Judge Judy was hoping to be able to afford to retire when she started her show


Judge Judy Sheindlin ended her very popular show, Judge Judy, last May. It ran for 25 years. During that time, Judge Judy established herself as a no-nonsense, swift arbitrator able to put on an entertaining display without becoming comical. And she became close friends with Samuel L. Jackson who reached out to her as a fan. Judge Judy also walked away with a fortune estimated to be around $460 million. In her People cover story, Judge Judy said she never set out to make that kind of money. She said she and her husband hoped she’d make enough money to retire to, “a two-bedroom apartment one block off the beach in Florida.” I think they can probably swing that now. Or maybe just buy the whole beach.

Judge Judy Sheindlin is currently worth an estimated $460 million, according to Forbes, but before the 79-year-old made it big on court TV, Sheindlin struggled to make ends meet.

“The majority of my life, I spent buying on the sale rack,” she tells PEOPLE for this week’s cover story. “I didn’t bother going into [Neiman Marcus], [Bergdorf Goodman] and Saks [Fifth Avenue] because I couldn’t afford it.”

Judge Judy premiered on Sept. 16, 1996. “I was hoping we would have a three- or four-year run and that my husband and I would be able to afford a two-bedroom apartment one block off the beach in Florida as a retirement place,” she recalls. “We were civil servants. We had five kids that were all educated, most went to graduate school. We tried to see to it they weren’t burdened with a lot of debt.”

In early seasons, Sheindlin engaged in serious salary negotiations, but as the show’s ratings skyrocketed, she demanded paydays to match.

“We should be partners,” she says she told CBS executives after a decade on-air. “I can do this program without you. Good luck, you can’t do it without me.”

In subsequent negotiations, Sheindlin would slip her bosses dollar figures in sealed envelopes across the table. Her annual earnings grew to a reported $47 million, making her one of the highest-paid people on TV.

Her plainspoken advice for anyone negotiating for better pay? “You have to make yourself indispensable — and that is irrespective of what you do,” she says. “Once you’ve done that and have leverage, make a reasonable demand and know what the commodity is worth.”

[From People]

CB worked out that Judge Judy was 54 when she started her TV show. She’d been a judge in New York, then a supervising judge before the show. I remember the only time my attorney father ever consider running for judge was for the retirement package. But that was in California, I don’t know what NY judges are offered. Still, CBS approached Judge Judy, not vice versa, and I’ll bet any kind of TV money was better than what she was looking at with her day job. This cover story, by the way, is to promote Judge Judy’s new show on Amazon, Judy Justice. I didn’t watch Judge Judy, just clips, but I can’t see how this new show is any different other than her robe color. The People article doesn’t clear much up, she just said that Amazon said she could do her “thing” with new people.

Speaking of those new people, that’s left a bad taste in some fans’ mouths. Judge Judy’s longtime bailiff, Petri Hawkins Byrd was not asked to be a part of the new show. Ironically, Petri said it was because his salary was too high. At least that’s what he was told, since Judge Judy and her new team never asked him what his demands were. And his wife had been a producer on Judge Judy who had been asked back, so he had inside information. I guess only some folks get to make themselves “indispensable?”

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Photo credit: People, Getty Images and Avalon Red

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27 Responses to “Judge Judy was hoping to be able to afford to retire when she started her show”

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  1. Noki says:

    Are these cases on these shows for real!? And do those people being humiliated on air get a say in the matter?

    • fluffybunny says:

      To appear they have to agree to dismiss their case where ever they are from. The show pays whatever judgement Judy issues. So the person who is supposed to pay the money doesn’t have to. There isn’t a lot of recourse if you win in small claims and the person doesn’t pay what they are ordered to pay you.

    • PrincessPossum says:

      If I remember correctly, they have a team of researchers that keep an eye on small claims court dockets all Ofer the country. If a case seems like a good fit for the show they reach out and make arrangements to bring both parties on. As for people having a say in whether they’re humiliated on air, the actual courts don’t just assign random cases to be on TV. Both parties agree to appear, presumably because both parties think they’ve got a solid case or at the very least because they want the attention.

    • Brandy Alexander says:

      I recently met someone who was on the show, and he said it was absolutely real. He won, so he wasn’t the one who was humiliated either.

    • Spikey says:

      The cases are absolutely real because I got a letter asking me to be on Judge Mathis show in Chicago I believe. They offered to pay all the transportation, hotel, food, etc. I did not do it, I am mostly an introvert and no way in heck would I want to be on TV for anything but especially over the stupid case I was involved in.

  2. Erica says:

    I would actually consider getting a facelift, if I could get as good as a result as that. She looks great!

