What People On Judge Judy Don't Know

Recently I’ve become intrigued by Judge Judy type small claims court TV shows. They offer a fascinating look at how little some people know about the legal system. Here’s what America learned in the past week or so:

  • If you co-sign a loan, both parties are jointly and individually responsible. So if you break up with the girl and she stops making payments on the car, go over and get the car yourself. Don’t tell the financing place to repo the car and that “they need to go after her.”
  • If you start a business, you must use a ledger-based system where there are records of transactions, even if you’re paying people in cash. So if you start a bar with your alcoholic mother and things go badly and you want to sue for your investment back and the only proof you have that you gave her money is some debits on your bank account, sorry Charlie.
  • You cannot sue your daughter for your hotel bills because she kicked you out of her house.
  • If you’re running a welfare scam on your sister and she doesn’t give you the money you think you deserve, don’t go to court because the judge will dismiss the case and send it to the DA’s office to prosecute you both for welfare fraud.
  • If you leave a car in front of a mechanic’s with a note on the windshield without setting up anything with them beforehand, it’s your fault if it gets broken into.
  • If you break up someone and leave the apartment and move everything out and some of their possessions get lost in the move, it’s your fault, even if “they had a whole day” to pick them up.
  • (Image from Judge Joe Brown)


    Edit Your Comment

    1. AnnieGetYourFun says:

      Wow, Ben. Maybe you just should trust women with money?

    2. AnnieGetYourFun says:

      Shouldn’t. Sigh.

    3. GothamGal says:

      As a woman, I am not allowed to touch money, doors or chairs. BTW, I shop at WalMart and wear these really cool undies that say “who needs credit cards.” I pay by vagina.

    4. Crymson_77 says:

      The first item on the list should be a given…

    5. DrGirlfriend says:

      On the welfare fraud example, I like it when a defendant on one of those shows brings a claim to court, but then in the process reveals that they did something illegal too and then they get arrested. It’s funny to see that some people get so outraged by their perception that someone is screwing them over that they forget that they should probably keep their mouths shut.

    6. bsankr says:

      yeah, but if people used common sense, (a) they wouldn’t be there and (b) judy would have no one to yell at. serene judy makes for sad viewers.

    7. warf0x0r says:

      @GothamGal: O.O

    8. hinten says:

      Something I learned reading The Consumerist:
      If the post is not proofread and edited it will still get posted.

    9. Pylon83 says:

      Seconded. I’m glad I’m not the only one that caught that typo.

    10. MercuryPDX says:

      I <3 Judge Judy.

      At times I feel like she is the last bastion of common sense in this world.

    11. bpotterr says:

      @Crymson_77: ALL of the items on the list should be a given. That’s the point.

    12. shades_of_blue says:

      @GothamGal: Good payment method, does it offer any returns? Think Visa Extras *_* [I’m sooo evil]

    13. morganlh85 says:

      I’m addicted to court shows. People’s Court is my favorite, then Judy. One thing I’m always baffled by is how people think they can withhold rent just because they are pissed off.

    14. jamesdenver says:

      Ugh. Everyone watches these shows in the lunchroom. I supposed it’s fun to play armchair judge – but I have enough yellow and shrill voices every day WITHOUT TV.

      Nova’s more my thing…

    15. faust1200 says:

      @MercuryPDX: Agreed. It is so satisfying to watch her verbally machete her way through peoples bullshit. I wish I had a Judge Judy to carry around with me in my daily life. Sic ’em Judy!

    16. XTC46 says:

      I like when she just tells people to shut up or calls them liars. It is so much funnier than a real trial by jury type court, which is always so boring.

    17. PølάrβǽЯ says:

      @ben: “If you co-sign a loan, both parties are jointly and individually responsible. So if you break up with the girl and she stops making payments on the car, go over and get the car yourself. Don’t tell the financing place to repo the car and that “they need to go after her.”

      I disagree. Yes, both parties are responsible for PAYING for the car, but only the actual buyer is on the registration of the vehicle and has legal right to possess it, NOT the co-signer. And if your name is NOT on the registration, taking the car is called GRAND THEFT AUTO.

      The point of being a co-signer is that you are saying you trust the person so much to make good on the loan that you will risk having having to pay for the loan yourself if they cannot. Being a co-signer does NOT get you free merchandise if the buyer defaults, it gets you screwed.

