judy gave the defendant a lashing saying that because of his false report to the police, the officer still had the report on his record.
- Sadly played straight on a 2006 episode. While the defendant wasn't an active police officer, he was an ex-police officer who was laid off due to budget cuts, the plaintiff, who was the ex-wife of the defendant, was suing over a false arrest. The police officer who showed up was a friend of the defendant and forcibly grabbed and pushed the plaintiff around, causing injury and finding anything to arrest her on. While Judge Judy had to dismiss the case because she was suing the wrong person, she advised the plaintiff to sue the department, which the plaintiff was already in process of doing.
- Precision F-Strike: This rarely happens and typically the word is muted out, but when Judge Judy curses, she's truly pissed:Defendant: Your honor, I don't owe her any money.
Judge Judy: I don't give a rat's *censored* what you think. Good bye.note
- Quit Your Whining: Judge Judy is unmoved by litigants who try to evoke her sympathy by going into tearful hysterics or by pouring out their life stories if a case isn't going their way:Judge Judy: [to a plaintiff in hysterical tears about the destruction of her grandmother's china] I want you to stop getting hysterical over NOTHING! ... It was a misunderstanding!
Judge Judy: You say no, I say yes; I win, I'm the judge. Goodbye.
- Read the Fine Print: Comes up a lot in a majority of cases, typically a contract was signed and the other party admits that they didn't read the fine print on the contract. Judge Judy points out that when you sign a contract that means you agree to the terms, even if they are unfair terms because you agreed to them.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Judge Judy's a master of this. She saves the worst of her barbs for people she considers to be very outrageous.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: She may be harsh, but Judge Judy is an arbitrator 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. Except when one litigant's conduct turns out to be so outrageous that she determines there's no reason to hear both sides.
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Judge Judy and Byrd. She gets furious at the drop of a hat, while he almost always expresses absolute stoicism.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder: Judge Judy makes a comment about "rocket science", which the defendant interprets as a request for information.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: The infamous "rocket science" girl was from Alamo, California, a very affluent San Francisco suburb. She didn't seem to comprehend that a good person would replace a friend's property she damaged accidentally or not respond to a rhetorical question.
- 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 Judge Judy to have her act as an arbitrator.
- Saying Too Much:
- There are some cases where this has happened. One example is where Judge Judy was questioning the defendant about his use of the plaintiff's credit card. She originally thought that the plaintiff gave the credit card to the defendant to buy something to help with his work, but he spent it on personal items. However, after she started to rule that the defendant had to pay back the loan and was about to leave, the plaintiff started to talk about how he always did this to her in their relationship. Judge Judy stopped and warned the plaintiff not to talk; however, she didn't listen as she talked about the previous times she gave him money. Judge Judy then dismissed the case as she found out the money spent was in fact a gift and not a loan.
- There was another case where a plaintiff was suing his ex-wife for unreimbursed medical expenses. He presented a court order that claimed she was responsible for 50% of said expenses, which Judge Judy was satisfied with. But the guy continued to rant and vent about how she's continued to make his life miserable, which Judge Judy wasn't interested, insisting she wasn't Dr. Phil. In his ranting, he mentioned another order, which Judge Judy insisted on seeing. This order claimed both parties would decide how to split expenses. With this new evidence, Judge Judy insisted the guy get therapy for his anger problems, and this order made his case legally unenforcable, and she dismissed it.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!:
- This is Judge Judy's reaction once she is done with a case. If she does come back to the bench, it's either to berate a litigant and/or witness or she hears some new information she didn't know about.
- Some cases are cut short because the plaintiff and/or defendant walk out of the court (on their own or Judge Judy throws them out). Typically, the person left wins by default for what they were asking (and their adversary's claim is dismissed) unless the trial got far enough along before the person left that Judge Judy can rule on it:
- One example is where a sister was suing the other sister. The plaintiff was talking about unpaid rent and loans. When it was the defendant's turn, she starts to talk about why she didn't pay then said "I can't do this" and walks out. Judge Judy and the plaintiff were both stunned, and Judge Judy ruled in favor of the plaintiff for her original amount.
- Circa 2013: A dispute between two sisters over the sale of a Schnauzer puppy. When it became clear that the case was not going in the defendant's favor, the defendant said, "I can't do this." Without missing a beat, Judge Judy yelled, "BYE!", ruled in the plaintiff's favor and dismissed the defendant's counterclaim.
