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 the legal disputes on the show are indeed real cases — similar legal disputes could be found in a typical small claims court. But Sheindlin is not acting as a judge for these cases (though she was a real judge for many years, having passed the New York State bar exam in 1965 and serving for many years in family courts). 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 a legal role as an arbiter, a neutral third-party in a small claims 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. The change comes amid legal wrangling between Sheindlin and CBS over profits from the sale of her show's catalog to CBS. Sheindlin will move on to a new show called Judy Justice, which will air on Amazon's iMDB-TV streaming service, currently slated for premiere in December 2021. Sheindlin has said the new show will be similar to Judge Judy in that it will feature her settling disputes with legally binding arbitration, and that several of the Judge Judy staff will follow her to the new show.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 25th and final season was quite different from previous seasons. Steve Kamer took over as the new series announcer on September 28, 2020, replacing the late Jerry Bishop, who had passed away on April 21. Judge Judy appeared via teleconference and there was no studio audience, with only Byrd and the socially distanced litigants on set. Litigants displayed evidence from their lecterns instead of having it collected by Byrd, and if Judge Judy needed to take testimony over the phone, she made the call from her bench, not her office. Litigants also remained at their lecterns for their post-case interviews, rather than moving into the hallway. This season also contained more reruns of previously aired cases from as far back as 2014, which were easily spotted due to the presence of the studio audience, Judge Judy's old hairdo, and (for full episodes recycled from previous seasons) the extended taglines in the intro and Jerry Bishop's voiceovers.
Judge Judy contains examples of the following:
- 419 Scam: Several litigants have fallen prey to this or to variants thereof. Some notable examples:
- Circa 2015: The plaintiff agreed to cash some money orders given to her by her friend's brother and his wife, and found out after the money (totaling $1990) had been taken out of her account that the money orders were fraudulent. The female defendant claimed she had received the money orders as part of a work-from-home accounts payable job that required her to cash money orders sent to her by a shadowy person named "Leslie," keep a small amount for herself as payment/commission, and then send the remainder to the person to whom the payments were due. Judge Judy read the Emails the female defendant had received from "Leslie" and mocked the defendants for their gullibility, asking them, "Did you graduate from elementary school?" The defendant claimed she had done research on the company and it seemed legitimate, to which Judge Judy pointed out that Email scams are very often sent by individuals claiming to represent real companies. The plaintiff won her case.
- Circa 2006: A mother sued her daughter for wrecking her car after the two had been out drinking together and the daughter had grabbed the steering wheel, causing the car to hit a tree. The daughter countersued, claiming she'd cashed a $2000 check her mother had received and given the money to her mother, who'd used the money for bills and a new car. Subsequently, the bank determined the check to be a scam and took $2000 out of the defendant's account, and the defendant was suing her mother for the $2000 she'd lost due to the scam. The plaintiff, who had received the check from a company known as "Inter-Global Lotto," felt it was the bank's responsibility to pursue that company so that her daughter could be reimbursed. Judge Judy scoffed at the plaintiff for being so foolish, saying her four-year-old grandson could tell this was a scam, and further advised the plaintiff never to go into global finance. She awarded the defendant $2000 and dismissed the plaintiff's case for her wrecked car, pointing out that the accident wouldn't have happened if the two parties hadn't been drinking.
- In a 2017 case, a Nigerian con artist 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 as opposed to one of her trademark HA HA HANo moments.
- 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 before tearing into the defendant.
- One little girl told Judge Judy that she wasn't beautiful because she was "old."
- In another case, the plaintiff's Yorkshire terrier, 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' case was dismissed, though not because the dog was disrupting the proceeding.
- On occasion, litigants have accidentally referred to Judge Judy as "Sir" and quickly corrected themselves. She has never taken offense, and 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 and is often met with a sarcastic response.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:Defendant: Your Honor, the Word of God says...
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 usually won't let them get away with it.note
- 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 increase the vitriol and, if the litigant continues to interrupt or protest, lead to Judge Judy giving up and dismissing the case or having Byrd take the litigant out of court.Judge Judy: I am an ecumenical abuser.
