Court-show viewers don't seem to want moral conundrums or technical wrinkles. They love Sheindlin's show because she offers them a fantasy of how they'd like the justice system to operate—swiftly, and without procedural mishaps or uppity lawyers. They get to see wrongdoers publicly humiliated by a strong authority figure. There is no uncertainty after Sheindlin renders her verdict and bounds off the bench, and there certainly are no lengthy appeals.
In 1964, Blum married Ronald Levy, who later became a prosecutor in Juvenile court. They moved to New York and had two children, Jamie and Adam, but divorced in 1976 after 12 years of marriage. Adam previously served as District Attorney of Putnam County.
Sheindlin passed the New York state bar examination in 1965, the same year as her graduation, and was hired as a corporate Lawyer for a cosmetics firm. Within two years she became dissatisfied with her job and left to raise her two children. She was soon made aware of a position in the New York court system as a prosecutor in the family courts. In her role as a Lawyer, Sheindlin prosecuted child abuse cases, domestic violence and Juvenile crime.
In 1977, she married Judge Jerry Sheindlin, who was an arbitrator on The People's Court from 1999 to 2001. They divorced in 1990, partially as a result of the stress and struggles that Judy endured after her father's death that same year. They remarried the following year. She has three stepchildren with Sheindlin: Gregory, Jonathan and Nicole, and 13 grandchildren. Jonathan is a retinal surgeon, and Greg and Nicole are lawyers.
By 1982, Sheindlin's no-nonsense attitude inspired New York Mayor Ed Koch to appoint her as a Criminal court judge. Four years later, she was promoted to supervising judge in the family court's Manhattan division. She earned a reputation as a "tough" judge (though she has disagreed with the labels "tough" and "harsh"), known for her fast decision-making and acerbic wit.
After the 60 Minutes special on her family court career in 1993 and authoring her first book shortly thereafter (Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining), Sheindlin was approached about starring in a new reality courtroom series, featuring "real cases with real rulings." She accepted the offer.
Sheindlin's ongoing syndicated court show, Judge Judy, debuted on September 16, 1996, and began celebrating its 20th anniversary on Monday, September 14, 2015. The court show's present 22nd season commenced on September 11, 2017. Sheindlin has stated that her show's primary goal is to motivate the public to do the right thing, and to show that each individual must take responsibility for his/her own actions.
Since the success of Sheindlin's courtroom series, she has been interviewed on scores of talk and cable news broadcasts over the course of her 20+ long entertainment career dating back to the February 1993 Los Angeles Times article and subsequent October 1993 60 Minutes segment that set her career in motion. These talk and cable news programs include Entertainment Tonight, The Wendy Williams Show, Katie (numerous appearances), Larry King Live (numerous appearances), The View (numerous appearances), Donny & Marie, The Talk, The Tonight Show, Dateline NBC, 20/20, etc. On October 17, 1998, Sheindlin made a surprise guest appearance on Saturday Night Live, comedically interrupting one of Cheri Oteri's regular parodies of her presiding on Judge Judy. Also as a result of her Judge Judy show stardom, she served as a judge for the 1999 Miss America pageant.
Early on in her Celebrity on February 21, 2000, the Biography program aired a documentary film on Sheindlin, "Judge Judy: Sitting in Judgment" (later released on home video). This 60-minute documentary captured Sheindlin's entire life story (dating back to her childhood), legal career, authoring career, entertainment career, etc. The special also featured input from those closest to Sheindlin and those who knew her best. More recently on December 23, 2008, Sheindlin shared about her life on Shatner's Raw Nerve, in which she was interviewed by william Shatner. A year later in December 2009, Sheindlin again told the story of her life, legal career, authoring career, and entertainment courtroom career from an updated perspective in a two-hour interview for Archive of American Television. In a free-wheeling 60-minute interview conducted by Katie Couric on September 17, 2013, for the 92nd Street Y, Sheindlin elaborated on previously-undisclosed fun facts of her life story and long career in the family court.
The program has integrated itself into American pop culture. In 2003, VH1 named Sheindlin one of the "200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons." References to Sheindlin—typically as "Judge Judy", though often satirical—have appeared in multitudes of television programs and other media, including ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!; FOX's The Simpsons as Judge Constance Harm (voiced by Jane Kaczmarek); NBC's Will & Grace; UPN/The CW's America's Next Top Model; NBC's The Weakest Link; ABC's The Practice; the Academy Awards; the book America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction by Jon Stewart; a skit by Vicki Lawrence portraying Thelma Harper/Mama on "Betty White's 2nd Annual 90th Birthday" celebration, drag queen Bianca Del Rio portraying Judge Judy on RuPaul's Drag Race, etc.
