Judge Judy Biography

Author, Reality Television Star, Judge(1942–)
Judge Judy is best known as a no-nonsense courtroom presence on the television show Judge Judy.

Synopsis

Born Judith Blum on October 21, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York, Judge Judy was the only woman in a class of 126 students at American University's Washington College of Law, finishing her law degree at New York Law School. New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed her judge in 1982, and she was profiled for her hard-hitting courtroom tactics on 60 Minutes in 1993. Judge Judy first appeared nationally in 1996, and it is still watched by 10 million people daily.

Early Career

Judge Judy was born Judith Susan Blum on October 21, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York. She attended American University in Washington D.C., graduating in 1963. She continued her education at American University's Washington College of Law, where she was the only woman in a class of 126 students. She finished her law degree at New York Law School in New York City, where she moved with her first husband in 1964.

In 1965, Judy obtained her law degree, passed the New York bar exam, and took a job as a corporate lawyer for a cosmetics firm. Dissatisfied with the role of a corporate lawyer, she left within two years to raise two children, Jamie and Adam. In 1972, a friend from law school told her of a job opening in the New York courts. She took the job and found herself in the role of prosecutor for the family court system. She prosecuted juvenile crime, domestic violence, and child abuse cases. She was quickly recognized as a sharp, no-nonsense attorney.

Judy's professional success, though, was being achieved at a high private price. In 1976, she left her first husband after 12 years of marriage. She struggled to be present for her children, even while handling her heavy workload of emotionally draining cases in the family courts.

Appointment as Judge

Three months after her divorce, Judy met attorney Jerry Sheindlin; within a year, they were married, in 1978. By 1982, Judith Sheindlin's growing reputation for assertiveness in court inspired Mayor Ed Koch to appoint her to a seat as a judge in family court just six months later. As a judge, she continued to blend sympathy for the underdog with withering contempt for the arrogant or devious. Four years later, she was promoted to the position of supervising judge in the Manhattan division of the family court.

In 1990, Judy's father, Murray Blum, died at age 70; his death took a remarkable toll on her marriage to Jerry. They divorced, and a year later, feeling the tug of family ties—aside from her two children and his three, they now had two grandchildren—along with the tug of terrible loneliness, Judy and Jerry remarried. Afterward, Judge Sheindlin settled firmly into a renewed mission to dispense justice firmly and fairly.

Media Attention

In February 1993, Sheindlin was profiled in the Los Angeles Times as a kind of hard-hitting legal super-heroine, determined to make the courts work for the common good. The Times piece was quickly followed by a profile on the CBS news program 60 Minutes. After her appearance on 60 Minutes, an agent for Judy approached Larry Lyttle, the president of Big Ticket Television, with the idea of doing a courtroom television program. Lyttle agreed and a pilot for the show was shot.

Sensing her growing connection with the American public, Sheindlin wrote the straight-talking Don't Pee On My Leg, and Tell Me It's Raining in 1996. That same year, after 25 years of practicing in family court and hearing more than 20,000 cases, Sheindlin retired. But with her fame spreading through newspapers and TV, a whole new incarnation of the straight-talking judge was about to appear.

'Judge Judy'

In September 1996, Judge Judy first appeared in national syndication. The show rapidly established itself as a roaring success, largely based on the strength of Sheindlin's powerful personality. In February 1999, Judge Judy won the No. 1 slot for syndicated shows. She even began to edge out Oprah in some major markets, including New York. By August 1999, the show averaged some 7 million viewers per week. Meanwhile, Sheindlin published a second book, Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever (1999) which became a New York Times best seller. She published her third book, Win or Lose by How You Choose, a guide for parents about teaching their children about decision-making, in early 2000.

The success of Judge Judy spawned the creation of numerous other daytime court shows, including Judge Joe Brown, Judge Hatchett and Judge Mathis. Judge Judy has been one of the most successful shows in daytime television and continues to be watched by some 10 million viewers daily.

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