- Another case in which a driver was suing for damage to his car and hiring someone to find her after she gave him false information. When the defendant started to talk, she went into a huge Insane Troll Logic speech about why she didn't have to pay and she kept talking over Judge Judy to the point that Judge Judy had enough and had her escorted out. Judge Judy asked the plaintiff for the information. She then rules in favor of him for the amount that he asked as she was tired of listening to the defendant and said he could have gotten more if he asked for it.
- In another memorable case, a plaintiff sued her former husband for a loan. During her questioning, Judge Judy found out that the plaintiff was a deadbeat mom who had not paid child support in years, and chewed her out for it, telling her that if she were a good mother, she'd let the loan go instead of demanding repayment. At this point, the plaintiff cursed under her breath and stormed out of the courtroom through the side door, slamming it loudly. Judge Judy calmly informed the defendant that the plaintiff's case was dismissed.
- Sometimes Judge Judy will let a litigant return to the courtroom if they're able to control or compose themselves. In one early case, the defendant, sued by her ex-boyfriend for stalking and harassment and ejected from court for not being able to control herself when Judge Judy called her a liar, angrily refused when she was invited back into the courtroom. She could even be heard backstage angrily saying, "She won't call me a liar on national TV."
- A case in 2018 in which the plaintiff had brought a house and put his girlfriend on the deed. When they broke up, she refused to sign over her half of the house. When he went to court, the defendant kept talking over him and going into Insane Troll Logic over how he would burn her alive and tie her up in a secret basement under the house and kept talking to the plaintiff. Judge Judy had enough and ejected her from court while dismissing her claim. She also had to dismissed the plaintiff's claim as she didn't have the authority to force the defendant to sign over the deed.
- One case involved a dog rescue group which the plaintiff was a fostering the dog and was promised $50 a week to care for the dog. After two months the group (the defendants) had another person who wanted the foster the dog, but for free, so they offered the plaintiff to buy the dog and wave the adoption fee of $350. When the group sent over the adoption agreement, the plaintiff wanted to take the agreement to her cousin who was an attorney but waited 2 months, then didn't sign the agreement and sued the rescue group for $700 for the money she thought she was owed while the the defendants waited for the signed agreement. When Judge Judy told her she wasn't going to get the money and told her to sign the agreement or give up the dog, she quickly walked out of court and left the dog without saying a word.
- Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: There are a surprising number of people who come to Judge Judy to sue for very small amounts of money as they just want the rules followed or to show the law and rules were on their side. Judge Judy will typically point out how there are not many nice people anymore:
- One case had a defendant who was punch over a fence and property line issue but only counter suing for removal fees and $1, mainly for the plaintiff to apologize for causing the issue in the first time.
- Another case had a plaintiff sue her ex-husband, an ex-cop, for a false arrest. While Judy Judy said that she should sue the police department and had to dismiss the case with her ex-husband, the plaintiff clearly said that all she wanted was for someone to tell her ex-husband that he had no business doing what he did.
- Secret Test of Character: Jon Schirripa attempted to use this as an explanation for why he offered to sell two "adopted" dogs back to their original owners, once he began claiming that they abused the dogs. The Insane Troll Logic was swiftly disregarded.
- Judge Judy often references Johnny Carson's "Carnac" persona from The Tonight Show.Judge Judy: [telling a teenage defendant he'd be in for misfortunes including, but not limited to, having several children with several different women and being jailed for non-payment of child support, unless he straightened his life out] All these things, Mr. Beresford, are in your future. Carnac sees it!
- She also on occasion references Kathy Bates' character's car-ramming scene from Fried Green Tomatoes.
- In the aforementioned "hop on the car" case, Judge Judy also threw the idiot defendant's witness out of court for being a smart-aleck:Judge Judy: Mr. Warhol would be very, very unhappy with you, sir. You just lost your 15 minutes of fame.
- Judge Judy often references Johnny Carson's "Carnac" persona from The Tonight Show.
- 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.
- Even when there is a legal issue that Judge Judy is unaware of, she will research it before the case or stop the trial to do so. One example is a man claiming that he had an Alford Plea for hitting the plaintiff's car and said that an Alford Plea was used for not being charged with the crime. Judge Judy stopped the case to do research. When she came out, she gave the defendant a tongue lashing as she found out the defendant lied to her as an Alford Plea is when a defendant doesn't admit to committing a crime, but does admit that there's enough evidence to convict them.
- Smoking Is Not Cool: As a former smoker herself, Judge Judy knows how unhealthy it is and occasionally calls out parents for smoking around their children or in such a way that their kids could be exposed to secondhand smoke.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: A lot of defendants try to pull this, but Judy undoubtedly sees through it.