In 2005, Sheindlin's salary was US$15 million per year. Her net worth at the beginning of 2007 was $95 million, and she ranked #13 on the Forbes top 20 richest women in entertainment. In July 2010 when Sheindlin's contract was renewed, her salary increased to $45 million per year. It was later reported in October 2013 that Sheindlin is the highest-paid TV star, earning $47 million per year for Judge Judy, which translates into just over $900,000 per workday (she works 52 days per year).
Judge Judy has earned Sheindlin numerous awards and honors, including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in February 2006; induction into Broadcasting & Cable's Hall of Fame in October 2012; being awarded vice presidency of the UCD Law Society in April 2013; being presented with the Gracie Allen Tribute Award from the Alliance for Women in Media; being awarded the Mary Pickford Award by the Hollywood Chamber Community Foundation at the 2014 Heroes of Hollywood; etc.
Judge Judy has maintained preeminence within its genre. Since its debut, it has remained the No. 1 rated court show and regularly draws approximately 9 to 10 million viewers daily. During the 2009–10 television season, Judge Judy became the first TV series in nearly a decade to attract more daytime viewers than The Oprah Winfrey Show. Since then, it has been the highest rated show in all of daytime television.
On March 30, 2011, Sheindlin was admitted to the hospital after she fainted on the set of her show while handling a case. She was released the next day, and it was later learned that she suffered a mini-stroke. Regarding her retirement, Sheindlin has stated that it's up to her viewers and when they tire of watching the program, which she believes will inevitably happen one day. As of the present, however, Sheindlin has stated that fans still seem to be interested and taking something out of the court show. Sheindlin admits the court show is "seductive" and hard to give up. Sheindlin said, "I'm not tired. I still feel engaged by what I do, and I still have people who like to watch it."
She is a supporter of same-sex marriage and, although she has said that she is not a supporter of "big government", she believes that the issue of same-sex marriage should be handled at the federal level rather than on a state-by-state basis. She prefers not to be labelled by political terms, and states that she is not registered with any political party. When asked about the 2012 presidential elections, Sheindlin stated that while she voted for President Barack Obama in 2008 (as well as voting for Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton respectively in 1980 and 1984, and 1992 and 1996), she did not care for either of the leading candidates in the 2012 United States presidential election.
On August 8, 2014, it was reported that the case between Sheindlin and Haymond settled out of court in a resolution that favored Sheindlin. Haymond will be donating money to Sheindlin's charity, Her Honor Mentoring Program.
Sheindlin and her courtroom series put together an annual Judge Judy Facebook Contest for fans of the show to compete in for a special grand prize. The rules, objectives and prizes often change for each year with the exception of meeting Sheindlin as always being a part of the grand prize. In 2015 and again in 2017, the contest involved sending the program letters explaining why that person's high school should be the one selected for Sheindlin to deliver a graduation commencement speech. In 2015, a letter by Alexus Uentillie of Shiprock High School in Shiprock, New Mexico, was announced as the winner. Sheindlin's graduation commencement speech was delivered in late May 2015 and was covered by Entertainment Tonight as shown. In November 2017, Sheindlin and her program issued a "Tell Me Your Story" Contest, in which the winner of a 250 words (or less) essay highlighting a milestone in their life will receive a personal response from the jurist.
On August 31, 2016, it was reported that CBS has a scripted, semi-autobiographical drama series in the works based on the life of Sheindlin. The program title will be "Her Honor" (which was a proposed title for Sheindlin's court show along with "Hot Bench"). The show has been described as following the youngest judge in New York who, while proficient at handling family court cases, has a personal life that needs work. Executive producers of the program include Sheindlin herself, Chernuchin, Arnold Kopelson and Anne Kopelson. Chernuchin was a Writer for the legal drama series, Law & Order.
In September 2017, Sheindlin funded a space for public debate at the University of Southern California. The university said the series will bring together people from all different walks of life with differing views and perspectives, including Leaders and students. Sheindlin stated that the free exchange of ideas by well-meaning people must be honored on all college campuses across America. Addressing the topic, Sheindlin stated, “When one searches for the truth, one should be armed with all available information. A closed mind is a dangerous thing.” Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said in a statement that schools have a responsibility to encourage civil dialogue. The donation, the amount of which was not disclosed, will also fund an endowment that will support Sheindlin Debate Fellows, which will run debate programs at USC.