Judge Judy on How to Figure Out Who’s Telling the Truth

Alan: 00:00 What I just can’t figure out is, what it is at the core of your show. I know you’re at the core of your show and your personality. What is it that makes it so popular? 22 years is number one in daytime. 10 million people a day watch you and those are the figures I’ve heard.
Judy: 00:21 Yeah. About right.
Alan: 00:24 It’s funny. It’s a great detective story. I’m trying to figure out what you’re determining from what you ask. Well, whether you’re going to get on the right track with these people. Are they looking for justice? Are they looking for family fights? What is it?
Judy: 00:40 Oh, that’s a lot of questions in there, Alan. You know, somebody once said that the genesis of the popularity of my program was the O.J. Simpson trial.
Alan: 00:57 Oh, that’s interesting.
Judy: 01:00 There is a very large part of that population that thought that that was one of the great American travesties of justice. I, included. I think it just magnified that trial that sometimes a trial is not what it’s supposed to be, which is a search for the truth and the right thing is supposed to happen at the end of a trial. Justice is supposed to happen. It becomes more gamesmanship. I always believed even when I sat in the family court and I lived in the family court for 25 years before I had this wonderful second career that, at the end of the day, you are supposed to leave that courthouse feeling justice was done. Sometimes, justice is imperfect. In the family court, if you’re trying to decide whether to return a trial to a mother who has completed a six-month drug program but who was falling off the wagon before or to return the child to a foster home that’s not so terrific, you’re very often left with a Hobson’s choice. It’s never perfect justice, but the best you can do has been done that day.
Judy: 02:26 I think that my program came at a time because I’m … Well, though, I like to think that as I got older, I have shades of gray, but I’m really a meat and potatoes girl. If it’s-
Alan: 02:41 What do you mean you’re meat and potatoes?
Judy: 02:43 If it’s right, it’s right. If it feels good, it’s simple. Justice it should be simple. That’s-
Alan: 02:50 How can it be when you have so many factors entering into it and people are not always what they seem?
Judy: 02:57 It’s supposed to be. You’re supposed to have the ability. If you’re a judge, that’s what your name is. If you’re a doctor, you care for people. If you’re an entertainer, you entertain. If you’re a judge, you’re supposed to make judgements. That’s what you’re supposed to do. If you’re a doctor and you have no skill, your patients will die. If you’re an entertainer and not too entertaining, you’re going to die (laughing). If you’re a judge and fail to make judgements because you’re lazy, because you’re ill-prepared, because you don’t know people, because you lack the basics, then you shouldn’t be a judge. Then you’re really taking the lives of people and things that are important to them and saying, “It really doesn’t matter.”
Alan: 03:47 When you say, “know people,” that sounds really interesting to me because I think one of the pleasures that I get out of watching your show is watching you know people, reading people. You ask a couple of questions and I see you off on a path pretty early. Is that because of your preparation or are you getting it on in the moment?
Judy: 04:13 Well, Alan, you and I are not spring chickens.
Alan: 04:19 No. That’s certainly true in my case.
Judy: 04:24 We have a certain life’s history. We didn’t grow up in the clouds. You’ve been in the entertainment business for decades but you and your wife, Arlene, live a regular life. I’m going to digress for a moment.
Alan: 04:45 Yeah.
Judy: 04:46 I remember, one of the things that I learned from Arlene that she probably won’t even remember, we were coming out of the hotel where you often stay and where Jerry and I live when I’m working, and you had been there for a while and you were carrying two very small suitcases. You were wheeling two of your own very small suitcases. I said to her, “Arlene, is that your luggage?” She said, “That’s all I carry.” She said, “I wear black and white and a couple of different things that I throw in, a scarf that blends color to it. Alan does the same. If he needs a formal outfit because we’re traveling and we’re going to some formal affair, he ships it ahead. It’s there. ” This is what we carry,” in his carry-on luggage. It inspired me.
Alan: 05:35 Oh.
Judy: 05:36 That moment-
Alan: 05:37 You went out and bought a suitcase.
Judy: 05:39 No. I bought clothes that I could roll up into that suitcase …
Alan: 05:39 Right. Right.
Judy: 05:44 … and stopped musing about what I was wearing and what I was going to look like because there comes a point where people don’t really care what you wear as long as the important parts are covered. They don’t want to see parts that are unattractive.
