A tattooed bartender who asked her roommate to drive her children to school because she had worked late stood no chance recovering damages when that roommate got in a car accident. She cared less about the accident than the notion the bartender had passed on her responsibility. If Sheindlin is confronted with a young woman who has multiple children with different fathers, she doesn't hesitate to say: "You have enough children."
"I believe it," she said. "You may disagree with me. But I think if you're 26 years old and you're unemployed and your children have no stability and one lives with grandmother sometimes and you have different men coming into your house fathering these children, the chances that you are going to have a successful person come out of that house, with that upbringing, is diminished. You're not supposed to say it."
Knowing people and their behaviors is her strong suit, certainly not judicial temperament, she said. She admits to being "bratty," in classic ends-justify-the-means style, recalling a Family Court case where she dumped lengthy motions written by expensive lawyers in the trash and told them if they didn't reach a settlement, she would tell their clients the lawyers wanted to bleed them financially.
Sheindlin doesn't want to be briefed by producers about cases before going on the air, preferring to look over their legal arguments and question them herself. Anything else feels uncomfortably like acting to her.
She's signed to continue "Judge Judy" into 2015, but that's not a deadline. "I'm not tired," she said. "I'm still young — 70 is the new 50. I hope I'll know when to say goodbye. Right now I'm not there yet."
Her transition to TV felt fully complete one day a few years ago when she stopped at a bagel restaurant with her husband Jerry, a retired justice on New York state's Supreme Court. They overheard two women arguing about "Judge Judy," one saying she watched and hated her, couldn't get over how rude she was. The other woman said she loved Sheindlin. Judge Judy realized she could take it either way.
"I like it a lot better if you like me," Sheindlin said. "But if you don't like me and watch me every day, what's the difference?"
EDITOR'S NOTE — David Bauder can be reached at dbauder"at"ap.org or on Twitter (at)dbauder.