Judith Sheindlin—or as most of us know her, “Judge Judy”—has paved a career for herself that is nothing short of incredible. She’s a judge, author, TV personality, and a producer worth millions.
You might think you know the quick-witted court show queen but in reality, she has a complex personal life that isn’t always talked about. Judy has finally opened up about her personal life and it’s filled with more scandal than her show!
She Is Way Richer Than We Thought
Judge Judy is one of the highest paid reality show stars ever. In 2012 it was reported that she made an estimated $45 million a year — yes, you’re reading that right. Forty-five million dollars PER YEAR.
She works 52 days a year, which means that she gets paid $900,000 every single day she works. If that didn’t make you a little bit envious, you’re not fully comprehending that number.
She Came Close To Dying On Set
During one scary taping of her show, Judge Judy began to slur her speech, speak very slowly, and appeared visibly confused.
The producers knew that something wasn’t right so they called 911. Once at the hospital, she was diagnosed with a transient ischemic attack which significantly increases her risk of stroke. She was released from the hospital the next day and went right back to work like the trooper she is.
She’s A Straight-Talker In Real Life Too
What you see is what you get with Judge Judy. She’s not putting up an act for the TV screen — she’s always been known for the no-nonsense attitude both inside and outside the courtroom.
She has coined the term “Judyisms” for her one-liners that are nothing short of hilariously brilliant. Her impatient rants and verbal smackdowns follow her everywhere she goes, whether there’s a camera or not. She’s the real deal both on and off screen.
Ratings So Good, Other TV Personalities Are Jealous
Judge Judy is basically the queen of TV and ratings. It’s the top-rated show in syndication. In its 18th season, the show rose to a 7.2 household rating and was viewed by 9.94 million daily viewers.
In a time when many shows that enjoyed success pre-internet are seeing all-time lows in viewership, Judge Judy has been fortunate enough to stay strong. The show’s longevity is definitely due to one-liners like this: “I’m looking in your direction trying to figure out whether you accidentally tripped on your way coming into court today, or whether you selected those pants because you thought that they were attractive.”
Judge Judy Opens Up About Her Personal Life
Judge Judy might be a huge success on television, but that doesn’t mean that her romantic life has been perfect. Far from it. In a rare interview, she revealed some pretty personal details about her romantic history.
She’s been divorced twice, leaving her first husband because he wasn’t supportive enough of her career. She later remarried, then divorced, and then re-remarried her second husband Jerry Sheindlin. Judge Judy has five children; two biological and three stepchildren.
Her Son Was Accused Of Interfering In A Child Assault Investigation
In 2014, Judy’s son Adam Levy was the DA of Putnam County, New York. His friend/personal trainer was accused of assaulting a 14-year-old girl. During the trial, local Sheriff Don Smith claimed that Levy “harbored” the trainer and even interfered with the investigation.
Levy ended up winning a $150,000 lawsuit against the sheriff, who also had to retract his claims. Even so, the accusations cost Levy a bid for reelection as the district attorney of Putnam County, New York.
Her Husband Jerry Is Also A Judge!
Judge Judy’s husband, Jerry Sheindlin, has paved quite the career for himself in the judicial circuits. He served as a judge on the New York Supreme Court.
He is the author of two books, Genetic Fingerprinting: The Law and Science of DNA Evidence and Blood Trail. He married Judy in 1977, which was the second marriage for both of them. Coming up, read about the rival show that Jerry Sheindlin briefly appeared on!
The Rival From Inside
Judge Judy has outlived all of the imitator shows like The People’s Court and Divorce Court which basically makes her show unstoppable. It might surprise some people to know that Judy’s husband appeared on one of her rival shows!
At one point, her husband was picked to be the judge on The People’s Court for a few seasons. They battled it out for the ratings and Judy came out on top.
Former Rival Issues
As The People’s Court used to be the only rival to Judge Judy, that means things weren’t always as smooth sailing as they are. The former judge from The People’s Court, Joseph Wapner once had some choice words about Judy. “She is a disgrace to the profession,” Wapner said.
“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.” He apparently took this rivalry personally.
The Overlooked Star
Perhaps the most underrated star is Judge Judy’s bailiff, Petri Hawkin-Byrd, who was her real-life bailiff in her Manhattan courtroom. He’s the longest-running bailiff in a TV courtroom and is well-rewarded for his work and commitment.