      Instead of telling the loan company/dealer to repo the car, and instead of STEALING the car (going over and getting it, as Ben said), the co-signer should continue to pay the loan to keep his/her credit in good standing, and THEN sue the buyer for defaulting.

    18. DrGirlfriend says:

      My favorite People’s Court was back in the days of Judge Wapner. A little old lady was suing a girl who rented a room in her home for medical damages because she found the girl’s bag of pot, and threw it in the fireplace. She felt sick and disoriented for days afterwards. Seeing as she admitted to Judge Wapner that she knew it was pot when she burned it, she didn’t get much of anything in the suit, but it was funny to see The Wap try to hold in the laughter.

    19. TheSeeker says:

      Is it true that Judge Judy makes something like $30Million a year with this show?

    20. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

      My friends father was a small claims court judge. Oh the stories he told…

      I had to sue an ex for return of property. It went a bit like this:
      Judge: You agree that the [item] is hers, then?
      Him: Yes.
      Judge: You borrowed the [item]?
      Him: Yes.
      Judge: You promised to return it to her on [date]?
      Him: Yes.
      Judge: So why didn’t you return it on [date]?
      Him: ::shrugs:: I don’t want to.

      Needless to say, I got my stuff back.

    21. MercuryPDX says:

      @TheSeeker: “Judith Sheindlin, a former judge who now hosts the cable TV series Judge Judy, earned a salary of $25 million last year. By contrast, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, presiding over the nation’s highest court, brought in less than $200,000.”


    22. marsneedsrabbits says:

      Sadly, I can say I’ve been to court 7 because of problems in my old neighborhood (happily, our group of neighbors won every single time even though we didn’t have attorneys and none of us were attorneys). So here are a few ways that Judge Judy is not realistic:
      * When Judge Judy yells at people for not being properly dressed or prepared, if anything, she’s easy on the fine folks who come before her. In real life, judges will refuse to hear excuses for why people aren’t prepared, especially if they are the ones who brought the action. They don’t tolerate comments from the gallery and they want you to come dressed neatly. They are apt to tell you that you knew you were coming today and hand the judgement to the defendant.
      * In real life, judges are usually experienced lawyers, just like Judge Judy, but not always. In some municipalities, anyone who wins a judgeship election can serve, but they may not know a whole lot more than you do. You don’t know fun until you get a judge who has to check with the clerk to see if he has jurisdiction over your case. At least Judge Judy knows the law.
      * If Judge Judy was real, her show would start late every day. Court is always (in my experience) late. If your case is due to start at 10:00 AM, be happy if it starts by 11:30AM.
      * Conversely, you know how Judge Judy’s show wraps up two cases in half an hour? That’s actually pretty realistic. Assuming the judge knows what he or she is doing, they will hear both sides, any rebuttal and will make their decision right there in just a few minutes. You are often left with a sense of “You mean I got all dressed up, prepared this case, waited forever, and it took 10 minutes to settle?”
      * Collecting your judgement (if there is one) is not easy. Once you have it, it’s up to you to collect and that can be difficult and time consuming. I think the people on Judge Judy get a fee for appearing, which is split after the judgement is paid. In real life, the people who wouldn’t do the right things to begin with probably won’t when there is a judgement against them, either.

    23. gingerCE says:

      I love Judge Judy. I did a thesis paper on her in college. I actually think she’s gotten nicer over the years–not as tough as she was when she began though.

    24. httpdotcom says:

      @MercuryPDX: That’s because Judge Judy gets through 10 cases a week in less than 2 1/2 hours (sans commercials). The Supreme Court Justices are lucky to get through opening arguments for one case in that amount of time.

      Go Judy!

    25. TechnoDestructo says:


      I’m sure Ms. Ginsburg lives comfortably.

      I’m not sure I care to speculate on who derives more satisfaction from their job, though…I mean on the one hand, Supreme Court cases are of far-reaching, long-term importance. On the other hand, I don’t guess she often gets to tell people how stupid they are.

    26. spinachdip says:

      @httpdotcom: That, and SCOTUS doesn’t sell ad space. Yet.

    27. cde says:

      @shades_of_blue: Just the Herpes Plus Rewards, the gift that keeps on giving.

    28. shades_of_blue says:

      @gingerCE: I think that’s more typical with female judges, they feel it’s important to set a firm example at first, so they won’t be looked at as ‘just a women’. But some stay real nasty, like the one in my district, she’s a real nasty women.

