Top 10 Best Courtroom Reality TV Shows

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Top 10 Best Courtroom Reality TV Shows

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Martin Roseville
We order you check out these courtroom TV shows. For this list, we'll be looking only at reality court shows as opposed to courtroom dramas or sitcoms. Our countdown includes “Judge Mills Lane,” “Judge Faith,” “The People's Court,” and more!
Transcript
Order! Order in the court! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Courtroom TV Shows.

For this list, we’ll be looking only at reality court shows as opposed to courtroom dramas or sitcoms.

#10: “Judge Mills Lane” (1998-2001)


This is the definite answer to the question: What do you get when you cross a judge with a boxer? A former welterweight champion turned boxing referee turned district court judge, Lane was known in the show for his catchphrase: “Let’s get it on!” Like many other shows on our list, this was an arbitration-based reality court show, meaning that there were no actors or scripts. The litigants, lawsuits, and behavior in the courtroom was all real, and Lane had a way of commanding our attention with his dynamic style. Too bad for us, his show was cancelled after only three seasons.

#9: “Judge Alex” (2005-14)


He was a judge for the people. Though less bombastic than many of his contemporaries, Alex Ferrer nevertheless proved to be firm yet reasonable in his rulings. Born in Havana, Cuba, this fully-bilingual circuit court judge had started off in police work before his career in the courtroom. Although having had experience in dealing with all sorts of serious crime and misdemeanors, the TV show came to be known for cases that bordered on the amusing rather than on the sobering. We also appreciated his way of explaining the legal precedents behind his decisions before his rulings.

#8: “Judge Faith” (2014-18)


Although a former beauty pageant competitor and winner of several awards, it didn’t take long for us to see that Judge Faith Jenkins was more than just a pretty face on this court show. With a background as a prosecutor and legal analyst, Jenkins has actually appeared on many TV shows and news stories for her take on legal issues. But nowhere was her legal prowess more evident than on her own show. In addition to her ability to pick apart fact from fiction, she would also make us burst out laughing with her trademark Louisiana sass.

#7: “Power of Attorney” (2000-02)


Although it didn’t end up lasting that long, the premise of this court TV show had us hooked from the first episode. During each trial, each side would be represented by a well-known attorney. Some of the show’s high-profile attorneys included Johnnie Cochran, a lawyer in the O. J. Simpson murder trial, and Geoffrey Fieger, an attorney for Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the famous proponent of patients’ right to die. Although each episode had us teetering on the edge of our seats, a combination of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and low ratings doomed the show. The price tags on having the famous lawyers appear on the show didn’t help either.

#6: “Divorce Court” (1957-69; 1984-92; 1999-)


If you like drama, then you’ll love this show. Revolving around the arguments that take place between couples who have filed for divorce, it has the distinction of being one of the longest-running court shows on air. In it, the judge must decide on matters like alimony and how any property and belongings should be divided up. A reincarnation of the first “Divorce Court” series that began all the way back in 1957, the previous series featured dramatic reenactments as opposed to real couples. The newest adjustment for the show’s upcoming season will be the addition of Judge Faith Jenkins on the bench.

#5: “Judge Joe Brown” (1998-2013)


More than just being an entertaining court series, Brown’s show is one for the history books. He was actually the first African-American man to hold the title of Judge in a courtroom TV show. Known as the grumpiest of the judges, he was prone to outbursts and lashing out at litigants that he perceived as guilty. With a manner that invited both admiration and criticism, the controversy did not affect his ratings or his salary. In 2012, he was listed as one of the “highest-paid daytime or syndicated TV personalities” by “TV Guide” and his was rated as one of the top shows in the courtroom genre during its run.

#4: “Judge Mathis” (1998-)


Judge Joe Brown may have been the first African American court show judge, but this inspirational arbitrator from Detroit, Michigan holds the title of the longest-serving one. The winner of a Daytime Emmy Award, Mathis’ appeal comes from his relatability. A young delinquent and member of a street gang who got arrested at the age of 17, Mathis was able to turn his life around and become Michigan's youngest judge. With an easy, relaxed manner, a sense of humor, and a real empathy and desire to help out troubled youth, it’s no wonder that this court show is a pleasure to watch.

#3: “Caught in Providence” (2000-)


Although certainly not the highest-paid or prolific of the judges on our list, Municipal Court Judge Frank Caprio is one for the ages. Serving in Rhode Island, this octogenarian began going viral in 2017 with his kind disposition and compassionate approach. He has been quoted as saying: "I don't wear a badge under my robe. I wear a heart under my robe." Caprio has proven that those aren’t merely words, and can be seen on the show interacting with young children, getting emotional, and even calling people up for a hug. He’s affectionately referred to as Uncle Joe and has been described as a “father figure to the world.”

#2: “The People’s Court” (1981-93; 1997-)


It holds the distinction of being one of the longest-running court shows in history. Everything about this show is legendary. It has received multiple Daytime Emmy Award nominations and wins. Its presiding judge from 2001, Marilyn Milian, boasts a larger-than-life personality and the honor of being the first Hispanic judge in any court show. It was the first to introduce a number of bold new practises, such as binding arbitration. Even its theme music has been sampled by many musicians and has found its way into countless films and TV shows. Its triumph ended up inspiring spinoffs in its wake, including a British version, although none achieved the same success.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

“Judge Hatchett” (2000-08)

“Moral Court” (2000-01)

“Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court” (2013-)

“Hot Bench” (2014-)

“Judge Karen” (2008-09)

#1: “Judge Judy” (1996-)


This has held the honor of being the highest-rated daytime television show, and for good reason. Emmy Award-winning Manhattan Judge Judy Sheindlin is simply the most entertaining judge of them all. Even before her show, the Los Angeles Times profiled her in part due to her reputation as one of the country’s toughest family court judges. Quick to speak, impatient, cantankerous, and strict, she rules with an iron fist and she makes sure that we know it! The show’s tagline, “Justice with an Attitude,” is very appropriate, as her volatile disposition and one-liners (known as Judyisms) have made her both famous and controversial. One thing is for sure: there will never be another like Judge Judy.
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Absolutely agree. Go to a real court if you can find one.
Judge Judy over the years has proven to be a race baiter. She tries with tiny threads to show how bad black complainants and defends tx can be. Black folk stop taking cases to her. Take cases to real court if you must sue