He makes almost $3.5 million a year on the show. Contrast that to the $45K he was making before the TV gig and it’s pretty safe to assume he’s much happier with his current paycheck.
Judge Judy and Officer Byrd Go Way Back
Judge Judy and Officer Byrd have great chemistry on the show, likely because they’ve been friends for years. As we know, Sheindlin and Byrd worked together in the Manhattan Family Court.
“We used to call her the Joan Rivers of the judicial system. She was just hilarious.” Byrd recalled. When he heard she was going to have her own show, he reached out to say congratulations, adding, “If you need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform.” It wasn’t long before he joined the show!
She Gets Insulted On Her Own Show At Times
Talk about rude. In one episode of Judge Judy, a 21-year-old man with TEN children appeared and as he tried to explain his case he decided it would be wise to insult the judge. When Judge Judy asked him how many different women those 10 kids were with, he answered “about four.”
“About!? What does that even mean?” Judy wanted a better explanation. The man responded, “About four … including your daughter.” Wow, that was a brazen decision. Obviously, Judge Judy was not pleased with this comment.
The Hot Bench
Sheindlin originally didn’t want her name to be in the title of the show. She pitched the show titles The Hot Bench and Judy Justice before the producers decided on Judge Judy.
Honestly, we’re very happy that they made her name the title, but The Hot Bench would’ve been very true as well. That courtroom is explosive. She got her way eventually, though. Later on, we’ll learn all about a show she created that was actually called The Hot Bench.
25 Seasons And On To New Things!
In March 2020, Judge Judy answered the question many fans had been wondering for so long. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Sheindlin announced that her show’s upcoming 25th season would be its last.
But fans needn’t worry that she’s going away for good! A new show, Judy Justice, is in the works. “I’m not tired,” Sheindlin added. “So Judy Justice will be coming out a year later… If you’re not tired, you’re not supposed to stop.” She did not indicate where the new show will air.
The Cases Are Real, And So Are The Rulings
Despite what you might assume about the show, the cases featured on it are very real. They get hand chosen by producers if they think it would make good TV. The rulings are final, and only a handful of cases have they been overturned.
While the people are real, they don’t end up having to pay. Part of the draw to get people to go on the show is that litigants will receive up to $5,000 for their appearances.
Her Control Over The Audience
Almost all of the audience members you see in the courtroom are up-and-coming actors and extras. Every now and then you’ll see someone who’s really famous, like when Amy Schumer recently was spotted, but it’s rare.
Audience members are instructed not to applaud the judge or any litigant over remarks that are made. However, they’re granted permission to laugh at some of the one-liners that the hilarious Ms. Sheindlin spits out.
She Let A Dog Decide A Case
In one episode, a man and woman argued over ownership of a dog. The judge asked, “I’m not saying there is anything wrong but the question is, is it his dog?” before deciding that the dog should be brought in.
The woman brought her four-legged friend into the courtroom and the audience got a chance to “ooh” and “awww” over it for a few moments. But then the pup spotted the man and the case was all over, with Judy ordering the woman to drop the dog while telling the man, “That’s all. Take the dog home.”
She’s A Seasoned Vet Behind The Bench
What many people don’t realize is that she heard more than 20,000 cases in her family court before she got a TV show. She was one of the most prominent family court judges in the Manhattan area. In fact, New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed her as Manhattan’s supervising family court judge in 1986.
She retired in 1996 and was immediately approached with an offer to star in a courtroom series that would have real cases and real rulings.
A Famous Musician Appeared In an Episode
Judge Judy is no stranger to high-profile cases. In one 1997 episode, “Johnny Rotten” Lydon of the Sex Pistols even appeared. Lydon was sued by musician Robert Williams, who claimed Lydon had assaulted him and caused him to lose a significant amount of potential income.
The musicians appeared in front of Judge Judy who, despite Lydon’s bad behavior on set, sided with the Sex Pistol due to lack of evidence.
She’s One Of The Most Trusted People In The World
According to one recent study done by Reader’s Digest, Judge Judy may be one of the most trusted people in America. The publication admitted that this shocked them as much as it did their readers.
She is the most trusted judge in the nation. Surprisingly, she ranks higher in trustability than every single one of the Supreme Court Justices. Even media darling Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg comes in at second place in this particular Reader’s Digest poll of Americans.
