Indispensable personal and family law lessons from Judge Judy

Indispensable personal and family law lessons from Judge Judy

After 15 blogs over the last few months that cover some of the wildest, craziest, and totally unbelievable celebrity divorces, custody battles, and personal injury cases to ever grace the world wide web.

But we have yet to cover one of the most entertaining subsets of celebrity culture: daytime TV stars. In 1996 the skies opened up and the gods of television blessed us with Judge Judy -- the perfect combination of local celebrities and oddball court cases.

Honorable Judith Sheinlin has recently been shopping around syndication deals for 5,800+ episodes -- reportedly worth more than $200 million dollars.

As an homage to her 22 years of hard work arbitrating the cases that real judges wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole, each one of us picked our favorite episodes.

Christy’s pick: How now road cow?

I chose this case for three reasons. First, it took place just a few hours away in Cheney, Washington. Second, despite its cut-and-dried nature, Judge J skipped over the harsh comebacks and snappy witticisms in favor of surprisingly thorough legal education.

Third, it was about two guys, a car accident, and a cow.

Mr. John Carter was suing for the value of his car, impound fees, and lost wages. He believes he is owed these things by Mr. Richard Harwood, whose cow escaped the family pasture and ran in front of Mr. Carter’s car.

Harwood’s defense is twofold. First, he didn’t know the cows had gotten out because state surveyors had cut his fence without telling him. And second, Washington has Open Range laws that allow cows to roam free outside of city limits.

After a graphic legal analogy that involved cow feces to illustrate the difference between an animal’s right to be somewhere, and the right to cause damage, Judge Judy ordered Harwood to pay for Mr. Carter’s car -- valued at $875.

That’s less than the worth of Harwood’s fugitive cow, which escaped unharmed. Case closed.

Walt’s pick: Where we’re going we don’t need legal limitations

Usually what propels a local nobody to daytime TV stardom is a being caught unaware in the middle of a hot-blooded rant, or a nonsensical stream of thought. But not for the plaintiff in my favorite case, who was suing for damages to his 1983 DeLorean after an “allegedly” drunk friend hit it with her moped.

The case itself was relatively uninteresting. As soon as the defendant admitted having a beer before hopping on her hog, the $813 case was over. But in a performance that deserves an Oscar, during the debrief (which runs during the credits) the plaintiff elaborated:

“I’m just trying to get my car fixed so I can get back to 1985. Luckily she didn’t damage the time circuits for the flux capacitor -- that would’ve been very expensive to fix.”

Boyd’s pick: A tough lesson for a kindergartner

As a lawyer, I’m a sucker for Judy’s brash attitude. So although paternity cases are about as fun and lighthearted as reality TV is realistic, they’re never as embarrassing as they are on J-Dizzle’s show.

David Johnson sued his ex-wife for the cost of a paternity test ($275) and a day of lost wages after being forced to prove that he was the biological father of his youngest daughter. He wasn’t “forced” per se, but he definitely felt obligated after his ex-wife told their daughter that David was not her real father, and introduced her to the man she claimed was.

Which doesn’t even need any fancy Latin explanation. David was one of the suitors at the time of conception, but his wife was “uhhh...pretty sure” he wasn’t the father and dropped the truth bomb on an innocent six-year-old.

David took the “uhhh...100% sure” paternity test and proved he was the father, which launched J-Dawg into a rant destined for the daytime-TV hall of fame:

“You’re a moron! You are an example of why people should have to take tests before they’re allowed to have children!”

Kathleen was forced to pay for everything David had asked for; no accommodations were made for the restoration of her dignity.

Most judges aren’t nearly as vocal as Judge Gloomy, but then again, most of them don’t pay you $250 to appear in their courtroom. So, whether it’s a personal injury case or a family law case, we highly recommend heading to a Judy-less courtroom and enlisting the help of a licensed legal advocate.

Because no one should be stuck paying for some schmuck’s flux capacitor.