Inside the Life of Judge Judy Sheindlin
Whether you've been an avid fan of her show since the beginning or have only heard her name in passing, chances are you definitely know the great Judge Judy. Her television program has broken world records, and today she is one of the most widely-recognized television figures.
But behind her grand television persona, what's she really like? Come along for a deep dive into the secret life of Judge Judy.
What Is She Famous for, Again?
In case you missed it, Judge Judy is the star and presiding judge in the courtroom television show Judge Judy. Viewers enjoy the show in part thanks to Judy's sharp wit, brusque dealings with those in the wrong and zero-tolerance policy for anyone who tries to act dumb.
Judge Judy has been part of television for so long, it's hard to imagine that she could ever not be part of it.Thanks to a combination of stage lighting, make-up and her stubborn refusal to age, Judy looks as though she could live forever. She's actually a lot older than she looks, though.
Classmates of Greatness
From an early age, Judy was surrounded by people who were destined to take their lives to wondrous heights. As a teenager, she attended James Madison High School in Brooklyn, which produced some of the greatest and well-known names of our time.
Early Family Life
If her smile always seems perfect, that might be because one of her parents was a dentist; there was certainly no avoiding flossing in her household. While Judy’s parents weren't famous or rich, she had wonderfully high opinions of them and was proud to call them hers.
Following her graduation from high school, Judy went on to major in government at American University in Washington D.C. A Bachelor of Arts wasn't enough for her, though. Immediately after her undergraduate career was over, she jumped straight into law school.
First Job — and First Resignation
A lot of people struggle to find jobs in their fields after graduation, but Judy didn't have such a problem. She was offered a position as a corporate lawyer for a cosmetics brand the same year she graduated from law school. However, she didn't stay there very long.
Getting Back in the Game
Once her children were a little older, Judy decided she could use a change of pace. Conveniently for her, there was a job opening in New York that suited her qualifications as well as her interests: a prosecutor in the family courts.
The First Judge Judy
Judy didn't stay in her career as a lawyer very long. In 1982, the mayor of New York appointed her a criminal court judge, thanks in part to her no-nonsense attitude and strict dealings with the people involved in her cases. She quickly earned a reputation as a tough judge and was particularly fast-acting, making quick decisions where others might deliberate for some time.
Her new work didn't only help build her career as a judge; it also helped her find romance again. Her first marriage fell apart in 1976, right before she jumped back into the legal game. After she restarted her legal career, she bumped into a defense attorney named Jerry Scheindlin at a bar.
First Taste of Fame
Judy's reputation grew larger and larger as the years passed. She even became the subject of a Los Angeles Times article about her dedication to justice and the common good. Following that, she appeared on a 60 Minutes segment that launched her profile to the national level.
At First You Don’t Succeed
Judge Judy wasn't the first courtroom television series, of course. One particularly popular show, The People's Court, had been airing for some time before she ever got started. In 1993, however, the show released its presiding judge, Joseph Wapner.
A New Career
In 1995, former producers of The People's Court finally reached out to Judy, offering her a new courtroom television show. At first, she said no, but in 1996, she accepted the offer and agreed to participate in the new production.
When it first aired, Judge Judy didn't appear too promising. The first episodes appeared in September of 1996, and by October, ratings were at a meager 1.5. Producers were disappointed, and some even questioned whether the show would survive long enough to get its ratings up.
What Does She Do?
For anyone who hasn't seen the show, Judge Judy adjudicates civil trials — non-criminal cases — between people who have brought lawsuits against each other. These people could be neighbors, roommates, exes or pretty much anyone who has a bone to pick with someone else.
Why Do People Like It so Much?
People are fans of the show for a multitude of reasons, but Judge Judy herself is certainly one of the biggest. Similar shows have been attempted, but no other judges can quite recreate her feisty nature and attitude when dealing with plaintiffs who clearly don't have a leg to stand on.
A Few Extra Audience Members
If you've seen the show, then you know there's always a good audience in attendance. They’re very well-behaved too — they pay attention, avoid talk while Judy or the plaintiffs are speaking and fall silent immediately when the bailiff calls the room into order.
She Works Five Days a Month
For all the talk of whether or not she'll retire soon, it seems Judy barely works at all anyway. The filming schedule for Judge Judy is pretty scarce, with episodes being filmed approximately three days a week every other week. Granted, those days are fairly extensive, with all the month's episodes being filmed during those productions.
She's Paid a Ridiculous Amount
After starring as a nationally renowned judge in a television series for over 20 years, you might assume Judge Judy takes home a pretty hefty paycheck. You would, of course, be right. Her annual salary in 2005 was around $15 million.
Judy isn't only involved in television. Alongside her stepdaughter Nicole, she helps run a program called Her Honor Mentoring designed to help women reach their full potential. The program emphasizes the importance of higher education and helps women learn practical skills that will enable them to pursue their dreams.
Home Is Where the Heart Is
Judy may have New York roots, but she and her husband have homes all over the country. They own houses in Florida, Wyoming, Connecticut and New York. For a while, Judy was actually commuting to Los Angeles for three days every other week, but eventually she bought a home there as well.
Lawsuit Over Dishware
Judy hasn't been involved in too many lawsuits herself. (And as a presiding judge, that's probably a good quality to have). However, in 2013, the former wife of Judge Judy's producer, Randy Douthit, sued her for conspiring with Douthit to deprive her of her valuables.
Spirit of Debate
Outside of television and media, Judy is invested in strengthening public discourse. In 2017, she donated a sum of money to the University of Southern California to fund a space for the express purpose of public debate.
Presiding over so many court cases in such short periods of time means Judy needs to keep her mind as sharp as a tack. There are plenty of ways to do this, of course — from Sudoku puzzles to apps that claim to train your brain — but Judy, unsurprisingly, prefers her own method: gin rummy.
All's Fair in Love and Law
The attitude and spark that Judy demonstrates on her show aren’t an act, as Judy has pointed out in interviews on multiple occasions. She's just as sharp and brutally honest in real life as she is on the air. That goes for all areas of her life, romance included.
While the show might seem like something to have on in the background while doing dishes or between running errands, Judy hopes that viewers are able to find a larger message in her show. It's not all about the yelling and her constant witticisms.
The Most Important Meal of the Day
Being the highest-paid woman on television, Judy can afford to eat pretty much anything she wants for her first meal of the day. So what's her top pick? Caviar? Croissants by her local French baker? Not even close. Her favorite breakfast food is an Egg McMuffin.
The Beginning of the Lace Collar
If you've ever seen the show or even just a picture of Judge Judy while she's wearing her judge's robes, you may have noticed she's wearing a lace collar. It's her signature look. But why does she wear it?
Preparation Is Key
While it may seem like she approaches all of her cases for the first time while the cameras are rolling, that actually isn't the case. After selecting the cases, producers send her some information regarding the cases prior to her arrival in LA.
Negotiations Fit for a Star
Judge Judy is loud, brash and she doesn't care what people think of her. You might expect her salary negotiations to be dramatic affairs because of that, but they’re actually pretty quiet — although Judy is just as straightforward as you’d expect.
In Judy We Trust
Years and years of being the premier legal authority in many viewers’ lives is bound to make an impact — and it has. Judy fans trust her with the decisions she makes and generally believe her to be a fair and impartial judge.