She Flies In Style
Since Judge Judy seemingly has a home in every corner of the US, she needs to travel in style. If you were under the impression that she would set foot in a commercial plane with the money that she brings in, you’re very wrong.
To get to her homes in New York, LA, or Connecticut, she uses her private plane. The jet made headlines when it was upended during a hurricane in Florida.
The Show Is Well-Researched
Many people wonder where the cases come from. The show has 65 researchers across the country just looking at different cases. The cases get sent to the producers for review.
Only about three percent of the cases that get sent to the producers even make it onto the show. The litigants get contacted and asked if they want to forgo their civil court hearing in exchange for an appearance on JJ.
Her Sense Of Humor Was Passed Down
Murray Blum was Judy’s father, who she cites as being the biggest influence in her life. He was a dentist who didn’t have any sedation tools (it was before they were allowed to use them) so he would calm the nerves of his patients with humor.
After years of sitting with her dad at the dinner table and hearing his quick wit, her sense of humor evolved to what we see today. She’s stern, fair, and hilarious.
She’s Taken Home A LOT Of Hardware
The success of the TV judge’s work is nothing short of amazing. She has earned the prestigious Gracie Allen Tribute Award from the Alliance for Women in Media. The Hollywood Chamber Community Foundation awarded Judge Judy the Mary Pickford Award at the 2014 Heroes of Hollywood presentation.
Judge Judy has been nominated for 15 consecutive Daytime Emmy Awards. That longevity is only rivaled by The Simpsons and the Oprah Show. In a 2013 interview, Sheindlin said, “I have my walls full of Daytime Emmy Award nominations.”
She’s A Guinness World Record Holder
The infamous TV courtroom arbiter has landed herself in the Guinness World Record books. She has received the award for having the longest career as a TV judge, with her show first hitting airwaves in 1996.
This impressive record doesn’t look like it’ll be broken anytime soon as she is well into her second decade on TV. You have a big hill to climb, Judge Joe Brown. Good luck with that.
A True Hollywood Star
Judge Judy has been immortalized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame — a sure sign of true entertainment success. In 2006, only ten years into her TV career, she was deemed a bonified star.
She was the 2,304th star that was installed on Hollywood Boulevard and just so happened to be placed right beside her good friend, Sidney Poitier. He was the first black man to receive an Oscar for best actor.
The Red Light Doesn’t Turn Off
Over the two decades that she’s had the show, shes recorded over 5,400 episodes and has settled over 9,000 cases.
Just for reference, the TV show Friends lasted ten seasons and had only 236 episodes. Seinfeld? It had only 180 episodes. The huge hit Cheers had a total of 275 episodes and its wildly popular spin-off Frasier clocked in at 264 episodes. Judge Judy is seriously the Queen of TV.
Where Is The Show Taped?
When you’re watching Judge Judy, you’ll notice the New York City scenery sprinkled in between commercial breaks. These images lead the viewers to believe the show’s filming takes place in The Big Apple. Well, that is false.
Judge Judy flies to California via private jet to shoot. It makes sense because many popular TV shows get filmed in the sunny state of California. We’re sorry to disappoint any New York natives who might have been under the impression they could go in to watch Judy lay down the law.
Engaging With The Audience
Judge Judy is a TV show, so that means ratings still matter. It’s not all about the case at hand. Due to this, producers have to decide how they will keep the audience interested as best as they can. There is a special trick they have up their sleeves.
The producers know that when love is involved, that’s a recipe for a juicy episode. They usually choose litigants with prior relationships. These type of cases occupy the viewers on an emotional level.
She Kept Her Cool When an Earthquake Struck While Filming
Nothing can stop Judge Judy — not even an earthquake. In 2008, while filming an episode of the show, a 5.4 magnitude earthquake hit just 30 miles south of the studio courtroom. Judge Judy was addressing the plaintiff when the courtroom started shaking.
Audience members were quick to run out of the building but Judge Judy kept her cool and simply walked out of the room with one of the producers. After a 45-minute break, filming continued!
High Profile Cases
If you haven’t caught all of the episodes, do you ever wonder if there have been any high-profile people to appear? You might have seen your cousin one time, but he doesn’t count. We’re talking about actors or actresses.
For one episode that aired in 1996, actress Roz Kelly (Pinky Tuscadero from Happy Days) showed up as the plaintiff. Kelly was there because she wanted to sue her plastic surgeon for a leaky breast implant that slowed down her acting career.
