The People's Court

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
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"What you are about to witness is real. The participants are not actors. They are the actual people who have already either filed suit or been served a summons to appear in a California (or New York Metropolitan) Municipal Court. Both parties in the suit have agreed to dismiss their court cases and have their disputes settled here, in our forum — The People's Court." [Current version: "...They are actual litigants with a case pending in civil court. Both parties have agreed to drop their claims, and have their cases settled here..."]

The Ur Example of the judge talk show, The People's Court had its pilot episode taped in October of 1980 and premiered on September 14, 1981 when Judge Joseph Wapner took the court to the TV. The premise is that two parties, a plaintiff and a defendant, that would otherwise take their cases to small claims court would instead agree to have their case settled on television by Judge Wapner. After the verdict was given, each side would be interviewed by host and court reporter Doug Llewelyn, who would often end the show with the Catch Phrase "Don't take the law into your own hands: you take 'em to court."[1] The show's other two regulars were bailiff Rusty Burrell and announcer Jack Harrell. The show was created by John Masterson, who previously created and produced Queen for a Day. It was executive produced by Ralph Edwards, who previously created and/or produced The Cross Wits, Truth or Consequences, and Name That Tune, and his production partner, Stu Billett. Both men packaged the show under their own separate companies until 1987, when the companies merged. The show was originally distributed by Telepictures until 1986, when that company merged with Lorimar, creating Lorimar-Telepictures. Lorimar-Telepictures continued to distribute until 1989, when it was purchased by Warner Bros, who continued to distribute until the show's cancellation in 1993.

After Judge Judy started the judge show revival in the mid-1990s, one of the first shows on the block was a Revival of The People's Court. Former New York City mayor Ed Koch initially took the bench for the first two years, then was replaced by Jerry Sheindlin (husband of Judge Judy). He was replaced by Marilyn Milian in 2001, who presides over the court today. The bailiff during the Koch-Sheindlin years was Josephine Ann Longobardi. After Milian took the bench, she was replaced by Davy Jones, who only lasted relatively briefly and was in turn replaced by Douglas MacIntosh. Curt Chaplin took over the interview duties and became the new announcer, while host Harvey Levin, who worked on the Wapner version as the show's legal consultant, explains the legalese behind the judges' decisions while polling fans gathered outdoors.

The original is best known nowadays for being the favorite program of Raymond Babbit.

Tropes used in The People's Court include:
  • Catch Phrase: Like Judge Judy, Marilyn Milian has her own set of catch phrases:
    • "Did I breathe and give you the impression I was done speaking?"
    • "You redefine chutzpah!"
    • "As my grandmother used to say, Un clavo saca el otro clavo - One nail drives out the other." (And various other "dichos," or short sayings/proverbs in Spanish. The judge is very proud of her Cuban-American heritage.)
    • "Who am I gonna believe, you or my lying eyes?"
    • "I wouldn't believe you if your tongue came notarized."
    • "NOT here! NOT today! And NOT in my courtroom!"
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In addition to the judge-bailiff turnover, Levin originally had a co-host, Carol Martin, who previously was an anchor at New York City TV station WCBS.
  • Rant-Inducing Slight: Judge Milian's verbal beatdown of a snotty law student below.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: So many instances with Judge Milian, all a Moment of Awesome for her. Judge Milian is actually pretty even-tempered compared with Judge Judy, but when something triggers her Berserk Button, watch out!
    • October 15, 2007: A University of Miami law student says her ruling is "your opinion". Milian goes postal.

Judge Milian: No, that's my RULING, pal. And let me tell you something, Mr. University of Miami Law School! I taught at U-M for many years, and you, right now, are embarrassing us. You do not show that kind of disrespect, okay? If you don't like what the judge is doing, you take it to the next forum, but you do NOT stand there and say "That's your opinion" like a BABY, when a judge rules against — DON'T EVEN UTTER ANOTHER WORD!! — ... You've got a lot to learn about what it means to be a member of the Florida Bar, and if you think that this kind of petulance and babyness on your part, to tell around and tell a judge who you disagree with "WELL, THAT'S YOUR OPINION!" is going to get you anywhere, you are sorely mistaken. If there's nothing you should have learned in the last two years as a law student, that's something you should have learned as a human growing up, that you do not show that kind of disrespect. You don't like it, take it to the hallway, but you do not look a judge in the face — because, I don't care what you think of me, you've gotta RESPECT THIS PROCESS! And if there's anybody who I expect to respect this process, it's a second-year law student at the University of Miami. Verdict for the plaintiff, $450 and court costs.

  1. (If a case ended with a verdict for the defendant, however, Llewelyn would instead end the episode by saying, "If someone files a lawsuit against you and yet you're convinced you've done nothing wrong, don't be intimidated. Just be sure to stand up for your rights: go to court.")