Alan: 05:59 Right. Right. I often think after I’ve been at a gathering and I can remember the people I talked to, I can’t remember what they wore.
Judy: 06:07 Right. Unless they were wearing something that had cleavage down to their navel.
Alan: 06:12 Right.
Judy: 06:12 Or a skirt up to their tonsils, then you have a memory of-
Alan: 06:17 It’s hard to put that out of your head.
Judy: 06:20 Yeah. You can’t put that out of your head, but ordinarily, unless somebody is absolutely spectacular looking, you remember what they … Anyway, we digress. We’re-
Alan: 06:30 Yeah. I was asking you about reading people …
Judy: 06:31 People.
Alan: 06:32 … who come before you.
Judy: 06:34 What I’m saying is, it doesn’t start out with reading people. It starts out with a story. It starts out with the common sense of things. It starts out with, if something doesn’t make sense, it’s usually not true. Now, there is aberrative behavior where something happens, and you can’t understand it. That light in the sky with a tail that wasn’t a shooting star. You may not be able to explain it, but most things have a rhythm. Life has a rhythm to it unless you’re living in a cloud, which is how I started. I said, “You and your wife live a regular life.” My husband and I also live a very regular life. We eat at the same restaurants four times a week. We eat at the same chairs. We have our places at the table. We have normal children. We have grandchildren. If they go off the straight and narrow, we push them back on. We try to get them on the tracks. I have a brother who I adore. I had parents who I loved. It was a normal growing. I had normal experiences.
Judy: 07:49 When somebody comes in to try to tell me a story or defend an action, that is really indefensible because it comes outside my 75 years of experience. I begin to question it. When I get a complaint and an answer, which is really very small from the litigants and I look at it and I see, for instance … I’ll give you a sad case. I see, for instance, the parents of a young man who died too soon. They had rejected him early in his life because he told them he was gay. He had friends who are very, very close to him, for years. He wanted his friends to have certain of his possessions and gave them to him because he was terminally ill, and he gave them to his friends. The lawsuit was his parents suing for the return of those items. This happened a long time ago. My sense as a human being was, these were people who adore this man and who made his life comfortable for 25 years. His parents, out of guilt or anger said, ” You can’t have that, whatever it was.” A cigar humidor.
Alan: 09:35 Were they valuable things?
Judy: 09:36 No.
Alan: 09:37 They were just being hurtful.
Judy: 09:38 They said, “They’re mine.” Now, the law may say, if someone dies without a will, then the next of kin and her. It’s their property, but-
Alan: 09:38 Right. There was no piece of paper saying-
Judy: 09:58 There was no piece of paper.
Alan: 09:59 Yeah.
Judy: 09:59 The young man said, “I want you to have this humidor. I want you to have this whatever it was.” Well, then justice is supposed to happen at the end of a trial. You have to make justice happen at the end of a trial. There are ways to do that. There are ways to massage the letter of the law to make the right thing happen at the end of a trial, but having to say to the plaintiffs in that case, you have to understand that anger is a much easier emotion to deal with than pain or sorrow. It’s much easier to get angry at a situation than it is to become reflective and say, “I was wrong.”
Alan: 10:57 It sounds like you’re able to make a decision in a case like that given the circumstances of your particular court. Was this on the show?
Judy: 11:05 Yes.
Alan: 11:05 Yeah. They have to sign a paper before they go in saying they have to accept your ruling.
Judy: 11:10 Correct.
Alan: 11:12 There’s no appeal, there’s no-
Judy: 11:14 Correct.
Alan: 11:16 You can ignore the fact that there was no piece of paper signed.
Judy: 11:19 I ignore the fact because you can either determine that a gift was made before someone died. The deceased had actually relinquished control over the object prior to his death to his friends. Therefore, the items were no longer the decedents at the time that he died.
Alan: 11:19 Right. Right.
Judy: 11:42 Therefore, his parents had no stake in it. That little story is not so different from so many other stories that you could probably recall of … The emotion of anger being so much easier to deal with than sadness or sorrow or reflectiveness.
Alan: 12:07 It’s a very interesting observation. I think it’s true as you say that, I realize I never thought about that before. If two people are facing a problem in their relationship and one of them is angry about something and the other one is hurt by the problem, the one who is angry, really, can give a little more room.
Judy: 12:32 It’s much easier for you, emotion, to deal with.
