“CBS Had No Choice But to Pay Me”
Rebel is the successor-in-interest to the talent agency that allegedly packaged the show. For whatever work it has did in the mid-1990s, it’s entitled to a 5 percent share of net profits.
CBS and Big Ticket, in summary adjudication papers filed this month, don’t think much of that work.
“Rebel did not conceive of, develop, or create Judge Judy,” states a brief. “Rebel has never financed, produced, sold, licensed, distributed, exhibited, or marketed Judge Judy. Rebel’s only connection with Judge Judy was its representation of three original show producers in 1995. For this, Rebel has collected nearly $20 million in upfront commission and back-end participation payments. Indeed, Rebel has received more than $1.1 million in payments in the year since it filed the Complaint in this action.”
The chief argument from CBS is is that Rebel’s deal doesn’t allow the agency to challenge production cost amounts. CBS’ lawyers say Rebel can object to production cost types, but that the discretion on what to pay the show’s star is something reserved for the producers.
“Rebel cannot dispute that the salary paid to Judge Scheindlin was the salary necessary to keep Judge Judy on the air, and, ironically, the salary necessary for Rebel to continue to earn millions of dollars in upfront commissions that would disappear were the show to end,” continues the defendants’ summary adjudication brief.
Is paying Judge Judy all that salary really necessary? Well, that’s where her deposition comes into play.
In July 2016, she was videotaped giving testimony. What she said hasn’t been revealed publicly until now.
During questioning, Scheindlin discussed how she went from a supervising judge in New York family court to becoming a TV star. It was in late 1994 or early 1995 when Scheindlin says she got a call from producer Sandi Spreckman, who worked with another producer named Kaye Switzer and who had seen a piece on her on 60 Minutes. Spreckman asked whether she had ever thought of becoming a television judge.
“I remember that conversation because it was a life-altering conversation for me,” testified Scheindlin. “I said as a matter of fact I did. I thought I would make a great TV judge and I know that Joe Wapner had just gone off the air. Little did I realize that the reason they were making this call is because they were both unemployed because People’s Court had gone off the air…”
Scheindlin then recounted her Hollywood courtship from producer Larry Lyttle and others with all sorts of details down to the drink — a Diet Coke with lemon — she had during meetings and the hotel near Universal’s studio she stayed at (“I thought I’d died and went to heaven, it actually had a little tiny room in addition to a bedroom.”) During the deposition, she continually referred to Spreckman and Switzer as “the girls” and expressed skepticism about those pitching her. For example, the agent for the host of The People’s Court? She told him, “I don’t know you from a hole in the wall, so I’m not certainly binding myself to you.”
Told by Lyttle that she needed to give an answer within 24 hours to a proposed deal for a pilot, Scheindlin says she looked for representation. She retained her entertainment lawyer — Nancy Rose — after a recommendation from Laurie and Larry David, the latter being of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame. Scheindlin says she’s related to them through marriage. (Reportedly, an upcoming episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm features Larry as a plaintiff in the Judge Judy courtroom.)
After intense negotiations, Big Ticket made its final offer. Scheindlin doesn’t remember the name of the company’s lawyer (“I think he’s no longer vertical on this earth.”)
Scheindlin recalls her response to the offer: ‘If the girls are happy with their deals, if that’s their last offer, it’s three and a half times as much as I’m making now as a family court judge, I’ll take it.’