- Audience Participation: The audience will sometimes applaud when Judge Judy rules against a particularly odious litigant. And 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.
- One bizarre case involved a woman who was suing the defendant for shooting her in the head with a paintball gun. The defendant claimed that the plaintiff needed money for drugs and let him shoot her for $10. Judge Judy asked for a show of hands from audience members who would allow themselves to be shot in the head with a paintball for money. Again, no one raised a hand.
- Bad Liar: An almost Once an Episode occurrence on this show. Judge Judy can spot them a mile away and has a lot of fun with them.
- Berserk Button: Her Honor has several. Most of these can be avoided with simple politeness and common courtesy. But suffice to say, it's a long list, so much so that they now have their own separate page.
- 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. She keeps at her bench a newspaper clipping sent in by a viewer, featuring a letter from a heartbroken grandfather whose three-year-old grandchild was mauled by a pit bull, and often reads portions of this letter to the pit bull owners who come before her. She'll also often point out that there's a reason why most insurance companies won't cover pit bull attacks, and warns the owners of the big troubles coming their way if their dog attacks someone again, because they're now on notice.
- 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.Judge Judy: Beauty fades, dumb is forever.
- 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. It's also common for parents of teenagers to sue because their children's bar mitzvahs, sweet sixteen or quinceañera parties, etc. didn't go as they had planned. Judge Judy doesn't let these plaintiffs get their way and typically dismisses their cases, telling them that their only recourse is to not recommend the people again and reminding them that some mistakes are unavoidable, as she knows because of all the weddings, bar mitzvahs, etc. she's been to or arranged for family. They may also lose on the defendant's counterclaim if the counterclaim is for non-payment of services, because otherwise the plaintiffs will have "eaten the steak without paying for it."note
- 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': If Judge Judy is convinced that a litigant got away with some wrongdoing, she'll announce that she's sending a copy of the case to law enforcement authorities in the litigants' jurisdiction - or, in cases of financial fraud, even the Internal Revenue Service - so that the offending litigant can be prosecuted. She also sometimes holds monetary judgments in abeyance until the winner of the case can demonstrate that they've filed criminal charges against their adversary.
- 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.
- If a litigant comes to court with unclean hands, chances are pretty good their case will be quickly dismissed. Case in point: the plaintiff in a case aired February 25, 2021, who was suing the defendant for damage to his car caused by her dog when he hit and killed it, but whose case was swiftly thrown out when he admitted he had been driving without insurance, which is illegal.
- Sometimes Played for Laughs. 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."
- Catchphrase: Expect to hear at least a few of Her Honor's favorite phrases during a trial.
- 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 praised him, saying that if it wasn't for the video evidence, he would lost the case and she would have ruled in the defendant's favor.
- In another case, the plaintiff, a young woman, met the defendant for a blind date unaware that the defendant was a user of Twitch and would be streaming the date online. She claimed she wasn't aware she was being filmed until she heard the defendant's viewers cyberbullying her, as his phone's "virtual assistant" was converting the viewers' insults into speech. After watching the video, which contradicted the defendant's claim that the plaintiff knew all along she was being videoed, Judge Judy roasted the defendant for taking video of the plaintiff without her consent and awarded the plaintiff $5,000, calling the defendant a "narcissistic idiot."
- Some cases have been resolved via audio recordings as well - for example, the several cases she's had involving traffic stops in which the arresting officers were falsely accused of Police Brutality, and the audio recordings the officers had made of the stops showed that they had behaved appropriately.
- 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 hoped the immigration office was 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.
- A witness in a case about a bar fight.Witness: I'm a little nervous.
Judge Judy: There's no need to be nervous. Why are you nervous?
Witness: You're Judge Judy.
Judge Judy: *smiles* You're right.
- Another favorite expression of hers, when litigants admit to being nervous, is, "Try not to be too nervous. I only eat litigants on Thursdays."
- 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.
- Some litigants accomplish this by abusing the legal system, such as filing a baseless restraining order or complaint with Child Services, to punish an ex for cheating or to gain in advantage in a child custody dispute. Judge Judy will not stand for this and has said that people who abuse emergency services in this way should be jailed, because law enforcement's resources are strained enough in dealing with legitimate complaints.