Alan: 12:40 Yeah. Yeah. Something that interest me a lot is that you’ve built on the success of the courtroom to having written a number of books that are helpful to people in everyday relationships not having to do with fights in a courtroom and that kind of thing. Relationship things, for instance.
Judy: 13:06 Well, understanding my roots come from the family court. I handled all kinds of cases. Criminal cases with juvenile delinquents, abuse cases, child neglect proceedings, but I also handled family cases. Remembering one very early on before I was a judge, I was actually a lawyer at the time in the family court. They were very middle class people, professional. He was a professional man. They came to hate each other and they had two children, but they were young. I didn’t think so then but they were young. They were in their mid 40s and that they had relatively young children. They became angry with each other. That the woman made her life’s work ruining his life to the extent where he hated her so that despite the fact that he could pay child support, he didn’t and went to jail.
Alan: 14:28 Oh my God.
Judy: 14:29 He was a lawyer. He said, “I’m not paying her.”
Alan: 14:34 Now, you were a lawyer in this case.
Judy: 14:36 I was a lawyer.
Alan: 14:37 Her lawyer?
Judy: 14:37 Yes.
Alan: 14:38 Yeah.
Judy: 14:40 Because she had no money. She said she had no money. She was a college educated woman who could’ve gotten a job and then had money, but it was her mission to destroy him. It taught me a very valuable lesson. I’ve said it often, “You have to love your children more than you hate each other. When you first got together, you loved each other. When you had children, you didn’t have the children for the purpose of making their lives miserable. There was joy and all probability because you did it more than once. There was joy, there was happiness, there’s the hope that your children would have, happy childhood and a fulfilling adult life and then you put them in the middle of this war, which they had no part in creating. Not only you depriving them of parents, but you’re depriving them of childhood.” That impacted me. That case impacted me. It impacted me, actually, through my own divorce, which I had after I was married for 12 years. I had a couple of children. It’s very easy to get angry.How about, “It just didn’t work.”
Alan: 16:08 Right, but grumble take that out.
Judy: 16:14 Yes. Correct.
Alan: 16:21 I don’t know how you feel about this. It always seems to me that that kind of anger you’re talking about can diminish, to some extent, if you have a glimmer of what the other person is feeling and if it matters to you what they’re feeling.
Judy: 16:38 Oh, well, now you’re getting into a very, very difficult arena. This is actually it. Civilized discourse is gone.
Alan: 16:53 When do you date that to?
Judy: 17:00 To this extent?
Alan: 17:01 Yeah.
Judy: 17:06 Probably, a year and a half ago.
Alan: 17:13 Yeah. I see what you mean. I thought that’s where you were heading. Yeah.
Judy: 17:13 Well, but probably. It’s sad because you have well-meaning people who have opinions on both sides, but because of the anger, there’s a war, but that’s a perfect example of what we’re talking about. If you listen a little bit, maybe you’ll understand more. If you listen to your mate more, if you say, “Okay, I’m going to take a breath, and I know we’re furious with each other, we’ll take a time out. We’ll walk around the block, come back. Tell me how you feel.” That’s how you communicate. You may disagree with it. You may disagree and say, “I don’t see the logic in that. I don’t see the worth in that argument, but I’ve listened to it and then reject it.”
When we come back…
This is C and V, now back to be conversation with Judge Judy
Alan: 18:19 You think there’s a point in a relationship where it’s still possible to care about how the other person feels and at point some time later where you say, “Yeah, I see how you feel, but I’m too interested in my anger.” The way I feel is, I don’t care that much about how you feel.
Judy: 18:37 Or I’ve been hurt too badly.
Alan: 18:38 Yeah.
Judy: 18:39 Or I really care for you. I like to say, “Let’s get real.”
Alan: 18:50 Yeah. Right.
Judy: 18:52 If a guy has a girlfriend and his wife hasn’t done anything wrong, it’s much easier to get made at, “You know I don’t like my steak well done. You know I don’t like starch in my collars. You know” …
Alan: 19:16 He’s finding these things out because he’s married and has a girlfriend on the side.
Judy: 19:24 Right. The anger-
Alan: 19:24 Little things like his steak had to be important.
Judy: 19:25 The anger is a much more … “You know, I was watching TV and you were inside talking on the phone loud. You were so inconsiderate. Yes, you’re inconsiderate.” That anger is a much easier thing for most people to live with than, “You know, I’m doing something wrong and I really feel badly about it.”