    29. cde says:

      @ceejeemcbeegee: I don’t go to Jezebel Enough……… You make my day now that your on Comsumerist :D

    30. shades_of_blue says:

      @cde: lolol Sounds like a Discover card

    31. Pylon83 says:

      That’s not entirely correct. Oral arguments before the Supreme Court are typically very short (relatively). Each side, by default, gets 30 minutes to present. Most of the “work” in Supreme Court cases is done in the briefs.

    32. racermd says:

      Heh… I always giggle a little in that “I’m-5-years-old-again” way whenever I see the acronyms for various federal government units like SCOTUS and POTUS. Anything *OTUS. Makes me think (and hope) that someone at the federal level has a sense of humor and a set of brass ones.

      As for court shows, I stopped watching them since before Wapner left. I couldn’t stand the stupidity. Why should I be forced to deal with it in person on a daily basis at my job and STILL watch it on TV on my own time? It’s too much to bear, I tells ya’.

    33. G-Dog says:

      I love all the people that buy a friend/lover a cell phone in their name, then don’t want to pay the bill when it gets out of hand.

    34. ct03 says:

      @httpdotcom: Another reason Judge Judy’s “court” is different from other courts is because courtroom shows aren’t actually litigation; they’re binding arbitration that the parties agree to before going on the show. That’s why no real rules of procedure apply and why people can generally behave like buffoons. The parties agree to accept Judge Judy’s ruling, however wrong it may be, just like most consumers are bound to accept the decisions of arbitrators that they agreed to use when they signed their phone contracts, credit card forms, employment application, etc.

      For more info: [www.abanet.org]

    35. akalish says:

      Are people really that dumb?

    36. JustIcedCoffee says:

      The Sick part is I just watched all those episodes this last week… School’s out so I am totally up on people’s court and judge judy.

    37. guroth says:

      I want to see someone take someone else to small claims court for stealing their illegal drugs.

    38. Pylon83 says:

      I don’t know if dumb is the right word. I understand they get like $5-10k for being on the show.

    39. goller321 says:

      I really have a dislike for Judge Judy. She is rather pius and condescending. I do however enjoy the current “people Court” judge and Judge Joe Brown. They both seem to not only have a grasp on the truth of the cases, they aren’t over acting and sanctimonious like Judy is.

      But to the point, have watched these types shows occasionally, it astounds me how little people walk into knowing. How about some prep people? Between them and Cops, where people haven’t a clue at all what their actual rights are it really shows how ignorant most of the population is.

    40. My favorite People’s Court was the crazy old lady who sued a leather repair shop for the cost of two purses. Why? Because she had taken one in for repair, and bought one from their shop the same day because she was without purse. They finished repairs in a week, then tried to contact her. FOR TWO AND A HALF YEARS. They kept the purse in their back room, and called repeatedly (though, down the line, it became about once a month), but got no reply, and no one came for it. They finally say “Screw this,” give away or sell the purse, and who comes waltzing in about two weeks later?

      She seriously expected them to hold onto this thing, waiting with bated breath for her to show up (which they did for a while), for over two years. And she wanted the cost of the purse she bought, because, 2.5 years later, the handle was torn or something.

      And she was a right bitch to Judge Milian. “Oh, honey,” she said, “Macy’s would take it back after two years.” Needless to say, she lost, and spent the post-judgment interview complaining about how unjust the decision was.

    41. Parting says:

      @goller321: I think I would become pious and condescending after dealing with so many idiots over years :)

    42. no.no.notorious says:


    43. Parting says:

      @enriquez the water bottle: Where do they find these people =P

      I never seen that many at the same time that lack common sense. For every sane person, judge Judy seems to get an idiot.

    44. PølάrβǽЯ says:

      @Pylon83: No. I was invited to be on judge Judy when I sued my ex-wife. It’s all expenses paid (air-fare, hotel, shuttle to studio, vouchers for meals), plus, THEY also pay the judgment to the winner (even though they don’t say that on TV). But $25k? You’re nuts.

    45. ceejeemcbeegee is not here says:

      @cde: Thanks!

      @enriquez the water bottle: She’s confusing Macy’s with Nordy’s, ‘cuz you can’t bring anything back to Macy’s after 6 months, or 14-30 days if it looks worn.

      Now Nordy’s… I’ve seen little old ladies (obviously on limited income) return worn pantyhose with runs and tattered shoes for a full refund.