- 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.
- A later case involved a woman who was suing the neighbor of her then-boyfriend, now-husband for filing a false police report. The case stemmed from an incident in which the plaintiff's boyfriend kicked her in the rear end after she tried to break off the relationship, and the defendant witnessed the ensuing struggle and called the police. The plaintiff's boyfriend lied to the cops and said his girlfriend had assaulted him (he had a bloody scrape on his elbow, which he admitted was the result of a mutual scuffle, not an assault), and the plaintiff was arrested. Judge Judy couldn't believe the plaintiff had married a man who had not only physically abused her but had thrown her under the bus, and dismissed her lawsuit, since the plaintiff had been arrested because of her boyfriend's lies, not because of the defendant calling the police.
- Drunk Driver: One case involved a defendant who was stopped once for speeding and another time for running a red light, and fraudulently gave the plaintiff's (her cousin's) identity to the arresting officer both times. The defendant admitted she was drunk the first time she was stopped - it was, after all, her 21st 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 and being somewhat glib 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 and being somewhat glib 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.
- Michael Stull was the announcer for the first season before Jerry Bishop took over.
- Judge Judy had a slightly-different looking hairdo and lace collar.
- 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.
- The earliest episodes used a different, more piano-based soundtrack, as well as a completely different intro using clips from several episodes.
- Originally, text showing what happened to the losing litigants after the case was used rather than interviews.
- 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?
- Embarrassing Tattoo: One case involved a 16-year-old who had gotten a tattoo of her then-boyfriend's name, and the girl's mother suing the tattoo parlor for money to have the tattoo removed. The owners of the tattoo parlor admitted that they hadn't checked the girl's ID to make sure she was of age because she looked like she was of age and gave no hints that she wasn't. Their defense was that they weren't responsible because the 16-year-old shouldn't have been in the parlor in the first place. After listening to the owners' Insane Troll Logic and determining that they were all "dumb as a bucket of rocks," Judge Judy finally had enough and awarded the plaintiff her judgment.
- 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.
- Everything Is Racist: Some litigants (usually defendants, but sometimes plaintiffs as well) claim the only reason they were arrested or cited by law enforcement for some wrongdoing they committed was that they were racially profiled (regardless of whether they were at fault in the incident at hand). Unless they have concrete evidence to back up their claims, Judge Judy won't hear it, because she can't consider a supposition that calls for the operation of someone's mind as evidence.
- 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."
- Excited Show Title!: One typically needs to look at electronic program guides to see these, but most of the cases feature excited episode titles, such as: "Internet Romeo Smackdown?!", "One More Reason Not to Live Together!", and "Nine-Year-Old Vandal and Liar?!"
- "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.Judge Judy: If you tell the truth, you don't have to have a good memory.
- 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.
- Grammar Nazi: Judge Judy was more of this early on, quickly correcting litigants for saying "I seen" instead of "I saw" or for saying "Me and my friend" instead of "My friend and I," or for using words like "conversate" (instead of "converse"). She's mellowed considerably in more recent years regarding incorrect grammar, since the dictionary has become more lenient in allowing words or forms of words that were previously considered incorrect. Using the word "basically," however, remains one of her Berserk Buttons, as is overuse of "like" as a filler. She'll also comment on any printed evidence she receives (i.e. text messages, Emails, contracts, etc.) which features poor English.
- In one case, she was shocked that a high-school student who claimed to have made a grade of 89 percent in her English class didn't know what the word "conduct" meant (as in "behavior").Judge Judy: [sighing] America's lost.
- In one case, she was shocked that a high-school student who claimed to have made a grade of 89 percent in her English class didn't know what the word "conduct" meant (as in "behavior").
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Some litigants who are not fluent in English require interpreters. Most often said litigants are Spanish speakers.
- Judge Judy often offers gratuitous Yiddish.