Alan: 19:46 Yeah.
Judy: 19:48 It’s much easier to blame somebody else.
Alan: 19:52 If you care how they feel and maybe, the situation isn’t as stark as being guilty about what’s happening on the side, but if you care about what they feel, do you find that that’s … the people that you talk to in your own experience because you’ve reflected on your own life, do you find that that is enough to help you settle the wreckage in the relationship?
Judy: 20:21 Sure. If you have that special thing that you can’t quite put your finger on, you know.
Alan: 20:31 What special thing? You mean, some kind of love.
Judy: 20:35 Love thing.
Alan: 20:35 Love thing. Yeah.
Judy: 20:36 The love thing that you can’t quite put your finger on.
Alan: 20:39 People love each other and they curse each other at the same time.
Judy: 20:43 Oh, yes, bitter. Bitterly. Do you remember Burton & Taylor?
Alan: 20:48 Yeah. Yeah. Well, I only read about them.
Judy: 20:51 You’ve read about them, but we all read about them.
Alan: 20:53 Yeah.
Judy: 20:58 Virginia Wolf.
Alan: 21:02 What’s the Virginia Wolf story?
Judy: 21:02 Virginia Wolf.
Alan: 21:02 Oh, in the move Virginia Wolf.
Judy: 21:05 Virginia Wolf.
Alan: 21:06 Yeah. Yeah. Oh, the story itself.
Judy: 21:09 The story itself.
Alan: 21:10 Yeah. There’s a story of people doing exactly what we’re saying.
Judy: 21:12 Right. Did they really care? Yes. The anger was an easier emotion to deal with than the pain, which also existed.
Alan: 21:27 Can you get past that, do you think, with a kind of negotiating style? Or do you have to drop negotiation? What do you think is effective, negotiating or just going straight to, “I really love this person. I got to concentrate on that”?
Judy: 21:47 Well, there’s all different stages of love, I think. There’s that, “hot, I got to have it” stage, right?
Alan: 22:00 Yes. Right.
Judy: 22:02 “I don’t care whether your hair is done or I don’t care whether your shoes match.” There’s that stage of love.
Alan: 22:09 No. I’m sorry. The shoes don’t match.
Judy: 22:10 Match. You’re right.
Alan: 22:10 I’m out of here. Yeah.
Judy: 22:13 Then there’s the comfort stage where the fighting is over but then there’s a comfort stage and then there’s the uber comfort stage.
Alan: 22:13 What’s that stage?
Judy: 22:23 That’s where we are. (Laughing). I’m really trying to give you a thoughtful answer to your question. I think that if you, really in your gut, love a person whether it’d be a friend or a mate or a parent, I think you can learn negotiating skills. Some people don’t have to learn them. They come naturally. I do that at work whether you see it or not. I’m really negotiating because I want to bring you along with where I’m at. I use a lot of different tricks to do that. I use-
Alan: 23:17 This is great. Like what? What are some of the tricks?
Judy: 23:22 If I’m delivering a message that you really don’t want to hear, I deliver it with a little self-deprecation and a little humor. I’ll draw an outrageous analogy so that you will see that the position that you take is really ridiculous. I’m going to give you this example. Actually, I just tried a case last week. I’ll give you an example of that. This perfectly lovely young man in his late 30s, perhaps early 40s was at a Christmas party. It’s a lovely Christmas party. He was there and also in attendance was the plaintiff and her mother. The plaintiff had a little three or four pound Yorkie. This man, I don’t know, if he had anything to drink, it’s really not relevant, but he bent down and he scooped up the little dog.
Alan: 24:25 It doesn’t sound like it’s going in a good direction.
Judy: 24:27 Right, and he dropped the dog.
Alan: 24:30 Oh. (Laughing). I’m sorry. Actually, if I were on the bench, it wouldn’t be good because I’d be laughing at this.
Judy: 24:38 You’re laughing. No, no, no. You wouldn’t be laughing because the little dog was there with a cast on his leg.
Alan: 24:38 Oh God. It’s getting funnier.
Judy: 24:42 A little tight cast. His position was, “I’m not responsible.”
Alan: 24:52 He dropped the dog.