She’s A Literary Wiz, Too
Fans and critics alike are well aware that Judge Judy is as sharp as they come in the courtroom. However, her skillset does not stop there because this judge is quite versed when it comes to literary skills. Judge Judy wrote a book back in 1993 titled Don’t Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining.
It doesn’t stop there. A few other of her books are Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever (1999); Keep It Simple, Stupid: You’re Smarter Than You Look (2000); Win or Lose by How You Choose (2000); You’re Smarter Than You Look: Uncomplicating Relationships (2001); and What Would Judy Say?
She Calls Out People On Their Clothing Choices
That Judge Judy sure has a quick wit. When one defendant’s witness showed up in a T-shirt that said “BEER EQUALS FUN,” she completely called him out on it.
“Mr. Gordon, that’s a ridiculous shirt that you chose to wear to court today,” she remarked. “I don’t know what kind of statement you thought you were making, but if you wanted to leave the impression on this piece of tape that you’re going to have on posterity for your children that you are an intelligent, thinking person, that shirt you’re wearing belies that fact.” A very good point, Judge.
The Toilet Case
Believe it or not, Judge Judy discussed her own toilet in one episode. A woman appeared in court to sue a former friend for supposedly breaking her toilet. Judy wasn’t having any of it.
“The toilet broke while she was using it – that doesn’t mean that she broke it, and it doesn’t mean that she’s responsible for it! Toilets break – I had one just break in my apartment last week! Cost me $650 to put in a new toilet!” She continued, “You think I went around to try to find the last person who sat on it?”
She’s Been On the Other Side of the Bench
While she may appear behind the bench on the regular, Judge Judy isn’t afraid to bite back — which she proved in 2014 when she sued a Hartford, Connecticut lawyer, John Haymond. According to Sheindlin, Haymond falsely implied in an ad that she had endorsed him or was affiliated with him in some way. Not to be used for someone else’s personal gain, she sued him.
In the end, the two settled out of court which Haymond donating to a charity of Scheindlin’s choice.
When you’re as smart and successful as Judge Judy is, you’re bound to be full of confidence. And she is! In one episode of her record-breaking show, she made this remark to a defendant: “Let me tell you something: if you live to be a hundred, you’ll never be as smart as I am in one finger.”
In another, she had this zinger of a comment. “Did you think I was just a fake person here, that they picked out of, you know, that they picked out of a supermarket? Didn’t you think that I had any legal experience at all, sir?”
Many Famous People Attended The High School Judge Judy Went To
Judge Judy attended James Madison High School, a public high school in Brooklyn, New York City. Although she’s hugely famous, she’s not even the biggest celebrity to come from the school. Other notable alumni include five Nobel Prize winners, several famous authors, athletes, and musicians, as well as two U.S. Senators (Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer).
United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is also a graduate of the school!
She Launched Her Own Website
On top of hosting her award-winning television show and authoring numerous book, Judy Sheindlin launched her own website called What Would Judy Say? The online forum was created by Judy and her team to exchange ideas on various social issues.
On What Would Judy Say?, Scheindlin shares personal stories and experiences that she hopes will help and inspire others. Users can also share their own stories and experiences so they can help strangers and friends.
She Gets A Lot Of Positive Reviews From People Who Appear On The Show
On a website called ConsumerAffairs, people are given the opportunity to provide feedback about their appearances on Judge Judy. Obviously, some are happier than others but the positive reviews are VERY positive. One woman named Lisa shared this review.
“Our experience was wonderful. The show is a well-oiled machine. I want to thank everyone behind the scenes for keeping me calm and under control. We were taken good care of from the beginning to the end! Judge Judy only cares about what’s right and who is wrong! Not about it being on TV so much. Just the facts!” That’s sure a positive review for Judy.
She’s Financially Savvy
Sure, Judge Judy pulls in a huge salary (and rightly so) on her award-winning television show. But she wasn’t always wealthy, and teaching her fans to save their money is very important to her.
In one of her website’s topical “chats,” Judith talks frankly about fiscal responsibility. She writes, “When I was a child, we went to school every Friday with a dollar in an envelope, and we had a savings book. The idea was to teach us, that in order to have a solid future, we had to start saving early. Today, it’s different. Most young people can’t even think about putting away money for their future, but it’s essential.”