Prime Time Arbitration: The Truth About Judge Judy and Other TV Court Shows

by tylercook on December 13, 2012

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Judge Judy is one of the most popular and long running series on television today, starring retired family judge Judith Sheindlin as Judge “Judy.” The show depicts the ex-judge presiding over a variety of small claims inside of a Hollywood courtroom set, often including emotional testimony and uncharacteristically exciting courtroom banter. Judy’s version of courtroom drama is the most successful and withstanding brand, spawning several imitation shows (Divorce Court, The People’s Court, etc.) and over 17 seasons.


But have you ever wondered about what legal power Judge Judy’s decisions actually have, or why plaintiffs choose to use television courtrooms over government alternatives? Carefully considering the ins and outs of courtroom reality television shows may provide you with valuable insight into the power of third party arbitration contracts within the American legal system.


It should come as no surprise to learn that some people want to bypass courtroom scenarios altogether and submit their disputes to much swifter deliberations. This is especially the case for those who suffer damages that will strongly affect their immediate financial situation, or for cases in which both parties feel that they are in the right. Fortunately for these individuals, <a href=””>court TV</a> provides significant and binding alternatives to waiting in line for a small claims court date.


Several have criticized Judy’s judgment with discounting confessions on hunches or considering vague biographical information as substantial and considerable evidence, and her aggressive behavior and quick wit is not exactly characteristic of a traditional judge. So even if there are countless individuals who want to use courtroom TV to help resolve their legal disputes, where does Judy get her legal power?


Long before the television proceedings begin, the two parties that are set to appear sign contracts which bind them to agree to the Judy’s decision, whatever it may be. As you may know, arbitration is a legal methodology for resolving disputes outside of courtrooms. Parties represent their case to a neutral third party arbitrator who examines both sides of an issue and then makes a decision in favor of one or the other.



These arbitrators are empowered by this arbitration contract which is legally binding and usually prevents either party from negotiating the terms of the arbitration. However, bringing these arbitration contracts to court is not impossible. Decisions made by arbitrators may be appealed if the scope of the decision made by the arbitrator includes matters which were not dictated by the contract. For example, if the arbitration contract was made out to allow the arbitrator to resolve a personal property dispute, a judgment regarding custody or visitation rights would likely be overturned by a judge if disputed.


The binding nature of these contracts and their strength in court means that it’s crucially important for both parties to fully understand what kind of decisions that they’re allowing their arbitrator to make prior to signing. Some have criticized Judge Judy and other courtroom television programs for not providing the sufficient legal counsel required for informed and intelligent decisions about signing such contracts, but these criticisms for the most part mistake the purpose of the show. People turn to courtroom dramas to avoid the stuffy and lengthy legal process, believing in the accuracy of their own position, and hoping their favor will be borne out by the former judge and her decades of wisdom presiding over both real and fake courtrooms.



This article was composed by Otter Boone for the team at; Judge Judy may be useful for certain small claims, but for motor accidents for which motoring offence solicitors can advise they are among the best.




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