- HA HA HANo: 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 was compared to that of the late associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. For the 2020-21 season, Judge Judy made another tweak to the new hairstyle, wearing the clip-on ponytail at the back of her head rather than the base of her neck. She downplayed the significance of the hairstyle change in an interview with Hollywood Reporter:Its sort of funny. How could she change her hair? Its an iconic hairdo. No, its not. Its a lot of goop and teasing and product and fussing around by somebody else. This is so much easier. And as each hour in every day we have becomes more precious, the less you want to spend time patshkeing over the way you look.
- 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: Judge Judy becomes incensed when she comes across children who are being homeschooled by parents with no educational credentials. One case involved an eight-year-old boy who had been taken out of public school despite being an honor student and was now being educated by his father and his grandmother (the defendants in the case), neither of whom had even finished high school. Pointing out that this constituted Parental Neglect, Judge Judy announced she was sending a tape of the episode to Social Services and encouraged the plaintiff (the boy's other grandmother) to do whatever she could to obtain custody of the boy.
- 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 purse and listed some of its contents. One of the defendants then denied that one of the items was in the purse, thus accidentally admitting that they stole the plaintiff's purse 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.
- The 25th and final season adds an additional short instrumental interlude based on the Fifth Symphony before the case preview.
- 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 she finally reached her Rage Breaking Point after 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, the plaintiff was rude and acknowledged no responsibility in the incident. The judge ultimately awarded him only a fraction of the several thousand dollars he was suing for, further advising him to seek professional help:Judge Judy: There's a passive-aggressive side to you, sir. And I'm not sure what the diagnosis would be, but my sense is you probably need a few good hours on a psychiatrist's couch.
- 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.
- 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 - spewing Insane Troll Logic left and right and ignoring the judge's warnings to be quiet - 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. The plaintiff ended up winning part of her case despite her continued bizarre behavior, including asking Judge Judy for her autograph (for her mother, who was a huge fan) and threatening the defendant's life ("You are f**king dead!") after Judge Judy adjourned the case.
- Kubrick Stare: Judge Judy directs these and Death Glares at litigants who are demonstrating unusual dishonesty, stupidity, or are otherwise trying her patience.
- Last-Name Basis: When Judge Judy calls a litigant by their last name only, without a salutation (i.e. "Mr.," "Ms." etc.), you know she's frustrated or angry.
- Later Installment Weirdness: A necessity due to COVID-19 in the series' 25th and final season. Among other changes, Judge Judy appears via teleconference only (although the litigants and Byrd are present on set; The People's Court went one step further by having the litigants also participate via teleconference), there is no studio audience (the empty chairs have also been removed from the set), the litigants are considerably farther apart than before to accommodate social distancing, and litigants use kiosks at their podiums to display evidence rather than handing the evidence to Byrd, as Judge Judy is not present on set. Also, the hallway is not utilized at all: litigants are shown already at the podium as the case begins, and give their post-case interviews on the main set.
- 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.
- Lazy Alias: In a case circa 2008, a plaintiff was suing her cousin for fraudulently using her identity when she was stopped for speeding on two different occasions. The plaintiff later discovered that her driver's license had been suspended, but agreed to plead guilty on her cousin's behalf and pay the fines on the condition that her cousin would pay her back, which her cousin did not do. Unlike most cases of a plaintiff with unclean hands (since the plaintiff had pleaded guilty to a crime she did not commit), Judge Judy found the defendant's conduct so egregious that she ruled in the plaintiff's favor for the amount of the fines, and further advised the defendant that she would request that the Los Angeles Police Department confiscate the defendant's driver's license.
- 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:
- Long-Runners: The show began its 25th (and final) season in 2020. Judge Judy is herself a long-runner, having been in the legal profession for well over five decades, as she will often remind litigants.Judge Judy: [in a case from 2013] Do you understand that I've been doing this here for 17 years?
Defendant: I do.
Judge Judy: How old are you?
Judge Judy: 22. That means that when I started to be a star, you were still pooping in your pants. [audience laughs]
- 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.
- Misplaced Retribution: In cases in which two women are fighting over a man, Judge Judy will often point out that it's foolish for the two women to be angry at each other when they should be angry at the man who caused all their problems.Judge Judy: He's the piece of garbage who broke your vows!
