You Don’t Get to Be Judge Judy by Deigning to Negotiate


Mercy on the mortals who would dare challenge Judy Sheindlin, better known as Judge Judy, in court. But if there’s potential money to be made, there are lawsuits to be filed—and Sheindlin, with her status as one of the highest-paid TV stars of all time, has to stay prepared. The judge, who earns a staggering $47 million per year, had her salary questioned in a lawsuit brought by a company called Rebel Entertainment Partners in 2016, which claimed that CBS has diminished the profits Rebel was supposed to make off Judge Judy. In Sheindlin’s videotaped testimony, recently unearthed by The Hollywood Reporter, she briskly took her opponents to task, recounting her rise to fame and diminishing Rebel’s claim without so much as a wasted gavel pound.

Sheindlin started by discussing the origins of her show, which began when a pair of producers—Sandi Spreckman and Kaye Switzer—told her that she would make an interesting TV judge.

Sheindlin agreed: “I thought I would make a great TV judge.” And so began Judge Judy’s reign.

Though Rebel believes that it is entitled to a 5 percent share of Judge Judy profits thanks to work it did for the show in the mid-90s, Sheindlin sees things a bit differently. She criticized Rebel president Richard Lawrence, claiming she hasn’t seen or heard from him “in over 21 years,” though he’s made about $17 million for “what was perhaps two, three hours’ worth of business.”

If Sheindlin had produced the show herself, she continued, Lawrence would be “getting bupkis.”

“It’s very important for you to know, because part of your complaint is that CBS conspired with me to deprive Mr. Lawrence of his backend profit,” Sheindlin added. “CBS had no choice but to pay me what I wanted, because otherwise I could take it wherever I wanted to take it or do it myself.”

The judge also went into detail about how she renegotiates her salary every three years with CBS—at a dinner at Grill on the Alley with the company’s president, during which Sheindlin brings a card listing her demands. Take note, aspiring stars: this is how it’s done.

“We sit across the table, and I hand him the envelope and I say, ‘Don’t read it now, let’s have a nice dinner. Call me tomorrow. You want it, fine. Otherwise, I’ll produce it myself.’ That’s the negotiation.”

When another executive tried to do things differently—John Nogawski, the former president of CBS TV Distribution—Sheindlin immediately shot him down.

Nogawski had brought his own card to the table. “I said, ‘I don’t want to look at it.’ He said, ‘Why not? Maybe it’s more than what’s in your envelope.’ And I said, ‘Well, John, if I look at your envelope, it’s a negotiation. This isn’t a negotiation.’ And he put his envelope away and they gave me what I wanted . . . whatever it was, done.”

“They pay me the money that they do because they have no choice,” Sheindlin continued. “They can’t find another one. They’ve tried to find another Judy. If they find another Judy, good for them. So far they haven’t.”

CBS, for its part, also released a statement denying Rebel’s claims.

“Rebel did not conceive of, develop, or create Judge Judy,” states a brief. “Rebel has never financed, produced, sold, licensed, distributed, exhibited, or marketed Judge Judy. Rebel’s only connection with Judge Judy was its representation of three original show producers in 1995. For this, Rebel has collected nearly $20 million in upfront commission and back-end participation payments. Indeed, Rebel has received more than $1.1 million in payments in the year since it filed the Complaint in this action.”

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Full ScreenPhotos:7 TV Characters Who Have Gotten Stuck on a Subway Just Like You

Ilana and Abbi, Broad City

No tale of two girls’ misadventures in the Big Apple would be complete without at least one ill-fated subway ride. In Season 3, Abbi and Ilana experience just that in an episode titled, appropriately, “Getting There.” They just want to get to the airport—but as any New Yorker knows, the train has other plans.

Arnold and Friends, *Hey Arnold*

Arnold and Friends, Hey Arnold

There’s an entire episode of this 90s Nickelodeon staple about Arnold and the gang getting on a subway after dark, thanks to a movie that ran long. There’s a claustrophobic woman chanting “big open spaces,” a homeless guy telling everyone to “get out of my house,” and a dog that unexpectedly gives birth to puppies, bringing everyone together. The episode ends with everyone holding hands and singing—which, though imaginative, is perhaps the most unrealistic thing this cartoon ever did.

Photo: From Hulu.

Cory Matthews, *Boy Meets World*

Cory Matthews, Boy Meets World

What was it with 90s sitcoms and trapping people in trains? Cory, Sean, Eric, and Topanga get stuck underground on their way to a New Year’s Eve party—as a woman gives birth. But hey, they also manage to throw their own party on the train and find a P.S.A. starring Mr. Feeny.

