Judge Judy is an American arbitration-based reality court show presided over by retired Manhattan Family Court Judge Judith Sheindlin. The show features Sheindlin adjudicating real-life small claim disputes within a simulated courtroom set. All parties involved must sign contracts agreeing to arbitration under Sheindlin. The series is in first-run syndication and distributed by CBS Television Distribution.
Judge Judy, which premiered on September 16, 1996, reportedly revitalized the court show genre. Only two other arbitration-based reality court shows preceded it, The People's Court (its first life cancelled in 1993 from low ratings) and Jones and Jury (lasting only the 1994–95 season, short-lived from low ratings). Sheindlin has been credited with introducing the "tough" adjudicating approach into the judicial genre, which has led to several imitators. The two court shows that outnumber Judge Judy's seasons, The People's Court and Divorce Court, have both lasted via multiple lives of production and shifting arbiters, making Sheindlin's span as a television arbiter the longest.
By 2011, Judge Judy had been nominated 14 consecutive years for Daytime Emmy Awards without ever winning. Judge Judy finally won its first Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program in 2013, on its 15th nomination. It is the first long-running, highly rated court show to win an Emmy.
Since its premiere, Judge Judy has gained enormous popularity and has led the ratings in courtroom programming. The show was also the highest-rated daytime television program from its 3rd (1998–99) through 5th (2000–01) season. After that, the show lost this title, but regained it by its 14th season (2009–10) and has kept it henceforth. For its 16th season (2011–12), it was named not only the highest-rated program in daytime but also in all of syndication, averaging a 7.0 rating. It regained this position for its 18th season (2013–14) with a 7.2 rating, marking its third time as the leader in all of syndication. The show has been renewed several times. The most recent of which took place on April 8, 2013, extending Sheindlin's contract through 2016–17, which will be the show's 21st season.
Season 19 of Judge Judy premiered on Monday, September 8, 2014. To celebrate her new season, Sheindlin offered her new book "What Would Judy Say: Be the Hero of Your Own Story" to the public for free.