- "Real cases. Real people. Judge Judy."
- "The people are real. The cases are real. The rulings are final." This was used in the introduction of the show until the 2015-16 season.
- "Want justice? [or "Are you in a family dispute?", "Have you been cheated?", etc.] Go to JudgeJudy.com. Like us on Facebook. And follow us on Twitter."note
- Talking Your Way Out: A number of both plaintiffs and defendants try to employ this, but Judge Judy always reminds people that she will do things her way and trying to use this is a good way to get your case dismissed.Judge Judy: This is my playpen.
- Taught by Experience: When it comes to alienating parents, ambulance chasers encouraging a Frivolous Lawsuit that gets dismissed, and many more, Judge Judy will often call out on the same patterns behind the scenes for all of the above and be right even before the witness gives testimony. As she is wont to say in such cases, "I've seen it all before."
- Teens Are Monsters: Judge Judy is a staunch believer in this because the teens that typically appear on the show provide evidence for it:Judge Judy: I've raised several teenagers, so I know that the first thing that teenagers do when they open their mouths is lie.
- There Is No Higher Court: Which is actually Truth in Television unlike most iterations of this. Arbitration awards cannot be appealed except on very narrow grounds. On rare occasions, Judge Judy will dismiss a case without prejudice, particularly if she determines the case before her to be premature. Usually, however, when a case is dismissed, it is with prejudice and without appeal, even if the litigant has forgotten to bring the necessary evidence. Legally speaking, this means that the case can't be brought before a court ever again.
- They Call Me Mister Tibbs: Litigants who act too familiar with Judge Judy will often get a dressing down. This is often Played for Laughs, as seen in a case that aired on May 20, 2019:Defendant: Which do you prefer, "Ma'am" or "Your Honor"?
Judge Judy: I prefer "Your Majesty." You can call me "Your Honor."
- Too Dumb to Live: Many of the litigants, which the judge frequently points out:Judge Judy: I'm not going to waste one further moment on this case. Between these two [indicating defendant and witness], I don't think I could put together a three-digit IQ.
- Took a Level in Kindness:
- In her guest appearances on her series' spinoff show, Hot Bench, Judge Judy was considerably less snarky and vitriolic than on her own show. She even herself admitted, when deliberating with her colleagues, that she surprised herself at how much of a "softie" she'd become with regard to the case in question.
- She's much more likely to speak gently to children. Not to teenagers, however - she's said that grilling teenagers is one of the things she enjoys most about her job.
- She's much more likely to be kind and respectful on the rare occasions she takes testimony from witnesses over the telephone.
- Toxic Friend Influence: Illustrated by Judge Judy's "Blueberry Rule":Judge Judy: Common sense dictates that if you buy a quart of blueberries and all the blueberries are nice, plump, juicy blueberries and one of them is moldy, and you say, "You know what? The fair thing to do is to not take out this moldy blueberry and make it feel bad. I'm gonna leave this moldy blueberry in the box and hope that all the healthy blueberries will make it well." ... And it's been my experience that the moldy blueberry doesn't get well from the well blueberries. What happens is, all the blueberries get moldy. So that when you have a very small number of children who are disrespectful, who are impeding the teacher from teaching the other kids who want to say, "Can you be quiet? I want to learn! I don't want to grow up to be a dummy! I want to be able to say a whole sentence without using the word 'like'!" They can't do that, because we leave in the moldy blueberries instead of taking them out.
- The Unfair Sex: Averted. Judge Judy is impartial when it comes to genders. As she often says herself, "I am an ecumenical abuser." This particularly shines through in cases involving two feuding parents in which the mother has taken some action to prevent the father from seeing the child. Judge Judy is always quick to let the mother know that, under the laws of every state in the Union, mothers have no more inherent rights to their children than fathers do: the child has two parents, who are regarded under the law as equals.
- Ungrateful Bastard:
Judge Judy: If she just left the dog to die, you would be in her spot saying, "Oh boo hoo... she let our dog, that the children loved, die."
- 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.
- An example that occurs often is one where the plaintiff lets a defendant who is either a friend, lover, or family member stay with them because they fell on hard times, or lent them money or materiel items for the same reason, only for the defendant to take advantage of the plaintiff's generosity, having no intention of paying them back or making good on a deal resulting in them falling into some kind of serious debt. Depending on the strength of the case, the plaintiff will either win, or get a lecture from Judge Judy about the risk of trusting people before dismissing the case.
