Judge Judy

Judge Judy Biography

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

Who Is Judge Judy?

Born Judith Blum on October 21, 1942, in Brooklyn, New York, Judge Judy became the only woman in a class of 126 students at American University's Washington College of Law, before finishing her law degree at New York Law School. New York City Mayor Ed Koch appointed her a judge in 1982, and she was profiled for her hard-hitting courtroom tactics on 60 Minutes in 1993. Her popular, long-running daytime show, Judge Judy, first appeared nationally in 1996.

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. Judy 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. Judy 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.

Three months after her divorce, Judy met attorney Jerry Sheindlin. They married in 1978.

Appointment as Judge

By 1982, Judith Sheindlin's growing reputation for assertiveness inspired Mayor Ed Koch to appoint her to a seat as a judge in family court. 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, but a year later, feeling the tug of family ties—aside from her two children and his three, they now had two grandchildren—along with pangs of loneliness, Judy and Jerry remarried. Afterward, she 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.

After 25 years of practicing in family court and hearing more than 20,000 cases, Sheindlin retired in 1996. 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. 

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, reaching more than 10 million viewers daily.

In a March 2020 appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Sheindlin indicated that Judge Judy would cease taping new episodes after its 25th season, and that a new show was in the works.

Books

Sheindlin wrote the straight-talking Don't Pee On My Leg, and Tell Me It's Raining in 1996. She has since published several more books, including the New York Times best-seller Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever (1999), Win or Lose by How You Choose (2000) and What Would Judy Say? Be the Hero of Your Own Story (2014).

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