    46. Pylon83 says:

      I don’t recall saying they paid you $25,000. I think I said $5,000 to $10,000. However, I did some research after that post and determined the amount is probably lower than that, though I doubt the sources credibility.

    47. Trojan69 says:

      There is typically a pot of cash, 2,500 – 5,000 that will be split among the parties. Let’s say the judgment is for $500 and assume a pot of $2,500. The remaining 2,000 is split evenly. So, one person got 1,500, the other 1,000. If there is no judgment against either side, they just split the pot as an appearance fee.

      I know this, if I was on the wrong side of a claim, I would love to act the fool on TV in exchange for my liability being covered.

    48. Pylon83 says:

      That arrangement is exactly what I have heard about, though the numbers are always different.

    49. TechnoDestructo says:


      Do they try and collect from the loser?

    50. Chongo says:

      @Trojan69: A friend of mine was on Judge Mathis and was suing another friend. She won the maximum 5000 and they gave her every penny. They also gave the defendant about 200 bucks for showing up (and food, etc).

      The best line was, judge mathis looks at my guy friend (defendant) and says “You smokin too much weed?”.


    51. RvLeshrac says:


      You haven’t read many SCOTUS transcripts, then!

      The judges will frequently berate lawyers on both sides, though they often use more subtle barbs.

    52. RvLeshrac says:


      Oh, and the vast majority of time the SCOTUS spends on a decision is in writing the opinions. They spend months on that aspect alone, because every single letter of the majority opinion has to be cross-referenced against thousands of legal cases. Single-word changes can affect hundreds of appeals and can overturn thousands of convictions.

    53. darious says:

      True, but while Sheindlin is selling laundry soap et. al to the viewers of a reality-tv/soap opera/Geraldo mashup, Judge Ginsburg helps to shape the course of nations. 15 minutes after Judge Judy goes off the air Sheindlin will be forgotten. Judge Ginsburg’s decisions and the direction she’s taken her court will reverberate for decades…if not centuries.

      All that AND a $200,000 per year paycheck AND a life of public service? Where do I sign up?

    54. ARPRINCE says:

      Judge Judy is the best judge! But I feel sorry for her husband. ;)

    55. Starfury says:

      I watched People’s Court with Wapner and also with the new judge. The best part was if the judge would ask for a receipt; if they had one they tended to win, if not they’d lose.

    56. BigNutty says:

      Judge Judy should be working and ruling in a real courtroom again. She takes no crap from anybody. Her experience and knowledge sees right through people that are lying.

      She even admits the times her own son tried to pull a fast one on her. If we had more Mothers like her out there, these kid’s that run around acting tough, robbing people, gang banging, tagging and everything else illegal would end that day.

    57. TheKel says:

      It actually depresses me when I watch those shows. They really showcase the worst of people.

    58. savvy999 says:

      @TheKel: Yes, these and the Cops and Elima-date shows are a little bit too real for me. I actually don’t want to be reminded how truly dumb some (a lot?) of people are.

      It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that this is what a majority of American life is truly like.

    59. floydianslip6 says:

      Where’s the love for Judge Wap’s new show? Animal Court!!!

    60. johnnyboi1016 says:

      @httpdotcom: Do you really think they show every minute of the case? (live or not) I would have to assume they edit the cases so that only the most relevant/humorous points are covered. It’s like poker on tv, they only show you ~2% of the entire action, that being the most exciting hands and coverage of famous players. They don’t air the 90% of folding and silence that actually is most prevalent in poker tournaments.

    61. SacraBos says:

      @CHOUCHOU Same place they probably find people for Jerry Springer. That’s a show where I can’t believe the people are so stupid.

      Jerry: So, John, how’s your relationship with Jane?
      John: Oh, it’s great. She’s a wonderful person, [ad nauseum]

      If John had a clue, it’d go like:

      Jerry: So, John, how’s your relationship with Jane?
      John: It was great until I got your invite to the show. She’s really my brother after a gender-reassignment operation, isn’t she?

    62. SpdRacer says:

      @guroth: They call the cops all the time, I love seeing the stories of people calling the cops cause whoever stole their drugs and I want them arrested. This country is dumb! (And getting dumber)

    63. SpdRacer says:

      @SacraBos: Springer is a great place to be an audience member, funniest shit I have EVER seen in person.

