Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mathis… you may be surprised that none of them preside over an actual small claims court. Judge Judy used to be a Family Court Judge in New York, Judge Joe Brown was a State Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee, and Judge Mathis was a Superior Court Judge for Michigan’s 36th District. In fact, each one of them had distinguished careers as judges and I don’t want to take anything away from their accomplishments (Judge Mathis’ background is especially inspirational); however the courts you see on television are not actual small claims courts. What you are watching is actually an arbitration hearing and the participants (plaintiff and defendant) are paid $500 appearance fees. In addition to the appearance fee, the production company actually covers the award itself! So if you appear and lose, the production company will pay the settlement for you. The only dollar amount restriction is that you can’t have a claim of more than $5,000, which happens to correspond to the small claims limit.
The other notable difference is that the arbitrator’s decision is also final. You can’t appeal, you can’t argue, you can’t do anything after she renders her decision. It doesn’t really matter if you lose because they cover it anyway! Here’s a snippet from the arbitration agreement from Judge Judy: “The Arbitrator’s Decision and her interpretation and application of laws and principles she uses in arriving at the Decision, shall be final and binding upon the parties hereto and the parties shall not have the right to appeal under any circumstance nor shall they have the right to attack the Decision for any reason whatsoever.” (from this site)
So, if you got a problem, which one should you go to? After watching a few of these shows, it’s pretty clear that some of the judges have a bit of a bias but ultimately all are reasonably fair. You have to remember that these court shows are entertainment, it’s not about the law.
If you’re a deadbeat anything, don’t even try to win in this court. You might wonder why she goes off on people who show no accountability or responsibility and why she chastises people so harshly… until you realize she used to be a Family Court Judge in New York. Granted, it’s half entertainment but you have to believe her prior experience with deadbeats probably soured her on anyone who remotely resembles an irresponsible, deadbeat person.
If you can’t take someone berating you (probably rightfully), I wouldn’t go to Judge Judy’s court either. She doesn’t care who you are and she’s made a name for herself by tearing people apart in her courtroom. In fact, if you’re a deadbeat, expect to get berated even if you are in the right!
Still want to appear on Judge Judy? Submit your case.
Judge Joe Brown
Judge Joe Brown is another Big Ticket Productions court show (like Judge Judy) but his court is a little more subdued. Judge Joe Brown is also very high on personal accountability, much like Judge Judy, but he doesn’t berate the plaintiff or defendant quite as harshly as Judge Judy does. If you’re a dirtbag, don’t even think about appearing. Respect is very important in this particular courtroom. I’ve seen the least of this show but Judge Joe Brown seems to have a calmer demeanor about him but isn’t quite as much of a jokester as Judge Mathis and not quite as serious as Judge Judy.
Want to appear on Judge Joe Brown? Submit your case.
Judge Mathis isn’t a Big Ticket Productions show, it was originally produced by Black Pearl Productions and is currently being produced by And Syndicated Productions and Telepictures. Judge Mathis’ show is definitely looser than the other two and clearly plays up the entertainment angle. They’ll let people argue back and forth, interrupt, and have all sorts of shenanigans. If anyone ever interrupted anyone on Judge Judy, she’d threaten to toss their sorry butt out of the room! Judge Mathis used to be a Superior Court Judge in Michigan but it’s obvious he doesn’t take this bench quite as seriously, again, to play up the entertainment factor. If you’re kind of scared of the whole courtroom drama thing but would still like to show up, I think Judge Mathis is your best bet of the three.
If you want to appear, submit your case!