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Dutchess_III's avatar

Was this ruling by Judge Judy legal?

Asked by Dutchess_III (25570 points ) July 12th, 2011

OK, two women worked together in a dental office. One was a receptionist, the other was a dental assistant. The plaintiff, the receptionist, accused the defendant, the assistant, of posting pictures of her (the plaintiff) in her bathing suit on the Dr.‘s dental website.

Long story short, the plaintiff seemed more a decent sort than the defendant. The assistant seemed like a smug bitch (which, in fact she proved herself to be.) In the end, Judge Judy told the plaintiff that she believed that the defendant had done it, but she, the plaintiff, had no proof. She said that several times and just about dismissed the case (I don’t recall if she actually said, “Your case is dismissed.”) In fact, she got up to walk out, having apparently dismissed the case for lack of proof, when she spun around and said to the defendant “Do you currently have a law suit pending against the doctor you worked for?”
Defendant said “Yes.”
Judge Judy said, “Judgement for the plaintiff in the amount of $5,000!” and walked out. ($5,000 is the max you can get in small claims court.)

Anybody understand what was up with that? And was it legal?

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25 Answers

Response moderated (Spam)
Dutchess_III's avatar

Damn spam!

Plucky's avatar

@Dutchess_III Lol, I know.

I was following this to see if any law people, on Fluther, had anything to say about the incident. I’m interested, as you are, what happened. I don’t understand why she (Judge Judy) would do that – I would think it’s legal though? I didn’t see it. I’m just going by what you explained in the details. Weird.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, she kept saying that the plaintiff had no proof…then, arbitrarily, it seemed, suddenly found in the plaintiff’s favor for the full $5,000 allowed by law…where are the lawyers when you need one????

Thanks for following @Plucky. Let’s start giving GQ’s and GA’s to get us in the spotlight over there on the bulletin board!

YARNLADY's avatar

The court shows have a disclaimer stating they are not a court of law, and I suspect that entire episode was scripted, or close to being scripted, for the entertainment value.

Plucky's avatar

@YARNLADY Seriously? I’ve never been into those court shows but I didn’t know they were scripted. My mom loves that stuff. Why on earth are they even on then? I don’t get how that is entertainment. Wow. I’m not disagreeing ..I’m just surprised, lol.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Plucky The scripts do not tell them exactly what words to say, but are a broad suggestion of how to act, and what to expect. Both the plaintiff and the defendant get paid, no matter what the decision.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think they’re scripted. The rulings stand from a legal point of view.

Plucky's avatar

I just figured court tv shows were an inexpensive option for people dealing with small claims. Like if you can’t afford to go to court…you can go on court tv for free and get your dispute solved – they get their slots filled up and you get your case dealt with (win-win?). I’ve never been into them; I’ve probably seen less than 10 of those episodes of court tv shows (maybe even 5). Therefore, I’ve never had cause to look into their legitimacy or legality. Interesting.

Zaku's avatar

Judge Judy’s court is not a court of law, and a large part of the entertainment value is watching Judy abuse people. It’s a vicarious power trip and comedy show about pathetic and argumentative people. Etc.

Legally, the people who participate sign a contract with the TV Show, where they agree to dismiss their small claims court cases, in exchange for the right to appear on the show, and I assume they may also get both paid some amount for showing up and getting shown on TV too. Part of the contract is they have to abide by whatever Judy decides. Judy’s decisions are often based on law, but I don’t think she’s legally bound to not just say, “You suck. Judgment against you.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Zaku Do you have any references for me to check?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Not sure what your point was in posting that @YARNLADY, but so far it disputes @Zaku‘s claims that “Judge Judy’s court is not a court of law

From your Wiki ”...the cases on Judge Judy are actual small claims court cases, ” and “As far as the court cases are concerned, however, what is seen on Judge Judy is neither staged nor scripted. The plaintiffs have actually sued the defendants, and those very cases are heard and decided upon by Judith Sheindlin.

There is a note at the end that one of her rulings was overturned.

Plucky's avatar

I’m not sure if this is true or relevant ..as it’s one person’s experience. But here’s a website called Judge Judy Is A Scam. By this person’s account, it seems real but what you see on tv is different from what actually happens there (or the sequence of events are different). I found it kind of confusing.

YARNLADY's avatar

@Dutchess_III Talk about pick and choose “While the cases on Judge Judy are actual small claims court cases, it is not a public court of law (like all court TV shows) but rather a private arbitration court, and all parties must sign contracts agreeing to arbitration under Sheindlin”

This is exactly what I said.

When I said scripted, I did not mean as in (blank says), and (blank answers), but rather,
“Judge gets up and then turns back with witty reply”. Just general suggestions type script, plus the scenes are heavily edited and often re-shot.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, first, this statement from your link “So then ask the Judge Judy show why they agreed to pay me $1400.00 under the table before I stepped one foot in the studio. I WAS NOT SUPPOSE TO GET PAID UNLESS AWARDED THE MONEY BY JUDGE JUDY…” is incorrect. The Wiki link specifies that the people are paid to be there, to wit (from Wiki): “Both the plaintiff and the defendant receive $100 for their appearance as well as $35 a day, paid to them by the show.”

Wow…as for the rest…it’s a rant. An insane rant. Which is why you found it confusing Plucky.

Like “Other than calling me a stalker, which I knew she was. She never said a word about me or my son as I was told.”

and “So my only regret is letting myself be tricked into saying ignorant shit at the end of the show which was not true.”

Rants are always confusing.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@YARNLADY Oh…I wasn’t referring to you. I thought you were posting the Wiki link in response to my request to @Zaku for reference. Sorry.

Yes, both the plaintiff and the defendant get paid to be on the show, but at the end of the day someone is awarded a legal judgement on top of that (or not)

Also, in response to your comment that “scenes are heavily edited and often re-shot.”…from your own link “Most of the cases, not including any footage deleted to meet the time constraints of the show, usually last anywhere from twelve to forty-five minutes.” So no, they aren’t re shot. Edited to meet time constraints but not re-shot.

And regarding “Pick and choose…” Well! Do you want me to post the whole link here??

Zaku's avatar

When the shows say “these are real court cases”, they really mean that they were real court cases, before they agreed to show up for a TV circus instead, dismissing their court cases. The intro to The People’s Court says this (or used to – I haven’t watched in a while) and I assume all court TV shows of the genre are the same in that way.

Let’s see, a reference…

Dutchess_III's avatar

No, Yarn lady posted one. It seems to refute what you’re saying. They get paid, yes, but they do get actual, legal rulings as well.

Zaku's avatar

Where does it refute what I said?

What I see on that Wiki page is something that says exactly what I was saying, i.e.: “While the cases on Judge Judy are actual small claims court cases, it is not a public court of law (like all court TV shows) but rather a private arbitration court, and all parties must sign contracts agreeing to arbitration under Sheindlin.”

Again both parties agree to dismiss their actual pending court claims, and to instead settle for the arbitration TV court, which isn’t a legal court, but an arbitration that resembles a legal court and usually tries to follow the law, but doesn’t have to.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK. I understand what you’re saying now. But still, the rulings are binding legal rulings.

Zaku's avatar

The arbitration agreement is a real legal contract, which says they agree to be paid or not based on what Judy decides. Judy’s decision isn’t a legal ruling, although it is usually based on real laws.

Another source: http://consumerist.com/2007/12/judge-judys-tv-court-isnt-real.html
And another: http://troubleshooterjudd.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=213:judge-judy-a-real-court&catid=10:speak-out&Itemid=21 see paragraph 4: “The cases for the show are selected by producers from real small claims court cases that have been filed in a real small claims court. However, the Judge Show is NOT a court at all, it’s an Arbitration Session on TV. When the announcer says, “this is Judge Judy’s Court,” he is playing “TV make believe.” Judge Judy does not even have a law license to practice law in California. So calling her a Judge and her TV show a court is simply “Hollywood Talk.” Anyone can be an arbitrator.”

Also interesting to me from that last link:

“When one of the parties wins a judgment, the producers pay that amount of money to the other party. Both parties are paid $500 each as an appearance fee to be on the show.
...
The $5,000 limit on claims they use on the show comes from many real small claims courts, but as a limit it does not apply to arbitrations unless it is written into the agreement.

So why doesn’t Judge Judy give out more money in cases, well perhaps it’s because the production company has to pay that money, and those folks are the ones to pay her. Maybe a little conflict of interest.”

Which means that when she gives a $1000 award, the person the reward is against doesn’t lose anything – they just don’t get paid anything more than the fee for appearing. So if that article is accurate about that, there’s only money to be gained, not lost, and the difference in the judgement is halved compared to a real case, where someone can be awarded $5000 which comes from the other party, not from the TV show.

Dutchess_III's avatar

From your link (thanks, btw) “If the defendant loses, the tv product team pays the plaintiff the judgment fee.” So if JJ awards $5000 to the plaintiff, the tv show pays that? Not the defendant?

Zaku's avatar

Yep. The people appearing never pay anything, even though Judge Judy pretends like she is ordering them to pay or whatever. That’s the new part I thought was interesting on that last page, and now I see on other pages too. Only the positive part of the ruling actually applies, since the TV show pays the judgement. But the judge acts as if the other party will pay it, including saying things like, “Pay what you owe!” scoldingly or whatever.

That is one of the things that ranting page from Plucky was complaining about. The guy says he showed up and it looked like the ruling was against him and Judy was telling him to pay her, but in fact he didn’t pay her, and was even paid by the show an additional $1400 which they didn’t tell the other party about, because they wanted to use the material. Interesting.

My assumption from the People’s Court (where they explained it was an arbitration), was that they probably paid each party $5000 to appear, and then would deduct the judgement if it went against someone, but I guess not, and they’re stingier than I assumed (I say stingy since they rake in millions for these shows – Judy gets $30 million per year, they say).

Dutchess_III's avatar

I see. Well. Hm. OH! It’s almost time for Judge Judy! Gotta go!
Actually, that kind of explains why some people don’t flat out faint when they’re ordered to pay $3500 or $5000 or something.

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