It was not the typical ruling that Judge Judy Sheindlin is asked to make when her husband, jurist Jerry Sheindlin, asked if she’d mind yet another TV competitor. The New York State Supreme Court judge had been approached about picking up the gavel for “The People’s Court.”
“She is the one who told me I should do it,” says Sheindlin, 65, who will be sitting on the bench most recently occupied by former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who had appointed both Sheindlins to the New York City Criminal Court years ago. “If she had any reservations at all, I wouldn’t have done it.”
And Sheindlin isn’t worried about going gavel-to-gavel with his enormously popular wife.
“I think that behind every great woman there is a man,” Sheindlin says, laughing. “So I may be behind her now, but I also heard a rumor that behind every great man there is a woman. So we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.”
Sheindlin wasn’t “quite retired” from the Supreme Court when he was contacted earlier this year about doing the third season of “The People’s Court.” Sheindlin began taping the series about six weeks ago. “I do about 10 cases a day and I work two days a week,” he says. The workload, he adds, is a far cry from the some 150 cases a week he used to preside over.
A lot of the cases so far have bordered on the bizarre, Sheindlin says. “There was a bird that died, a pink outfit that came back gray [from the cleaners].
“But these cases are all real and are very serious to the people who come in with intense emotion with their point of view. They really look to you to solve their problem.”
The native New Yorker and Korean War veteran earned his law degree from Brooklyn Law School in 1959. He spent the next 22 years as partner in Adlerberg & Sheindlin, concentrating on criminal cases as a defense attorney. He was appointed a U.S. administrative law judge in 1980 and three years later was assigned a Criminal Court judge of the city of New York. Sheindlin was elevated to the State Supreme Court in 1986.
Sheindlin met his wife of 22 years in a bar. “I just finished trying a murder case as a defense lawyer,” he recalls. “She was a prosecutor. There was a reporter from the New York Post there at the bar, and I was speaking to him about the case. Judy came walking in and put her finger in my face and said, ‘And who is this?’ I said, ‘Lady, get your finger out of my face.’ We’ve been together ever since.”
Though Sheindlin has gotten a kick out of his wife’s TV success, he adds that if “my show takes off and I beat her, I am contacting Hollywood immediately to remake the movie ‘Sleeping With the Enemy.’ ”