‘Judge Judy’: Surprising Behind-The-Scenes Facts About The Show

Judge Judy has been on the air for decades and can be depended on to have steadily high ratings. Its popularity has spawned more courtroom shows that have sprouted and flourished, but none with the unstoppable popularity and recognition of Judge Judy.

'Judge Judy'
‘Judge Judy’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

She doesn’t mince words or try to sugarcoat her opinion of the defendants or plaintiffs. Which is why audiences have come to love the petite judge’s tough delivery of questions, answers (lots of answers!), and verdicts.

Find out more about this beloved syndicated courtroom reality show and its iconic host.

‘Judge Judy’ has been on the air for 23 years

Premiering on TV on September 16, 1996, Judge Judy has not only been on the air for 23 years; it’s flourished even in its last ten years.

Judith Sheindlin | Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC Newswire/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

“If I had to guess why our program has had longevity it’s because we have a consistent, honest approach — or I do anyway,” Sheindlin told Variety earlier this year. “I really believe that the American viewing public is smart enough to know when it’s raining outside or when their leg is being peed on — when something is phony or contrived.”

The cases are real but the courtroom audience is not

The people seen in the spectator seats are actually paid extras, who according to Mental Floss, earn $8.00 an hour to look interested in each trial. Individuals who are interested in applying to warm a seat in Judge Judy’s courtroom need to email their details and a good headshot to the show’s producers. Once they’re chosen, business casual dress is required and spectators have to arrive by 8:30 AM.

Judge Judy
‘Judge Judy’ | Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images

Other rules spectators have to follow are no eating, drinking, or gum. Also, after each case, everyone has to switch seats up so it doesn’t look like the same audience has been sitting through all those cases.

Lastly, the audience is asked to talk enthusiastically to one another in between cases so that when bailiff Officer Byrd yells “Order in the court,” it sounds like a real courtroom.

Judge Judy earns $47 million a year

Sheindlin earns a staggering amount of money a year. In fact, she is the highest-earning television host. In 2017, she took home $147 million: $47 million from hosting Judge Judy and producing Hot Bench, another popular legal television show, plus an estimated $100 million from selling the rights of her show to CBS. Not too shabby for the 77-year-old mother of five and grandmother of 13.

'Judge Judy'
‘Judge Judy’ | Cameron Devon/Getty Images

“Many people, as I did in the beginning, get stuck with a job they don’t really like. … If you’re not doing something that you love to do, find something that you love to do, because it will make your whole life different,” Sheindlin told the audience at the  2017’s Forbes Women’s Summit. With that size check, anyone would love their job!

How Sheindlin negotiates her contract

According to The New York Times, Sheindlin handles her contract talks the way she handles her court: no-nonsense and what she says, goes.

Sheindlin every few years meets with CBS Television Distribution’s president for lunch, writes her new salary on a piece of paper, puts it in a sealed envelope, and gives it to her lunch companion. One time only, she was given back by a president an envelope with a number of his own for her salary. She refused to open it. “This isn’t a negotiation,” she firmly told him.

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