Judge Judy: Behind The Scenes Secrets

© CBS / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Judge Judy (Judith Sheindlin) is harsh, direct or completely unafraid to ruffle anyone’s feathers or hurt anyone’s feelings, which is probably why she makes for good TV! Her arbitration-based reality show is incredibly popular and has led the ratings in courtroom programming since its premiere. Unsurprisingly, the show is on its 21st season. Because the show’s so popular, we have 8 shocking behind the scenes secrets on her Emmy-winning show:

8. Finding Litigants

There are about 60 to 65 researchers who are spread out across the U.S. They visit small claims courts and photocopy any cases that might make for good TV and send them to producers of the show, who determine whether they worthy enough for television. According to producers, most aren’t. Only 3% of the cases that researchers send in will make good television. They also recruit people on the show with an announcement and phone number for interested people to call in with their lawsuits and there is also a website where people can submit their lawsuits to the show. If producers are interested, they have their employees call the plaintiff and defendant and ask them questions about their lawsuit to ensure they are suitable for the show. If both parties agree to appear on Judge Judy, they must sign a waiver, agreeing that arbitration on the show is final and they cannot pursue it elsewhere.

Source: latimesblogs.latimes.com

7. Litigants with a Prior Relationship

Producers are looking for litigants with a prior relationship. “Boyfriend-girlfriend, mother-daughter, father-son, father-brother, sister-sister,” Randy Douthitt, the show’s Executive Producer, said. “That way it pulls in the audience a little bit more, there’s an emotional tie that’s been broken, and you end up with a bit of a mini soap opera.”

Source: kirbymuseum.org

6. Award Limit

The award limit on Judge Judy is $5,000. The producers pay litigants from a fund that is reserved for this very purpose. Judge Judy rules by issuing a specific dollar amount, which is not always the amount requested, or by dismissing the case altogether. If the case is dismissed “without prejudice” then litigants may re-file their case in another forum. She has done this in some instances so that plaintiffs can pursue defendants in an actual court of law and defendants can then be held financially accountable. She has also dismissed cases without prejudice when she thinks that the plaintiff and defendants are conspiring for a monetary award.

Source: www.nydailynews.com

5. All Expenses Paid

To appear on the show, both the plaintiffs and the defendants receive an appearance fee, which varies from $150 to $500, as well as a $35 a day stipend by the show. The show also pays for the flight to Los Angeles, their hotel and their meals. The litigants’ stay in L.A. usually lasts for the number of days that they tape that week, which is usually between two to three days.

Source: www.winq.com

4. The Courtroom Audience

To ensure a full audience, producers hire extras from an audience service to create the courtroom audience. Most of these people are aspiring actors and actresses who are paid by the show for their time. Arrangements can also be made with production staff to allow fans of the show into the audience. Extras are expected not to dress casually and they are not allowed to wear logos or brand names that might be visible on their clothing. They are also instructed to make it look as though they are having discussions with each other before and after each case, so the bailiff can announce, “Order! All rise.”

Source: everybodylookbusy.com

3. The Litigants Are Poor

Many of the litigants who appear on Judge Judy are really poor. “I have to ask them if they have teeth,” producer Sharon Houston said. Most of the litigants don’t have a full set of teeth so for their appearances the show buys them a pair or paints them if they have rotted or become discolored from drug use. That’s not all! They will also take litigants to a barber or hairdresser and provide them with clothes so that they look presentable. “If you saw what America actually looks like, you’d be horrified,” Houston said. “You wouldn’t turn on the TV.”

Source: gawker.com

2. Lack of Power

While the cases are real, litigants don’t have to pay the damages when they lose a case – that money comes from the production budget. In fact, Judge Judy doesn’t have the power to even enforce the transfer of property. Once she dismisses a case, the case is over by the terms of the arbitration agreement that both parties sign so, if she orders a defendant to return a piece of property, it doesn’t necessarily happen.

© CBS / Courtesy: Everett Collection

1. Filming Secrets

They film three days a week every other week and usually produce ten to twelve cases for each day of filming. This creates about a week’s worth of episodes that are done in one day. They film anywhere from thirty to thirty six cases over a three day period. Most of the cases last anywhere from twelve to forty-five minutes, so it’s the crew’s job to capture the drama and edit it to an episode. While the show is made to look like it was filmed in New York City, it’s actually taped in Hollywood.

Source: www.ktnv.com


Cate has a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature and has been the Managing Editor of Fame10 for more than 6 years. Despite having a love for the works of Thomas Hardy, Leo Tolstoy and Lord Byron, she also has an intense fascination with pop culture. When she isn’t writing for Fame10, she’s planning her next big adventure in Southeast Asia.