Judge Judy

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By Jonathan Oh

With her outspoken style, hard-hitting decisiveness and biting wit, Judge Judith Sheindlin single-handedly reinvented the courtroom genre and in the process has become TV’s most watched court show and a pop culture phenomenon. A former New York Family Court judge known for her ability to cut through a dispute and get to the core of the emotional issue at hand, Judge Judy acts as a true moral compass for people seeking guidance, resolution and a little common sense in their often complicated lives.

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JUDGE JUDITH SHEINDLIN'S BIO

Smart, savvy and opinionated, the irrepressible Judge Judith Sheindlin continues to hold court as presiding judge on JUDGE JUDY, the highest-rated daily, half-hour, nationally syndicated reality courtroom series that returns for its 15th season on Monday, September 13, 2010. Having made a name for herself as a tough but fair judge in New York’s Family Court, Sheindlin retired from the bench in 1996 to bring her trademark wit and wisdom to the widely successful series that takes viewers inside a television courtroom where justice is dispensed at lightning speed.

Sheindlin’s career in family court began in 1972, prosecuting juvenile delinquency cases for the state of New York. Although an emotionally taxing job, Sheindlin knew right away she had found her calling, quickly developing a reputation as a sharp, no-nonsense lawyer. In 1982, then New York Mayor Edward Koch appointed Sheindlin to the bench in the Family Court.

In 1986, she was appointed the Supervising Judge in Manhattan and, since then, has heard more than 20,000 cases during her career. A swift decision-maker with no tolerance for lame excuses, Sheindlin earned a reputation as one of New York’s toughest judges. While on the bench, her message was simple - take responsibility for yourself, your actions and the children you’ve brought into the world. Sheindlin is credited with pioneering an “open court policy,” allowing the public and the media to view her day-to-day proceedings, which was not a common practice at the time. “Americans have the right to know how their interests are being represented,” Sheindlin said.

Even as a child, Sheindlin seemed destined to pursue a legal career. Never without an opinion or point of view, everything was a debate to young Judy. “My father thought I would be a Senator, because I was always arguing with him” she said. She attended college at the School of Government at American University in Washington, D.C., and after her graduation in 1963, went on to New York Law School where she received her degree. She began practicing law in Manhattan in 1965.

As one of the most outspoken judges in the country, Sheindlin was the subject of a Los Angeles Times article in February 1993. The story caught the attention of “60 Minutes,” which soon led to a segment on the popular newsmagazine show.

After her appearance, Sheindlin was approached about the possibility of presiding over real cases with real consequences in a television courtroom. Intrigued by the notion of bringing her no-nonsense message to a national audience, she agreed. Shortly thereafter, JUDGE JUDY became a reality, premiering in national syndication on September 16, 1996. When asked about her decision to hang up her robe for television, Sheindlin said, “For 24 years, I tried to change the way families deal with problems on a very small scale, one case at a time. Now I can use the skills I have developed and take my message to more people everyday.”

In 1996, Sheindlin published her first book, “Don’t Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining.” In this brutally honest criticism of the family court system, she offers provocative and realistic suggestions for what she sees as weaknesses in the Family Court system, including steps to reform welfare fraud, foster care, juvenile delinquency and frivolous lawsuits. She also points out that our justice system is inherently flawed, rewarding troubled youth with professional attention and beautiful facilities, while leaving good kids alone to languish in broken-down schools. “The time for change was yesterday. The time to wake up is now,” she exclaims. Her second book, “Beauty Fades, Dumb Is Forever,” was published in January 1999. A national best seller, the book takes an in-depth look at women’s issues, including the need to have self-esteem, independence, self-reliance and, most importantly, a sense of humor.

In February 2000, Sheindlin published her first children's book entitled “Win or Lose By How You Choose.” Her second book in the genre, “Judge Judy Sheindlin’s You Can’t Judge A Book By Its Cover,” followed the next year. Designed as tools to help parents interact with their children, engaging illustrations accompany a series of clever questions that encourage parents to discuss the answers and evaluate the consequences of each course of action with their children.

Published in 2000, Sheindlin’s third book for adults, “Keep It Simple, Stupid: You’re Smarter Than You Look,” shares her no-nonsense opinions on solving everyday family squabbles. The paperback re-release, “You’re Smarter Than You Look,” was published a year later.

Over the past 15 seasons, the popularity of JUDGE JUDY has transcended daytime television to become part of America’s pop culture. As a result, she has appeared on “Saturday Night Live”; has served as a judge for the 1999 Miss America Pageant; and has been profiled on A&E’s “Biography,” MSNBC’s “Headliners & Legends,” E! Entertainment’s “Celebrity Profile” and Lifetime Television’s “Intimate Portrait.” She’s also been featured on “The Today Show,” “Dateline NBC,” “Larry King Live,” “The Tonight Show,” “Live! With Regis and Kelly,” “Rachael Ray,” “The View,” “The Insider” and “Entertainment Tonight,” as well as been interviewed in major national publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Family Circle, People, Entertainment Weekly, Modern Maturity, Parade, Good Housekeeping, TV Guide, Redbook and Time, to name a few.

In 2000, Sheindlin received the Distinguished Alumni Award from New York Law School. The following year, she was honored by the Working Organization for Retarded Children and Adults for her advocacy on behalf of individuals with mental retardation. She is also involved with the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, which promotes colorectal cancer awareness.

In 2003, “60 Minutes II” interviewed Sheindlin, updating the original “60 Minutes Classic” from a decade earlier. The new segment focused on the enormous popularity of JUDGE JUDY and the ever outspoken opinions of its judge.

Later that year, VH1 named Sheindlin one of the “200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons.” In 2004, Sheindlin was named International Spokesperson for North Shore Animal League America to promote pet adoptions throughout the United States and all over the world.

In 2006, Sheindlin received a prestigious Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, situated next to her good friend, the legendary actor Sidney Poitier. She also received the prestigious Gracie Allen Tribute Award from American Women in Radio and Television for her significant contributions to the broadcasting industry.

In 2007, Sheindlin was named one of the top celebrities in entertainment in Forbes’ “Celebrity 100” List.

Sheindlin is married to Judge Jerry Sheindlin, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of New York. The second marriage for both, they have five children between them: Gregory, Jamie, Jonathan, Adam and Nicole, as well as 11 grandchildren.

Although production takes place in Los Angeles, Sheindlin lives in Florida where she enjoys working out daily, traveling, spending time with her 11 grandchildren, snorkeling, antiquing and, of course, bargain shopping. In addition to her academic degrees, she holds honorary Doctor of Law degrees from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania and New York Law School.

JUDGE JUDY is a Big Ticket Television production and is distributed by CBS Television Distribution. Big Ticket is a CBS Company. Randy Douthit is executive producer and director. Timothy Regler is executive producer. CBS Television Distribution is a unit of CBS corp.
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