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, Judge Judy has been the ratings leader in courtroom-themed reality-based shows. As of 2009, the Judge Judy program has been nominated twelve times for Daytime Emmy Awards. In January 2008, Judge Judy was extended through the 2012-13 season (the show's seventeenth).
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." Unhappy with that title, however, Sheindlin convinced her television producers 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. Randy Douthit and Timothy Regler are the show's executive producers.
At the beginning of court proceeding, off-camera announcer Jerry Bishop 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 other shows in the genre). When a counterclaim has been filed, it will be handled during the same show segment. However if a case is dismissed without prejudice due to a factor such as Sheindlin 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 welcome 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 even four shorter ones. At the end of a case, the plaintiff and the defendant express their feelings about the case, although sometimes this part of a case is omitted, especially involving contentious or removed litigants.
Country of origin United States
Running time 22 minutes approx. (excluding commercials)
Production company(s) Big Ticket Television
Distributor Worldvision Enterprises (1996-2000)
CBS Television Distribution (2000-present)
Original run September 16, 1996 – present