LAWFUEL – The Legal Newswire – They are the supremes when it comes to TV judges, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.
While Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown may not have lifetime reigns like their real-life colleagues on the U.S. Supreme Court, they make a lot more money, and millions know their names and watch them work every weekday.
There are actually more judges (10) on television this season than there are on the Supreme Court, and a look at their paychecks shows why the number continues to grow.
An associate justice of the Supreme Court makes about $194,000 a year. Judge Judy makes about twice that for just one show. And like those Supreme Court justices, her decisions are final. Very final. There is no appeal from the verdicts she hands down.
The first TV court programs date back to the early days of television, when divorce-court shows were big hits. Judge Lynn Toler still presides over a TV “Divorce Court” today.
But Judge Judy Sheindlin, who began her 11th season this fall, is the queen bee of the video jurists and one of the highest-paid people in the entertainment field at $30 million a year, far more than most prime-time series stars.
The sum total of people who tune in to all these court shows weekly would undoubtedly surpass the audience that tunes in to most prime-time hits. Judge Judy averages more than 6.3 million armchair spectators in her courtroom every day, according to The New York Times. That would be a total of more than 30 million a week, which is about what “American Idol” gets.
While the other nine video judges don’t do as well as Judge Judy, they all have big enough followings to stay on the air every weekday, and there seems to be room for more.
The newest edition this season is “Judge David Young.” The former law clerk for the high-profile attorney F. Lee Bailey is a Florida judge who is best known for sentencing two airline pilots to jail for being drunk on the job. His show is syndicated.
Several of the other TV judges have been jurists who decided the living was easier and the paycheck much bigger for handing down decisions on the tube. They don’t have to run for re-election either, but their terms are subject to the death sentence that Nielsen numbers can deliver.
A no-nonsense attitude is a big part of what several TV judges bring to the air. The guessing is that the daytime audience for these shows is older and more conservative in outlook. They favor swift and decisive justice.
The court-show audiences also apparently love soap-opera-like plots and characters. In fact, it’s been widely suggested that the soaps have lost a lot of viewers to these judge shows in recent years because people favor real-life stories over fictional ones.
How real these cases are depends on your definition.