How Judge Judy negotiated her reported salary of $47 million a year

Judge Judy
Photo credit Valerie Macon/Getty Images

For 25 years, Judy Sheindlin, better-known to Americans as “Judge Judy,” was a television mainstay.

Her no-nonsense demeanor, coupled with the real-life disputes that she adjudicated, not only earned the Brooklyn, New York native legions of fans, but a reported salary of $47 million a year. According to Forbes, that has translated into a net worth of over $400 million.

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The 79-year old, who started her career as a lawyer in 1972 before becoming a judge in 1982, told People that prior to her television success, she lived a thrifty lifestyle. “The majority of my life, I spent buying on the sale rack. I didn't bother going into [Neiman Marcus], [Bergdorf Goodman] and Saks [Fifth Avenue] because I couldn't afford it.”

A 1993 profile in the “Los Angeles Times” and a segment on “60 Minutes” brought Sheindlin to the attention of CBS, with the first episode of “Judge Judy” premiering in September of 1996.

As ratings grew, so did Sheindlin’s paychecks thanks to serious negotiating on her part. After ten years on the air, she told network executives “we should be partners. I can do this program without you. Good luck, you can't do it without me.”

Sheindlin suggests that same level of confidence for anyone who is negotiating for a higher salary. “You have to make yourself indispensable — and that is irrespective of what you do. Once you've done that and have leverage, make a reasonable demand and know what the commodity is worth.”

“Judge Judy” came to an end in May, but fans didn’t have to wait too long for Sheindlin’s acerbic wit to grace their screens once more– she has now launched a streaming show, “Justice Judy.”

Airing on Amazon’s free premium streaming service, IMDb TV is exciting for Sheindlin. “Amazon had the confidence in me to say, ‘Let's do it in streaming. Let's let you do your thing in a fresh version with new people,’” she shared.

However, the new show already has its own controversies.

Petri Hawkins Byrd, who was the bailiff on “Judge Judy” for the duration of the program, was not asked to be part of her news show. In an October interview with Entertainment Weekly, he shared that he felt left out after finding out about her new venture on an episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

"My assumption is,” said Byrd, “if you were going on to do something else, that you were at least going to ask me if I wanted to have the opportunity to audition for the role.”

“I didn't inquire as to why [I wasn’t asked back], that's her choice,” said Byrd. “But she did inform me that fundamentally, I was priced out as the new bailiff on her new show. My salary would have been too much. I was curious: How would she know? She didn't ask me. She didn't give me an opportunity to have accepted a lower salary.”

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Valerie Macon/Getty Images