- Another example is a case in which the plaintiff was looking over the dog for her neighbor while the neighbor was away on vacation. The dog got sick and since the defendant didn't leave a phone number and the plaintiff couldn't get in touch, she took the dog to the vet. The vet found a serious illness and the plaintiff paid to get the dog healthy. When the defendants returned, they found out and said that if the dog was that sick, they would have put it down as they don't have the money to afford treatment. However, they refused the pay the plaintiff for anything. Judge Judy said that the plaintiff did what any normal person would do and if the plaintiff didn't do anything, the roles would be in reverse:
- 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?"
- Vehicular Sabotage: A good number cases that appear are about repairs for a car after the plaintiff and/or defendant damaged the car. The cases range from scratching the car to putting sugar in the gas tank.
- Vigilante Man: Judge Judy has no patience or sympathy for litigants who take the law into their own hands instead of letting law enforcement professionals handle a situation. One memorable case involved a 16-year-old boy who had thrown a chair at a motorist's car to stop her from speeding. Judge Judy thoroughly eviscerated the boy's parents (both in court as defendants), who maintained that the plaintiff deserved what she got because she had been speeding, and told them that if the plaintiff had been killed, their son would have faced manslaughter charges:Judge Judy: Whether she was speeding, whether she was toking up in the car, whether she was drinking- if he threw a chair at her car and she lost control of the car and she were killed, you would be visiting [your son] in States Prison! And if you don't get that, I can't do anything about it! You're too old and too thick!
- What Does She See in Him?: Often invoked by Judge Judy in cases where two women are squaring off in a dispute over a man, especially if said man happens to be in court as a witness for one of the parties. It often involves Judy putting on her reading glasses and taking a good hard look at the man, muttering, "I must be missing something."Judge Judy: You two are fighting over him? HE'S NOT A PRIZE!Judge Judy: [to defendant] If you were the trophy at the end of my race, I would walk backwards.
- With Friends Like These...: A memorable case, originally aired as a two-parter, involved a teenage girl who was beaten to a pulp by two bullies and accused her former best friend of setting her up. The defendant insisted she was innocent, but the objective evidence suggested otherwise, particularly the fact that the defendant had been seen conversing with the two bullies on several occasions before the assault took place, despite knowing that the plaintiff was having trouble with these girls. After thoroughly eviscerating the defendant for her outrageous behavior and the defendant's mother for making excuses for her daughter, Judge Judy awarded the plaintiff $5,000, to applause from the gallery.
- Yiddish as a Second Language:Judge Judy: [to plaintiff] You tell me one bubbe meise, I find everything else that you say to me suspect! [turns to Byrd] That's a "grandma story."
Byrd: I know.
Judge Judy: A "grandma story"! It refers to the stories grandmothers tell, when they tend to exaggerate! It means it's an untruth!
- You Are the New Trend: Not the first court show, but its success opened the floodgates for dozens of new court shows, including a revival of the original courtroom reality show, The People's Court. This includes several others produced by Big Ticket Television, including Judge Joe Brown, the second season of Swift Justice, and Hot Bench, which was created by Judge Judy herself.
- You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry: Judge Judy invokes this on occasion when warning litigants to tell her the truth, or else:Judge Judy: [to a young football player being sued by his prom date for standing her up] If you lie to me, I'll wipe up the floor with you worse than anyone else who's ever tackled you.
- You're Insane!: Often invoked by Judge Judy when a litigant says something particularly ridiculous:Judge Judy: [to a defendant being sued by her cousin for incurring traffic fines while using the plaintiff's identity] Now, you have thirty seconds to tell me why you don't owe those fines!
Defendant: Because I thought she [the plaintiff] was doing community service.
Judge Judy: Are you out of your mind? Are you OUT OF YOUR MIND?! She's NOT doing community service for you! Why should she do community service for you? What are YOU doing?
- 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:Judge Judy: How many?
Defendant: About four.
Judge Judy: About four? What do you mean, about four? What does that mean, about four?
Defendant: Um... about four of them, including... um... your daughter.
Judge Judy: What are you talking about?
Defendant: It was just a joke, ma'am. [pause]
Judge Judy: Let me explain something to you, Fresh Mouth. I'm the only one who makes jokes. And I'm not making a joke...
Defendant: This might be your show, but this is my episode!
Judge Judy: [amidst gasps in the audience] No, no, no. No, no, no. You listen to me! You don't have an episode! What you have to do is just answer questions. That is why you came here. To answer questions, so that I could gather information. Do you understand?
Defendant: Kind of. Yeah.
Judge Judy: Good, well perhaps if you'd stayed in school a little longer and stayed out of the bedroom, you'd understand better.