    64. Jamie Beckland says:

      My husband TiVos Judge Mathis, and watches it like a part time job. Mathis is the only one that does it for him…although occassionally he will watch that lesbian judge who is on TPC now if the TiVo suggests it.

      I have to say that I hate those shows, but still find myself watching people get dressed down in utter delight. It’s a guilty pleasure.

      I believe that in the end, the TV judges are not in session much more than the SCOTUS judges because they film upwards of a week’s worth of episodes each day of filming. So, they probably film for about 15-20 weeks per year.

      As others have mentioned, they don’t have nearly the writing assignments though.

    65. kelmeister says:

      The greatest Judge Judy is available on YouTube (which I would link to, but I am at work and it’s blocked). You should seek it out though, because it’s brilliant.

      Lady A bought a camera off of eBay from Lady B. Lady A receives in the mail a photocopied picture of said camera. Lady B argues up and down that the listing was for a “photo of a camera,” explaining how the wording of the listing works and all that, and for a while it looks bad for Lady A. But then Judge Judy realizes that Lady B is a dumbass and had cut and pasted the description of the camera into her listing, including the weight. And since the weight of the photocopy was much less than the weight in the listing, it proved fraud and Judge Judy reported Lady B to the AG. It was so awesome.

    66. Jim says:

      Amen to the Judy-for-everybody’s-mom crowd.

      And to add to the semi-hijacking of the thread, my favorite Wapner case was a guy suing for 50 cents because he bought a beer from a vending machine and it was flat. He sued the store, not the distributor or the vending company. For 50 cents.

      That was Wapner holding back at his best, he was the only person who saw that case who didn’t yell “You’re an idiot!”, though he did come close. I fully expected him to dig two quarters out of his robe and take a recess to compose himself.

    67. chalicechick says:

      @kelmeister: Yep, I’ve seen that one. It was awesome.

    68. @DrGirlfriend: That always makes me nuts (in a good way). I can’t get over the fact that people think they can go to court to solve a dispute that involves them breaking the law.

    69. @kelmeister: I saw that one, it was awesome, and here it is.

      The best episodes of any court show are the ones where scammers and jerks get busted.

    70. ExecutorElassus says:

      @SpdRacer: Man am I glad someone brought up Springer. EVERY time I visit Chicago, I try to get tickets. Too bad I always miss taping season, and the tickets sell out way in advance. That stuff borders on avant-garde.

    71. SacraBos says:

      @rectilinear Just saw the video. Judy couldn’t be more upset, you can almost tell she wants to leap the bench and strangle this woman. The amazing thing, is that this Kelli-scammer still doesn’t get she’s committing fraud and is somehow more clever than Judge Judy.

      @spdracer I think it’s amazing that “Steve” almost has a cult following. It probably would be fun to go to a JS taping, but I think I’d need a full-body sand-blasting to get rid of that dirty feeling.

    72. syncpulse says:

      @MercuryPDX: what does that say for the future of umanity? Truly we are doomed.

    73. syncpulse says:

      Humanity I mean. I guess i didn’t read that comment about proofreading before i hit submit

    74. Mary says:

      @guroth: “I want to see someone take someone else to small claims court for stealing their illegal drugs.”

      I saw it on Judge Alex ; ) I watch about six of these shows every day because I’m a receptionist and the tv is on in the waiting room. So I get Divorce Court, Judge Hatchett, Christina’s Court, Judge Alex, Judge Joe Brown, AND Judge Judy. I have much less faith in humanity than I used to.

    75. mattindustries says:

      The funny part is this all boils down to never trust a woman.

    76. comopuedeser says:

      A sad commentary on America that someone would sue their daughter for anything (much less for kicking them out of the house and having to pay for hotel costs).

    77. sibertater says:

      Judge Judy is a douche bag. I’m sorry, I’ve always thought so.

      Do they have these types of shows in England, or anywhere else for that matter? People wonder why we’re considered a “developed” country. I am amazed everyday. How do people not fall down more?

    78. RvLeshrac says:


      The big-money tables are always chatty, though it is bad etiquette to BS while someone is trying to bet.

    79. kalmakazee says:


      I saw that episode and I have it saved to my favorites on youtube. That was one of the BEST episodes. Judge Judy was brilliant in that episode. :-)

      Judge Judy is the BEST Judge On Television. She is tougher then hell. I am petrified of her, haha. What a GROUCH, lol. :-D