Judy: 24:53 The dog. He said, “I picked the dog up. First, you shouldn’t have had the dog at a party with so many people.” That was his first. It was, again, her fault because she brought the dog.
Alan: 25:04 It was her fault. He couldn’t help picking it up.
Judy: 25:07 Then he said, “The dog squirmed out of my arms. It was the dog’s fault because it squirmed out of my arms.”
Alan: 25:16 He’s last in line for responsibility.
Judy: 25:24 She took the dog to the vet and the vet bill is, so far, $9,000.
Alan: 25:29 Oh my God.
Judy: 25:31 Once you have a pet, you don’t say, “Well, the bill is going to be $9,000. Put the dog down and I’ll spend $500 and go buy another one.” You do whatever is necessary to save a pet. The woman had a child there with her, young child.
Alan: 25:48 Thank God he didn’t pick the kid up.
Judy: 25:49 Kid up. Well, I said to him, I said, “Would your situation be the same if you picked up a little girl and dropped a little girl and she broke her leg?” He said, “There’s a difference between a person and a dog. A dog is a thing.”
Alan: 26:14 Right.
Judy: 26:17 Then I thought and I said, “Well, let me ask you this question. Let us assume that you are correct. Most jurisdictions think of dogs as chattel, their property, real property, like a table or a cup. I do not. I’m an animal lover. I think that animal has a soul and can be sad and it can be happy. It is more than just a cup, but let us assume, sir, that you’re right. That it’s just a thing. What if you’ve picked up a crystal vase that belonged to her that turned out to be wet, and it slipped out of your hand. Is it the vase’s fault that slipped out of your hand? Are you responsible for the vase, for the cost of the vase for whatever it is to put it back again?”
Alan: 27:10 Did you get him to come around?
Judy: 27:14 I got it so that he accepted it. He wasn’t as resistant because whatever argument he gave me, the child squirming, the Voss slippery, I was able to say to him, “It’s your fault. That’s what we have to get to. It’s your fault.” Well, he may not have loved the decision. He didn’t say, “Well, you’re right,” but he accepted it.
Alan: 27:46 How do you apply that in, let’s say, a relationship? Is it ever a good idea to say to somebody, “You’re wrong when you do that?” Or is it important to do that?
Judy: 28:04 Alan, I think that you have to know who you’re talking to.
Alan: 28:10 Yeah. Yeah.
Judy: 28:11 Some people can accept criticism. If you reason with them and you say, “This is the one thing to do. This is why it’s the wrong thing to do. Some people don’t accept criticism even if it’s not coming from a bad place.” Sometimes, that’s because they were criticized as children. They don’t have a good feeling about themselves, whatever it is, some people don’t accept criticism well. And will sort of turn the deaf ear to criticism. I have to deal with somebody like that so I got to say …
Alan: 28:48 (Laughs). Is that somebody I know?
Judy: 28:59 As a negotiator, you don’t come in like a bullet, bullseye. You come around them tangentially.
Alan: 29:11 You’re reading the person. You’re-
Judy: 29:11 You know like The Cat’s on the Roof. You know that story?
Alan: 29:15 Yeah, I know. I love that story. Yeah.
Judy: 29:16 Yeah, that story, The Cat’s on the Roof.
Alan: 29:17 People may not know it.
Judy: 29:21 Well, I’m not going to tell it, but you know, the story of The Cat’s on the Roof, well …
Alan: 29:25 Little by little.
Judy: 29:25 … little by little, you maneuver around so that by the time you really want to get something done, maybe it’ll even be their idea.
Alan: 29:38 People who don’t know that joke, I’ll say it quickly. The guy’s a traveling salesmen and he calls home and he says, “How’s everybody in the family?” The brother says, “Everybody is okay. The cat died. What? The cat died? I love Floppy. What do you mean the cat died?” He said, “Well, he died. Break it to me slowly. Tell me the cat is on the roof then tell me the cat fell off the roof. He’s not feeling well. Then build up to it and tell me he died later.” He says, “Okay, fine. I’m sorry.” He calls up a week later, “How’s everybody in the family?” He says, “Well, grandma is on the roof.”
Judy: 30:10 (Laughs). Yes.
Alan: 30:14 You got to build up slowly.
Judy: 30:15 You got to build up slowly. Eventually-
Alan: 30:17 Yeah, and know who you’re talking to.
Judy: 30:18 Yes. You have to know … