Judge Judy: How the 'Evil Queen in the Lace Collar' Became TV's Highest-Paid Star
Judge Judy Sheindlin; Petri Hawkins Byrd, Bailiff
In celebration of her 18 seasons in daytime syndication — where she averages more than 9 million viewers a day, a stat many primetime series can only aspire to — Judge Judith Sheindlin became the first star to air her court series in primetime with Tuesday night’s CBS special.
Ten things we learned about the delightfully feisty, BS-intolerant magistrate in the p.m. hour:
1. Judith Sheindlin was a real-life judge in the New York City Family Court system, working in the Bronx and Manhattan for more than 20 years.
2. Judge Judy first caught a national audience’s attention when 60 Minutes ran an October 1993 segment — called “Law and Disorder” — covering her NYC courtroom work. Yes, she wore the lace collar on her robe even in her pre-TV days; yes, she had no patience for sass from attorneys or their clients (one lawyer could be seen mouthing the word "b----" after being admonished by Sheindlin during the segment); and yes, she had a habit of delivering her judgments quickly and pithily. 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer described her tough-gal reputation thusly: "To those who confront her, she is the evil queen in the lace collar."
3. No one will ever describe her as a pussycat, but Sheindlin shared with Safer her motivation for working in the Family Court system for so many years: "What keeps me going is those cases… maybe ten a year… where I can make a difference," she said about the often heartbreaking cases involving children.
4. After the 60 Minutes episode aired, Sheindlin was approached by TV producers who wanted her to host her own show. She retired as a New York City judge in 1996, and Judge Judy debuted on September 16, 1996. In another 60 Minutes segment with Safer, which aired a decade after the original, Sheindlin said, "Right now, I would be satisfied with a ten-year run, I think. If we could end on a high note, and I still had people watching, and I had a second career that was a blast, my God, what an adventure it would have been, and why would you have any regrets at all?" Judge Judy has been renewed to run through — at least — a 21st season in 2016-17.