    • Joanna says:

      I think getting a face-lift is the way to go imo. I’m about to be 46, I might consider one at a later point. She does look great!

  3. Monica says:

    So she doesn’t have enough money yet?

    • Magick Wanda says:

      Sadly, never enough, Fame and money are strong addictions.

      • Charm says:

        Oh jeez. Some people just enjoy their work (that’s a goal btw …if u enjoy your work then it’s no longer “work”…you know: not drugery.)

        And if it comes with compensation …..well, them there’s the breaks.

      • Gillysirl says:

        Dragon fever – never can have enough gold.

  4. Magick Wanda says:

    I used to watch Judge Judy and was always struck by her anger and disrespect toward people whose lives she did not understand. I don’t think she accepts the fact that not everyone has her money, her education, or her privilege. She is cruel to people she that she does not approve of but, honestly, what she did to Bird was just terrible. Not to even talk to him and then tell him that he wants too much money. That’s low.

    • Tanya says:

      I’ve always felt the same. There was a lot of shaming and victim blaming going on there, and it always left a bad taste in my mouth.

      I met her briefly, and she was pretty grumpy. Her husband was very nice, though.

    • Cece says:

      I was a former fan until I did the math on her shaming people on disability but never a word about the reprehensible behavior of the wealthy .All in all ,evil at the top impacts more of us than the public whipping of poor people. Harks back to the dog whistle welfare queen stories.

  5. Betsy says:

    The advice to makes one’s self indispensable is of limited use. Most of us can be pretty easily replaced no matter how special we are, and the work to make yourself indispensable can destroy any life outside work you might have.

    • Turtledove says:

      Betsy, this is spot on.

      Judge Judy became a charater on tv that people loved to watch.

      Most of us with more average jobs can bend over backwards to be GREAT employees, but we are never going to be indispensible the way that the star of a show that bears her name is.

      I don’t think anyone in my current dept could take over my role and do it as well, and care as much as I do. But someone could do it well enough that the company wouldn’t sink without me.

    • Surly Gale says:

      I like to say “I’m not indispensable but I am irreplaceable” Sometimes I have to say it just to cheer myself up and encourage myself to take better care of myself.

  6. AnnaC says:

    Never watched her show but have met her a few times as she has a home in Newport and periodically shops at a clothing store in my RI town. Until she speaks she very much gets by unrecognized, is lovely but efficient in her interactions when she’s approached.

  7. Willow says:

    You are only indispensable as long as your current boss agrees or you don’t need the money, no matter how successful you are.
    I do like how she yells at people who take advantage of others.

    • Gillysirl says:

      I like that, too! She doesn’t fall for the BS and calls people out on bad behavior. We need someone to do that IRL. haha

  8. Concern Fae says:

    I can totally see wanting to keep the behind the scenes people, but have new faces in front of the camera. It’s supposed to be a different show. But say that, don’t bullshit people. I think there are producers with terrible people skills who always say everything is about money so that they never have to tell anyone the truth.

  9. Murphy says:

    I loved the Judge Judy show but this new show just feels off, like significantly fabricated, which I don’t like. Sorry.

  10. Mishka says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE her. Forever and ever. I think she is not cruel just no nonsense and impatient at times. And she kept Byrd all those years. New change new show. Will I watch? Maybe. But I really enjoy her and watch YouTube clips when I am spending hours prepping food from my garden. I don’t have to look a the screen and it is easy to follow. 💓💓💜💜💛💛💚💚💙💙

  11. jk says:

    I just read an expose about the Judge Judy show from people who worked on it. It was a mess. The Producer was accused multiple times with sexually harassing employees. They didn’t want to book black people and if they had too may booked, they sent them over to Judge Joe Brown. Lots of drinking on the job. Judy didn’t want anything to do with the employees on the show and turned a blind eye to everything. To make cases more interesting, they’d sometimes convince people to add to accusations. It sounds like a terrible place to work.

  12. Joanna says:

    I love the original series so I will definitely check this out. She should have insisted on Bird though, I’m disappointed she didn’t

  13. Traveler says:

    I’ve watched her show at times on the rare occasions I’m home from work and am ambivalent. There are times when I agree with her no nonsense attitude and other times when her extreme privilege is showing. But, I side eye her most for her long term friendship with the likes of the awful Cindy Adams.

  14. Misskitten says:

    Imo, Judge Judy doesn’t tell anybody anything that they don’t NEED to here.
    And I love that she’s active in animal rights and is a fellow dog-person. She once told a litigant who had sold his dog; “I’d sell one of my children in a second. But one of my dogs???? NEVER!!!”
    Although I will admit the thing with Byrd leaves a VERY bad taste in my mouth.