- Mood Whiplash: On one occasion, Judge Judy stopped a rather emotional litigant due to the litigant being pestered by a fly. The room breaks out into laughter (except for said litigant and Byrd) as Judy arms both herself and Byrd with flyswatters.Judge Judy: That fly is going to heaven.
- 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.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Often played straight in Ungrateful Bastard cases.
- 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.
- OOC 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 allegedly damaging his car, but she was countering for harassment as he posted nude photos of her on Craigslist, along with her contact information, which had resulted in the defendant being harassed by a parade of perverts. 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, and advise the defendant to pursue her counterclaim in criminal court rather than small claims court.
- 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 an eleven-month period when he was incarcerated, and was still being a deadbeat, having not paid any support in several months. Not surprisingly, his complaint was dismissed:
- Judge Judy: Byrd, get him out of here. I can't stand to look at him anymore.
- A defendant in another case admitted he was $44,000 in arrears in child support to the child he had with the plaintiff. Judge Judy already was annoyed with him because of this, but really went off on him when he talked about buying Walt Disney World passes for his new wife and the two kids he had with her.Judge Judy: Go get some chalk and draw a potsienote board on the sidewalk and play potsie! Where do you get off spending $1000 on Disney passes when you owe $44,000 to this child? I don't understand how men can be so irresponsible! I say men because - I've had some irresponsible women in here, but if I had to gauge it, it's usually on the guy side.
- A case circa 2008 combined this trope with Can't Get Away with Nuthin'. A young single mother of an infant girl brought the baby's paternal grandmother to court alleging assault, stemming from an incident in which the defendant, who had been babysitting, refused to let the plaintiff take the baby home. The defendant said this was because the plaintiff showed up drunk and high, and the defendant's daughter testified that the plaintiff had come off a drinking and drugs bender with a friend just a few days prior to the incident in question. Judge Judy was outraged to learn that the plaintiff still had custody of the girl and, just before dismissing both the plaintiff's case and the defendant's counterclaim, announced she would send a copy of the case to child protective services in the plaintiff's jurisdiction.Judge Judy: Who has custody of this child?
Plaintiff's Mother: Rachel [the plaintiff].
Judge Judy: THAT BETTER CHANGE! That better change! She is incapable of taking care of a child!
Plaintiff: I'm not incapable!
Judge Judy: INCAPABLE! She has no judgment! ZERO judgment! And this baby is going to get hurt!
- Pet Positive Identification: A woman stole a man's dog and kept him as her pet, while claiming that the dog has always been hers. As soon as the dog was brought into the court, Judge Judy ordered the woman's sister to put the dog down, and the dog instantly ran to the man full of happiness. Judge Judy said "that's his dog" and dismissed the case.
- Playing Sick: The plaintiff in one case sued her former friend, claiming the defendant had pretended to have cancer as a ploy to get money from people and had then blown the money on a trip to Las Vegas. She claimed the defendant had cooked up an elaborate deception which included using a walker and faking wounds from IV insertions. The defendant admitted she didn't have cancer but had been diagnosed with a feminine ailment she wasn't willing to name in court. Judge Judy awarded the plaintiff her jurisdictional maximum of $5000 and called the defendant a "very sick lady":Judge Judy: There's something wrong with you. I would hope that at least one of the diagnoses you have was made by a psychiatrist.
- 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: Generally subverted. 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.
- Ponzi: One plaintiff invested $135 into an MLM (Multi Level Marketing) scheme (for a nutritional supplement) and sued her upline for $5,000 because her promised riches never materialized. Judge Judy wasted little time in branding the operation a pyramid scheme, and dismissed the case because the plaintiff was foolish to get involved in such an operation in the first place.Judge Judy: So the more people that you have at the bottom of the fishbowl, the more money you make. Is that what I'm understanding?
Defendant: Conceivably, yes.
Judge Judy: Now I understand it.
Byrd: It's the American way. [laughter from audience]
Judge Judy: [to plaintiff] ... So you invested $135 into this pyramid ... You invested in this dream of becoming rich?
