Do People Get Paid to be on TV Court Shows?

The reality-based court show first came to fame in the 1980s. Judge Wapner presided over the people’s court for 12 seasons, before the show was canceled and revamped three years later. Wapner’s appearance and subsequent seasons of The People’s Court gave way to a myriad of reality-based arbitration shows. Judge Judy, currently the reigning queen of daytime reality television is the highest paid daytime television personality. Her no-nonsense attitude, witty catchphrases, and penchant for calling things as she sees them has led to the immense popularity of the genre and has made way for several different court-based shows featuring different judges.

If you love watching these shows, you have probably wondered exactly how the casting process works and whether or not the plaintiff and defendant are in a real dispute. You may also question whether or not they are paid for their time. The simple answer is, yes, they are real, and they are paid for their time, but it gets a bit more complicated than that.

Do people get paid to be on TV court shows?

Anyone appearing on a television court show is paid an appearance fee. These fees are generally small, ranging from $100 to $300. Each court shows appearance fee is a little bit different, and additional perks might be included to entice people to appear. For example, a show may offer to pay for travel expenses, including hotel and flights, for guests who are not from the area where the show is being filmed.

Those who appear in the background as the court audience are also paid. Generally speaking, the audiences are comprised of aspiring actors or actresses who work as extras. Extras are people who are used to make the background of a show or movie look full. Extras on shows are paid a nominal fee for their time. The standard rate for an extra is $100 to $150 per day. Extras may be paid a bonus if they have a particularly striking feature that the production company wants to include in the show.

Who pays the verdict?

Arbitration court shows are responsible for awarding the winner of the case with the monetary judgment passed down by the judge. Settlements are paid directly to the winner through a fund set up for the show. The defendant is not required to pay the award, and this is considered one of the significant perks of appearing on a show like Judge Judy or The People’s Court. The winning party is ensured to collect the verdict amount, and the defendant can walk away from the case knowing that it has been handled. The show’s production company does not pay any legal fees that were accrued before the plaintiff and defendant appeared on the show.

What are the requirements to appear on a TV court show?

Judge Judy
Judge Judy | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

TV court shows don’t just pick anyone up off the street, and the cases are real. To appear on a TV court show, an actual lawsuit must have been filed in a court of law. The claim must be active, and there must not be a judgment already in place for the case to appear on the show. Additionally, TV court shows have the same claim threshold as traditional small claims courts. The lawsuit cannot exceed $5,000.

Those who appear on the show must also agree to withdraw their lawsuit from the traditional court system before appearing on the show. The presiding judge also has the ability to dismiss a case without prejudice if they feel the case is without merit, or that the plaintiff and defendant are working together for monetary gain. Judge Judy has been known to dismiss claims without prejudice when she feels the parties appearing are in cahoots.