Funny, Legaleze

Judge Judy holds court, defends enormous salary

Hollywood Reporter gives us a hilarious blow by blow on a deposition taken by judge Judy Sheinlin in another case involving profit participation.

The lawsuit (just one of many these days) involves Rebel Entertainment (the “successors in interest” to the packaging agency that produced Judge Judy) against CBS and Big Ticket Television (the network and producer/distributor respectively).   Rebel has a 5% stake in the show’s net profits.  The company claims it is denied profits from the syndication of the show due, in part, to the judge’s huge salary demands.


Judy herself is called to give testimony and makes a barn burner of a speech about her early start on the series as well as her current standing with the show.


She starts by telling of how she received a phone call 20 plus years ago from two former Peoples’ Court producers.  They’d seen the judge on a now famous 60 Minutes piece.  The women wanted to see if Judy would be interested in hosting her own court tv show and the judge said she was.


She would later fly to LA to meet with representatives from Big Ticket who would try to sell the series to CBS.  Sheindlin agreed, they shot the pilot, CBS picked up the show and the two women  fired.  (Judy would later testify on their behalf in a lawsuit against the parties).


That was 1995-96.


Since then the power and success  of Judge Judy is a thing of legend.  The daytime show has been a powerhouse in the ratings dwarfed by only The Oprah Winfrey Show.   In testimony she described in detail the leverage she holds over CBS as a way to defend the argument she is being overpaid.


“…my contract with CBS for more than a decade now does not include a last look, which means the following,” she said. “Which means they can’t match another offer, which means I can produce this show myself for decades. I choose not to do that because of my age and because of the fact that I like the uncomplicated life I lead.”

Sheindlin said someone once wisely told her that she was leaving $20 million a year on the table by not producing Judge Judy herself.

She responded, “How much can you eat?” (Besides her enormous salary, she recently sold the Judge Judy library to CBS in a deal that was likely north of $200 million.)

Sheindlin testified that if she ever decided to produce the show herself, [Rebel Entertainment’] Mr. 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 in testimony. “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.”

Sheindlin says that every three years, she sits down for a renegotiation with CBS and brings along a card with her demands. Sometimes, she wants a bump for the crew who work on Judge Judy. Sometimes, it’s something different. But there’s always the salary.

“And we go to the Grill on the Alley with the president of the company,” says the tough-minded judge about CBS. “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.”

“The only one who tried something a little bit different was John Nogawski,” continued Sheindlin, referring to the former president of CBS TV Distribution. “John Nogawski came to the meeting at the Grill on the Alley, and I handed him my envelope, and he said, ‘Judy, I have my own envelope.’ And 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; not a whole thing, not 30 pages, three things, whatever it was, done. So to suggest that the largest profit participant, which is CBS, would pay me willingly more money is so ludicrous. Their back’s to the wall.”

She says, “They pay me the money that they do because they have no choice. 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. … And until they do, they have their local news on all their O&Os [owned-and-operated stations]. They have international, which we’re involved with the — the Judy program is all over the world, and even though they had to take a deep breath, they paid the money because they know otherwise. I’d take the same people with me that are producing the show now and I’d go and do it myself.”






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