Judge Judy: And you didn't become rich. And you want me to help you. Which I'm not going to do. You sound like a very intelligent lady, but if you bought into this dream... [laughing] ...then you're a fool.
- Precision F-Strike: This rarely happens and typically the word is muted out, but when Judge Judy curses, she's truly pissed:Judge Judy: You abused the system. I don't care what you believe. Your mother cares what you believe; maybe your sister cares what you believe; maybe your mother cares how you feel; maybe your sister cares how you feel - feel. The law doesn't give a rat's ass how you feel. [some gasps from audience]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.
Judge Judy: You'd better grow up! ... That's how people sometimes communicate when they don't like each other anymore - they yell. And if the courts got involved every time people yelled at each other, we would be doing nothing else but adjudicating yelling! You should come live in my house - then you'd know about yelling! [audience laughs]
- A teenage defendant who had just been eviscerated by Judge Judy for damaging the plaintiff's car by throwing handfuls of loose change at it during a road rage incident burst into hysterical tears during the post-case interview, and was told twice by his girlfriend, who had been in court as his witness, to stop crying.
- One case involved a young mother who was suing her baby's father for filing a false protective order against her (she lost the case due to an audiotape of the incident, which included evidence of her putting her hands on the defendant). She admitted to Judge Judy that she and her ex did not get along and that she had called the cops on him on no fewer than eleven occasions for simply yelling at her.
- 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 only exception to this is if the plaintiff has unclean hands regarding said contract or if the terms of the contract itself are illegal - for example, an agreement involving an illegal drug deal, or a loan with an interest rate so excessive that it counts as usury. In such cases, the plaintiff's complaint will be wholly or partially dismissed. For example, in cases involving usurious interest rates, since the plaintiff loses all legal right to collect any interest on such a loan, Judge Judy will award them only the base amount of the loan without any interest at all, period.
- "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. For example, she's ruled in favor of both a young man whose Confederate flag was ripped off his car and a woman who had her car keyed because she had a Hillary Clinton bumper sticker.
- Except when one litigant's conduct turns out to be so outrageous that she determines there's no reason to hear both sides. For example, plaintiffs with unclean hands (meaning they broke the law in regard to their complaint) typically get their cases quickly dismissed.
- 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.
- Right Through the Wall: In one case circa 2013, the plaintiffs sued their neighbors for $5,000 for harassment and for hindering the peaceful enjoyment of their property. They claimed the defendants, among other things, regularly held loud parties in their garage in the middle of the night, that the cigarette smoke emanating from the parties made it impossible for the plaintiffs to open their windows, and that the plaintiffs invariably found their property vandalized the morning after calling the police about the loud parties. The defendants countersued, claiming the plaintiffs' act of calling the police on them when they were entitled to have parties in their house constituted harassment and claiming the male plaintiff had made obscene gestures at them. Along with giving the defendants a stern lecture about disturbing the peace and about smoking cigarettes in their home where they had young children, Judge Judy dismissed the countersuit and awarded the plaintiffs the full amount of $5,000.
- 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 dismissed the case, since this order made his case legally unenforceable, and insisted the plaintiff get therapy for his anger problems, adding that he would've done well to just keep his mouth shut.
- Some litigants have inadvertently revealed embarrassing things about themselves. Judge Judy reminds them that they've now made fools of themselves in front of ten million people... "and they rerun this show in perpetuity, for the entire universe."Defendant: I didn't want anyone to know I had lupus.
Judge Judy: You just told ten million people you have lupus. [audience laughter]
- 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:
- 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 then got the information she needed from the plaintiff's witness and ruled in the plaintiff's favor, expressing pleasure at how much quieter the courtroom had gotten since she had the defendant removed.
- 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 announced 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.
- Circa 2011: The plaintiff, 24, was suing the mother of his 17-year-old ex-girlfriend for assaulting him and for damage to his grandmother's house caused when one of the defendant's younger daughters threw a rock through a window during a confrontation. While Judge Judy told the plaintiff he was foolish for having sex with a minor, she also chastised the defendant for bringing children to a situation that had the potential to turn violent. After throwing the plaintiff's grandmother out of court for getting into a verbal altercation with the defendant, Judge Judy announced she was ruling in the grandmother's favor for the broken window only, as the plaintiff had no evidence of medical treatment and had created the situation by sleeping with the defendant's daughter. At this, the defendant turned around and stormed out of court, yelling for her daughter to follow her and hollering that she couldn't believe the judge was ruling in favor of a statutory rapist.