The Tanner Family, *Full House*

The Tanner Family, Full House

Poor Uncle Jesse just wants to get to his long-delayed high-school graduation, but alas, Team Tanner gets stuck on a motionless B.A.R.T. train instead. (See, the subway is awful no matter where you live!) The silver lining? Jess convinces an aspiring high-school drop-out to stay in school, and ends up having an underground graduation ceremony of his own. Fun fact: something similar happened to a real-life Hunter College student this summer.

Oscar and Felix, *The Odd Couple*

Oscar and Felix, The Odd Couple

This one’s an oldie but a goodie: Oscar gets tired of New York City, so Felix tries to show him what a magical place this town can be. Unfortunately, they get stuck in a subway car with some very unfriendly company—including a woman who carries a defective flashlight just so she can hit people over the head with it, should they get too close. She’s clearly well versed in New York etiquette.

Photo: From CBS.

The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls

This one isn’t technically a subway story, but it’s a Golden Girls classic: remember the time our favorite four ladies got stuck at a train station overnight? They recall the incident in a flashback episode called “Bedtime Story” back in Season 2, remembering how they were stranded by the one train station from which trains actually left early. That’s how you know it’s fiction.

Photo: From NBC/.

Elaine Benes, *Seinfeld*

Elaine Benes, Seinfeld

Remember when poor Elaine gets stuck on a train that just keeps stopping? She also experiences that horror that every New Yorker knows so well: the lights cut out as the train sits motionless. Her silent, internal, vastly relatable screams of profane frustration will forever ring in our ears.

Photo: From Castle Rock Entertainment/Everett Collection.

Ilana and Abbi, <em>Broad City</em>

Ilana and Abbi, Broad City

No tale of two girls’ misadventures in the Big Apple would be complete without at least one ill-fated subway ride. In Season 3, Abbi and Ilana experience just that in an episode titled, appropriately, “Getting There.” They just want to get to the airport—but as any New Yorker knows, the train has other plans.

Arnold and Friends, <em>Hey Arnold</em>

Arnold and Friends, Hey Arnold

There’s an entire episode of this 90s Nickelodeon staple about Arnold and the gang getting on a subway after dark, thanks to a movie that ran long. There’s a claustrophobic woman chanting “big open spaces,” a homeless guy telling everyone to “get out of my house,” and a dog that unexpectedly gives birth to puppies, bringing everyone together. The episode ends with everyone holding hands and singing—which, though imaginative, is perhaps the most unrealistic thing this cartoon ever did.

From Hulu.

Cory Matthews, <em>Boy Meets World</em>

Cory Matthews, Boy Meets World

What was it with 90s sitcoms and trapping people in trains? Cory, Sean, Eric, and Topanga get stuck underground on their way to a New Year’s Eve party—as a woman gives birth. But hey, they also manage to throw their own party on the train and find a P.S.A. starring Mr. Feeny.

The Tanner Family, <em>Full House</em>

The Tanner Family, Full House

Poor Uncle Jesse just wants to get to his long-delayed high-school graduation, but alas, Team Tanner gets stuck on a motionless B.A.R.T. train instead. (See, the subway is awful no matter where you live!) The silver lining? Jess convinces an aspiring high-school drop-out to stay in school, and ends up having an underground graduation ceremony of his own. Fun fact: something similar happened to a real-life Hunter College student this summer.
Oscar and Felix, <em>The Odd Couple</em>

Oscar and Felix, The Odd Couple

This one’s an oldie but a goodie: Oscar gets tired of New York City, so Felix tries to show him what a magical place this town can be. Unfortunately, they get stuck in a subway car with some very unfriendly company—including a woman who carries a defective flashlight just so she can hit people over the head with it, should they get too close. She’s clearly well versed in New York etiquette.

From CBS.

The Golden Girls

The Golden Girls

This one isn’t technically a subway story, but it’s a Golden Girls classic: remember the time our favorite four ladies got stuck at a train station overnight? They recall the incident in a flashback episode called “Bedtime Story” back in Season 2, remembering how they were stranded by the one train station from which trains actually left early. That’s how you know it’s fiction.

From NBC/.

Elaine Benes, <em>Seinfeld</em>

Elaine Benes, Seinfeld

Remember when poor Elaine gets stuck on a train that just keeps stopping? She also experiences that horror that every New Yorker knows so well: the lights cut out as the train sits motionless. Her silent, internal, vastly relatable screams of profane frustration will forever ring in our ears.

From Castle Rock Entertainment/Everett Collection.



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