Just as Judge Judy is readying to take a break from her long-running courtroom show, Chrissy Teigen is launching Chrissy’s Court, her own judge show on start-up streaming platform Quibi. But while Judy Sheindlin attended law school and was, from 1982 to 1996, an actual real-life judge on the bench in New York City, Chrissy Teigen is a model, entertainer, and cookbook author. Yet, rulings made on both shows carry the full weight of law–a point that’s been brought up specifically in the marketing of Teigen’s show. Which might have you asking why, exactly, are judge shows real?
The answer is that, while most judge shows rely on the imagery and structure of a hearing in a courtroom, they are in fact binding arbitrations. Both parties agree that whatever decision and award is determined within the context of the show will stand. Anyone can serve as an arbiter, no law degree or appointment required. Even in the case of actual-judge Sheindlin, she’s not technically acting as a judge when she’s presiding over cases on her show.
Normally, once the TV court has ruled, things are final–with two exceptions. On Judge Judy, Sheindlin would occasionally dismiss a matter without prejudice, a status which allows the parties to give the traditional court system another try. Otherwise, any appeal would have to be on grounds outside the arbitration contract. That happened to a case Sheindlin ruled on in 2000; the parties had come to the show with a small claims property dispute, but Sheindlin’s ruling also included matters related to child custody. Because custody matters were outside the terms of the arbitration, a family court overturned that portion of the ruling.
Teigen likely won’t be issuing rulings on matters quite as serious as custody of a child. As is customary for Quibi, entire episodes are just ten minutes long–far shorter than a Judge Judy case–and are more about applying Teigen’s wit to everyday problems which would typically not end up in a court at all. A call for cases to be heard on Chrissy’s Court posted on social media last year read, “Bought a bridesmaid dress for a wedding that never happened? Sh*tty roommate? Significant other watch a show without you? No claim is too small! If it’s petty, we want you!”
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