Allumination Filmworks // 1996 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski // September 12th, 2007
Judgments with Attitude.
Judge Judith Sheindlin reigns over her TV courtroom with an iron fist, speedily and commandingly doling out equal portions of justice and life lessons. Half legal professional and half shrill Jewish mother from New York, Judge Judy's style is surprisingly addictive and entertaining -- even for those who might think they're above such trashy daytime fare.
On the single disc Judge Judy: Justice Served, you'll find nine of Judy's memorable cases:
* Roy V. Tzimeas
Judge Judy's intro: "Take it from me: it's hard enough to live with someone you love. Be careful who you choose as a roommate."
Former roommates quibble about Tupperware.
* Tucker/Parmann V. Ostley/Brown
Judge Judy's intro: "If you look for trouble, you're always gonna find it."
Teenage girls brawled over a loser boyfriend, whom Judy sarcastically dubs "Prince Charming."
* Simon/Copenhaver V. Arzaga
Judge Judy's intro: "The eleventh commandment might be: never overbook a limo on prom night."
Disappointed teenage customers sue a limo company for ruining their prom night.
* Ayala V. Bianchi
Judge Judy's intro: "I may do his shopping. I may do his laundry. But I'll never take a black eye for a man."
Girlfriends past and present of another "Prince Charming" -- conspicuously absent -- argue over damages caused when they fought over the guy.
* Robinson v. Davis
Judge Judy's intro: "If you do the crime, pay the fine. Don't be a crybaby."
Judy lays into a spoiled college girl who tried to get out of a speeding ticket.
* Gonzales v. Murillo
Judge Judy's intro: "A word to the wise: do the right thing or face Judy justice. And that goes for lawyers, too."
Non-payment claims center around a law firm and a father who hired them to prepare for a custody battle.
* Ringgold v. Carrigan
Judge Judy's intro: "Be careful who you invite home for dinner; sleeping with strangers can be dangerous."
A sputtering dud of a dude tries to explain how his one-night stand stole his checkbook.
* Holtz v. Flemming
Judge Judy's intro: "If you're dumb enough to drink and drive, be smart: stay away from me!"
A man sues for medical bills: he backed his truck into a woman's car and then tripped in her yard when offering to pay the damages.
* Moore v. Bailey
Judge Judy's intro: "I was always taught to count your blessings. The plaintiff in our next case sadly missed that class."
One mother sues another for damages their children did to her car -- the twist is that the defendant's child died in the crash.
As the camera sweeps around Judge Judy's courtroom, viewers will be familiar with the setting. We see the judge, the bailiff, the plaintiff and defendant, the judicial robes, the wood panel judge's bench, and even the good old American flag. But one prop you won't find in this courtroom is a gavel. Why? Because when Judge Judy barks "Be quiet!" and glares over those little glasses perched on her nose, she is far more forceful than any slam of a gavel could be. She's like the most intimidating librarian you've ever met, except that instead of griping over $2 late fees, she's handing out up to $5,000 per episode (which comes from the show's coffers, by the way, and not the losing party in the case).
This fearsome persona is what has made the series so wildly successful (apparently, it has hit ratings higher than Oprah's at times). Scheindlin seems to interpret her job on Judge Judy as ferreting out the liars and the wrongdoers and then making them look incredibly weak and stupid on national television. As she admits to a defendant in the "Judyisms" special feature, "I'd like ten million people to hear that you've done something stupid. That's my joy in life."
And if making people look stupid is Judy's job, she's surely taken home a lot of "Employee of the Month" awards. She kindly warns people about how likely it is that they will look stupid, too, as in this exchange from "Robinson v. Davis":
Judy: "Don't embarrass yourself."
Witness: "I won't."
Judy: "Believe me, you will."
And again in this admonishment from "Simon/Copenhaver V. Arzaga":
"Let me explain something to you -- on your best day, you're not as smart as me on my worst day."