- 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 Judge 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.
- Self-Deprecating Humor: Another Judge Judy hallmark, usually invoked in regard to her appearance and/or age.Judge Judy: I'm as old as Methuselah!
Judge Judy: They don't keep me here because I'm young and lithe and beautiful. They keep me here because I'm very, very smart.
Judge Judy: Do you know how old I am? Do you know that every second of my life is precious?
- Judge Judy often references Johnny Carson's "Carnac" persona from The Tonight Show. It commonly shows up when she grills defendants who are being sued for nonpayment of a loan about how the plaintiff knew the defendant needed help, the idea being that the defendant must have mentioned it outright at some time because the plaintiff isn't a mind-reader like Carnac.
- 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.
- 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.
- Stern Old Judge: Judy is arguably the poster girl for the trope, being an older woman who takes zero crap from any of the parties on her show, will snark at anybody she thinks is being an idiot, and disciplines anyone who acts out of line.
- The Stoic: Byrd. So much so that Judge Judy will often point it out when a litigant says or does something so outrageous that it causes Byrd to laugh or even crack a smile.
- Judge Judy: You are so full of yourself. You are so full of it and yourself that even Byrd, who is normally very good at keeping a straight face, can't keep a straight face, because you are so full of yourself.Judge Judy: Even Byrd is laughing at you. And Byrd never laughs.
- 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
- Taking Advantage of Generosity: Many, many of the defendants. However, Judge Judy will often admonish the plaintiffs who lend money or other favors for foolishness, especially if they lent money a second time after the defendant had already failed to pay back the first loan.
- 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. And this is not an audition. I already have the job.
- 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."Judge Judy: It's like I was there. I can almost write the script.
- 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", the idea behind which is this: if one buys a package of blueberries and one of the blueberries is moldy, in a very short time all the blueberries will be moldy. She uses this analogy to describe situations such as when a few students in a classroom are being disruptive and encouraging others to join in, thus hindering the ability of the diligent students to learn.
- 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: "This is a case of 'No Good Deed Goes Unpunished'," Judge Judy will often say before hearing cases such as the following:
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."
- 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.
- 2019: In a case involving an incident of road rage, the plaintiff sued a teenage boy for damaging her car after he threw handfuls of loose change at it. The defendant had been driving his girlfriend home, and the plaintiff testified that the girlfriend had been hysterically crying and begging her boyfriend to calm down, and that she had given the girlfriend a ride home after the defendant drove off. The defendant's girlfriend repaid the plaintiff for her kindness by appearing as a witness for her boyfriend and offering an outrageous lie that the plaintiff had been acting irrationally but she had accepted the plaintiff's offer of a ride home anyway because the plaintiff had her young son in the car who could be "a witness if the plaintiff did something to her." Naturally, Judge Judy didn't buy it and ruled in the plaintiff's favor, making the defendants look incredibly stupid in the process.
- 2019?: The plaintiff, an Uber driver, had driven the defendant to a Sonic drive-thru for some food, only for the defendant to discover he didn't have enough money to pay for the meal. The plaintiff agreed to advance the defendant money to pay for his food, but the defendant took his sweet time paying her back and, after the plaintiff brought the police to the defendant's house to resolve the dispute, the defendant filed a complaint with Uber regarding alleged unprofessional conduct on the plaintiff's part. After making the defendant look like a complete fool, Judge Judy ruled in the plaintiff's favor in the amount of her complaint, $586.
- 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!
- Vocal Evolution: As the late 2010s came along, Jerry Bishops voice became softer and slightly slower due to old age and possibly illness.
- Well, This Is Not That Trope: In one early case:Judge Judy: Don't be a wise guy with me, sir. There's only one wise person here. And that's Byrd.
- 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.