Judge Judy is the longest-lasting court reality show in the genre’s history. And the titular judge, Judy Sheindlin, is now one of the most famous people in America. Her no-nonsense attitude and tough talking made her a very good TV star and very much admired judge to boot.
But what goes on behind the cameras, and what is Judy really like when the wig comes off? Well, perhaps unsurprisingly, the terrifying courtroom titan tends to remain tight-lipped about her private life. But some details have still leaked out, even if she’d rather they hadn’t…
20. People who appear in front of Judy are carefully selected
Plenty of boring cases go through the court system every day, but you won’t see them on Judge Judy. That’s because 60 researchers sift through cases throughout the country, putting forward only the juiciest to appear on the show. People suing family members are particularly sought after. “That way it pulls in the audience a little bit more, there’s an emotional tie that’s been broken, and you end up with a bit of a mini soap opera,” executive producer Randy Douthitt told WDRB in 2012.
19. Judy competed against her husband for ratings
In 1999 Judge Judy rival The People’s Court employed Jerry Sheindlin, husband of Judy, as a reality TV judge. Luckily, however, it didn’t seem to cause much marital friction. “Part of the adventure was trying to nip at the heels of my wife. Unfortunately, I could never catch up with her,” Jerry told Variety after retiring in 2000.
18. She also competed against a former boss
It was Ed Koch, New York’s mayor in 1982, who appointed Judy as a criminal court judge. He was impressed by her sharpness and tough attitude – but then he got a little taste of it himself when he got a job on The People’s Court. Rival Judy was reportedly proud to have her show constantly come out on top.
17. She makes $45m every year from the show
Judge Judy is an almost unfathomably wealthy woman. In fact, as of 2016 she rakes in a whopping $45 million every year from her show. That makes her one of the highest-paid TV stars in America, and according to Forbes her net worth now totals $290 million. So she’ll be able to keep buying lacy collars for a long, long while.
16. The show has been accused of racism
In 2007 a former producer on Judge Judy filed a lawsuit claiming that producer Randy Douthitt had vowed to stop featuring black people on the show. Apparently, he told his staff to look only for “white, upscale, pretty people” instead. However, an anonymous insider told TMZ that the case had “no merit.”
15. Another judge once deemed Judy “a disgrace to the profession”
Not everyone is a Judge Judy fan. Indeed, one-time People’s Court star Judge Joseph Wapner never liked her. He told Metropolitan News in 2003, “She’s a disgrace to the profession. She does things I don’t think a judge should do. She tells people to shut up. She’s rude. She’s arrogant. She demeans people.” Judy, however, largely ignored him.
14. The show looks like it’s filmed in New York, but isn’t
Judy Sheindlin used to work in New York, the Judge Judy intro shows images of New York, and there’s a New York state flag behind Judy’s chair… but the show is actually filmed in California. And it became abundantly clear to viewers that the show was filmed on the west coast when an earthquake hit the studio in 2008.
13. Judy owns five million-dollar properties
So what do you do when you’re a multi-millionaire reality TV star? You invest in real estate, of course. Judge Judy owns five expensive properties – two in Naples, one in Beverly Hills, one in New York, and her main home in Greenwich. Plus she once owned her own yacht, appropriately named The Triumphant Lady.
12. An insider has claimed she treats her staff badly
An anonymous source who went to Radar Online in 2016 claimed that Judge Judy treated her staff “like dirt.” It’s an unsubstantiated report, but the unnamed person said that Judy’s “unwritten rules” included, “Don’t say something stupid or you pay the price. Avoid speaking. Avoid eye contact.” Yikes.
11. The Judge Judy audience make $8 an hour
Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted that certain members of the audience keep cropping up in the background, show after show after show. And that’s because they’re actually paid to be there! Yes, would-be actors keen to get their faces on TV can apply to the show’s producers and make $8 an hour for their troubles.
10. Her husband has publicly discussed their sex life
Judge Judy might have wished in April 2015 that her husband wasn’t quite so talkative. Because when the pair of them gave an interview to the Daily Mail, she said that she never kept any of her TV awards in her bedroom. And her husband chimed in with “No awards? She just gave me an award last night.” Cheeky!
9. She was once sued over some expensive china
In 2013 Judge Judy suddenly became involved in her producer Randy Douthit’s expensive divorce. His ex-wife claimed that Douthit had sold Judy some $514,421 worth of china for just $50,000 as part of some sort of revenge conspiracy. “I don’t owe this lady a cent,” Judy told TMZ at the time. And indeed, the eventual ruling was that she did not.
8. She lost her private jet in a storm
So Judge Judy has millions of dollars, five houses, and a yacht… but does she have a private jet too? You bet she does. Or rather, she did. She used it to fly to tapings of Judge Judy, but it was wrecked in the 2016 El Nino Storm. It’s unlikely she’s flying coach now, though.
7. A show participant said she “ruined his life”
In 2015 David Kohalisky, a one-time Judge Judy participant, told Radar Online the show had “destroyed” him. He claimed that the producers had tried to get him to look “money-hungry” and worst of all, outed him as gay on television. “Being on the show ruined my life,” he said.
6. Judy and Byrd don’t actually socialize much out of court
Onscreen, Judge Judy and Bailiff Byrd seem like the best of friends. However, off screen, while the pair are friends, they don’t really socialize much. “We have a good working relationship, and we have friends in common, but we travel in different circles,” Byrd told the LA Times in 2012. He also intriguingly added, “We’re diametrically opposed on some issues.”
5. Judy’s son had a defamation lawsuit leveled against him
In 2013 Sheriff Don Smith claimed that D.A. Adam Levy, Judge Judy’s son, had knowingly interfered with the investigation of a rape case. But it wasn’t true, and Smith had to issue a written apology to Levy… and pay him $150k. Another courtroom victory for the family.
4. Morrissey once wanted to “slam her face into spaghetti”
Singer Morrissey is known for being quite a volatile person, but even so his furious description of eating at the same restaurant as Judge Judy was a bit surprising. “Judge Rude-y could not shut up. I was ready to ram her face into her own spaghetti,” he told the Daily Mail in 2017.
3. The stakes on the show are much lower than in a real courtroom
When guests are selected to be on Judge Judy, they’re sent an interesting letter. It reads, “If your case is selected to be arbitrated on Judge Judy and plaintiff wins the case, we guarantee to pay plaintiff the full amount that was awarded against you, you pay nothing.” And it’s an offer most people find hard to refuse.
2. People have accused her of exploitation and hypocrisy
Considering the selection process for guests, and what guests are given for appearing, it’s easy to see how people might label the show as “fake.” People have also accused Judy of exploiting guests by ensuring they confirm stereotypes. And they’ve accused her of hypocrisy too, since the criminals she claims to be hard on actually get out of paying their fines.
1. She cried at her grandson’s wedding
For all that Judge Judy can be a hard, cold person, she is actually human underneath. So when her first grandchild, Casey, got married in 2013, she practically welled up. “That’s the first time I’ve ever seen her get so emotional. I thought a tear was going to come out of her eye,” her husband Jerry joked to Entertainment Tonight. Who knew?