Judge Judy is an American Court show featuring former family court judge Judith Sheindlin arbitrating over small claims cases. The series is in first-run syndication and distributed by CBS Television Distribution, the successor company to its previous distributors Worldvision Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television, and CBS Paramount Domestic Television.
Since premiering on September 16, 1996, the show has been the ratings leader in courtroom-themed reality-based shows. As of 2010, the Judge Judy program has been nominated 13 times for Day time Emmy Awards In January 2008, Judge Judy was extended through the 2012-13 season (the show's 17th). It was announced on May 2, 2011 that once again the show has been extended with Judy renewing her contract until 2015 which will be the show's 19th Season.
The program earned Sheindlin a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which she was awarded in February 2006. Two DVDs have been released; the first in 2007 and the second the following year.
The 2011-2012 season premiere (the show's 16th season) begins September 12, 2011.
The show's creation stemmed from Judith Sheindlin's reputation as one of the most outspoken family court judges in the country, becoming the topic of a Los Angeles Times article in February 1993. The piece caught the attention of 60 Minutes, leading to a segment about Sheindlin on the show, which brought her national recognition. This led to her being approached by television producers, who asked her to "preside" over her own courtroom reality show. The title of her show was originally going to be "Hot Bench" or "Her Honor". Unhappy with that title, however, Sheindlin convinced her television producer, Big Ticket, to change it. Although Judge Judy is the title of the show, it has also become a nickname for Judith Sheindlin. Judy Sheindlin became the first television judge whose name was included in the title of the show. The creator and original executive producer of the show, Peter Brennan (creator of the original A Current Affair with Maury Povich) subsequently created Judge Joe Brown and more recently Cristina's Court with Cristina Perez. Randy Douthit and Timothy Regler are currently the show's Executive Producers.
At the beginning of court proceeding, off-camera announcer Jerry Bishop (best known as the original Svengoolie), introduces proceedings. Sheindlin then questions the parties about dates, times, locations, and other facts central to the lawsuit. Judge Sheindlin demands decorum in her court. She will sometimes chastise participants, even audience members, for showing up in inappropriate clothing, and silence audience outbursts, even if they are in response to quips she herself made. Order is maintained by her bailiff, officer Petri Hawkins-Byrd. After this process, Sheindlin renders the judgment, either by finding for the plaintiff (typically by saying "judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of ... dollars, that's all") or by dismissing the case (the award is not displayed on an on-screen graphic, which is rare among shows in the genre). When a counter claim has been filed, it will be handled during the same show segment. However, if a case is dismissed without prejudice, such as Sheindlin's being unable to rule due to other circumstances (such as something that cannot be ruled on within the binding arbitration structure of the series), the litigants are invited to come back and resume the case later in another episode if the outside issues are resolved.
In the first two commercial breaks, a preview of the upcoming case is shown. When the show returns from the first two commercial breaks, it airs the voice-over, "Real cases! Real people! Judge Judy!" (recorded by announcer Jerry Bishop), followed by a recap of the current case. After the third commercial break, the voice-over is heard again, providing the show's telephone number and the website to submit cases. Generally each show presents two cases, but infrequently an episode will present a single long case, three shorter ones, or four even-shorter ones. At the end of a case, the plaintiff and the defendant express their feelings about the case, although sometimes this part of the program is omitted, especially after cases involving contentious or removed litigants.In order to ensure a full audience, the producers of Judge Judy hire extras who compose the entire gallery. Though tickets are not offered for the show, arrangements can sometimes be made with Sheindlin's production staff to allow fans of the show into the audience. Once all the cases are through, all of the audience members receive payment. The extras must not dress casually, and no logos or brand names may be visible on their clothing. Extras are also instructed to appear as if they are having discussions with each other before and after each case, so the bailiff may make such announcements as "Order! All rise" and "Parties are excused; you may step out." As far as the court cases are concerned, however, what is seen on Judge Judy is neither staged nor scripted. The plaintiffs have actually sued the defendants, and those very cases are heard and decided upon by Judith Sheindlin. The court show acquires cases by people submitting claims into them via their website or phone number.
The producers' employees call both parties and ask them questions about their case to make sure it is suitable for Judge Judy. If the parties agree to be on the show and sign a waiver, agreeing that arbitration in Sheindlin's court is final and cannot be pursued elsewhere (unless she dismisses the lawsuit without prejudice), their case will air on Judge Judy. The award limit on Judge Judy, as on most "syndi-court" shows (and most small claims courts in the U.S.), is $5,000. The award for each judgment is paid by the producers of the show, from a fund reserved for the purpose. About forty percent of the cases are money judgments, while the remaining sixty percent are either dismissed or involve an order for an exchange of property.
Three days every other week (two weeks a month), Sheindlin and her producers tape the court show. They usually produce ten to twelve cases for each day they tape the show. A week's worth of episodes consists of approximately ten cases. Anywhere from thirty to thirty-six cases are filmed over the three days they tape per week. During an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Sheindlin appeared as a guest September 13, 2011. When asked by Kimmel how many days a month she works, Sheindlin replied five days. However, Sheindlin and her producers sometimes only tape five cases per day and two days per week. The show has fifty-two taping days a year. For each season, some 650 claims are brought to the set to be "presided" over by Judge Judy. This means approximately 8,450 claims have been brought to Judith Sheindlin's Hollywood set as of the end of its thirteenth season (2008–09).
For the most part, cases are taped all throughout the year except for two breaks Sheindlin and all of the members of her show have for the year. One of the two breaks includes an extra week off in December, as the show is only taped one week out of that month because of the holidays. The other break is from mid-July (only taping one week in July) and all through August. According to members of the show, the reason for this break is that people are more interested in taking vacations than in filing lawsuits around that time.
Judge Judy tapes at the Sunset Bronson Studios on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. Every other week, Sheindlin flies out on her private jet to tape Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The Judge Judy set is directly beside the Judge Joe Brown set, in the same studios. Both shows are produced by Big Ticket Entertainment The two shows alternate taping weeks.
Despite its California location, the show displays various images of New York City upon returning from commercial breaks, including a subway train that is passing by the camera which reads World Trade Centre, but is only noticeable if the footage is paused. It also features the phrases "State of New York" and "Family Court" (Sheindlin was previously a New York family court judge) within the letter boxes used going to and from breaks since the ninth season. The set features a New York State Flag behind Sheindlin's seat. Furthermore, the title sequence features a woman posing in white robes with light emanating from a raised hand, evoking the Statue of Liberty and therefore New York City (though it should be noted that the woman is actually posing as Lady Justice, as evidenced by the blindfold over her eyes and the weighing scale suspended from her left hand). Immediately before each episode, the Judge Judy version of Lady Justice is shown lifting the blindfold of neutrality to greet the audience with a Wink.