Two stupidity highlights are in the cases "Ringgold v. Carrigan" and "Holtz v. Flemming." The plaintiff of the former rambles on and on about how he met this woman and she was really interested in his hunting club and they had some drinks and she kept saying how interested she was in his hunting club and she said she wanted to go hunting that weekend and he kept calling her but she didn't pick up and he was all packed up and ready to go hunting and -- you get the point. It's both pathetic and hilarious watching this guy vent and fume as Judge Judy tries to explain to him that he doesn't have a case. In "Holtz v. Flemming," the extent of the plaintiff's stupidity is revealed when the defendant introduces an unexpected piece of video evidence -- of the type we'd expect to see on America's Funniest Home Videos or maybeJackass, if the antics contained therein were intentional. The pleasure of the series comes mostly from this showcase of stupidity, but Judy is also good at chewing out many of the other categories of people that we viewers love to hate: lazy, overpaid lawyers ("Gonzales v. Murillo"); spoiled little rich girls ("Robinson v. Davis"); and just plain insensitive assholes ("Moore v. Bailey"). In the lazy lawyer case, Judy even provides a moment of hard-hitting, serious criticism when she tells him:
"You should understand that people who come to your office are really stressed. They're there because they want to see a child, a child is being taken away from them...it's an emergency. And you treat it as routine, and that is unconscionable."
Serious moments like this one that make us pause and actually think about the cases are more common than you'd think for this type of series.
Admittedly, these are not life-or-death cases, but that's a big part of the fun. A flippant and sassy judge in a murder case would be inappropriate and uncomfortable, but we feel okay about cracking up when Judy yells at a woman whose case rests on a Tupperware-related incident.
As for the disc presentation, Allumination Films offers up a good sampling of special features, although none of them appear to be new material produced solely for the DVD release. "Judyisms" is a breezy four-minute collection of some of Judy's best courtroom utterances, like "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining" and "Dumb ideas come from people who have dumb brains." My personal favorite is an exchange with a defendant who says he's there because he watched Judy on TV. Judy responds to the hapless fellow, "If you would have watched me more frequently, you never would have been here today."
"Walk of Fame" is a brief feature with coverage from the unveiling of Judith Scheindlin's own sidewalk star in Hollywood. Judy speaks to the crowd about her show and her family. The most interesting extra is the 1993 interview from 60 Minutes, which depicts Scheindlin in her days as a hardworking family court judge. Her method hardly seems to have changed since that time, but back then she was presiding over hundreds and hundreds of real cases per year in a dingy, windowless courtroom. Comparing her 1993 interview to her 2003 interview (also included) reveals the benefits of her success, but also its price. Now rich and famous, Judy has a private jet, multiple houses, and a cushy retirement -- none of which we can begrudge a lifelong civil servant. But she herself admits that she's not making a difference in people's lives in the same way she once did. It's interesting to look back on this 1993 interview and hear the passion in her voice as she says,
"You can put families back together again, youcan find the right place for a kid who's in trouble, you can make a difference in the life of a family. And if you see a situation like that and you're not willing to commit yourself to breaking a sweat, then you don't belong in this business."
Many of Judge Judy's cases rest on whether or not we believe that she really is "the ultimate truth machine." She makes snap judgments based more on intuition about who is lying than on actual evidence. And sometimes, her judgments are rooted in broad generalizations from her life experience. As she says, she's "been around the ballpark a long time," but overconfidence in her own wisdom sometimes seems like a failing. For example, Judy is rough on the limo company because she says she's had plenty of her own experiences with car services showing up late and lying to her.
But I guess these are low-stakes cases, after all. If we want real judicial rigor, we'll have to flip over to Mock Trial with J. Reinhold...
Judge Judy's courtroom alternately serves as a venue for bitter and petty disputes, a forum for Judy's own wit and bravado, and a training ground for minors who will surely be seeing their fair share of real courtrooms as they mature into adulthood. Whatever its function, it is incredibly addictive. Be prepared to blow through these nine cases in one sitting if you pick up a copy of Judge Judy: Justice Served.
Judge Jennifer Malkowski rules in favor of the plaintiff, Judge Judy, who "proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that stupid should be a crime."
Review content copyright © 2007 Jennifer Malkowski; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Allumination Filmworks
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1996
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* "Judyisms: Judy at Her Best"
* "Walk of Fame"
* 1993 60 Minutes Interview
* 2003 60 Minutes Interview
* Official Site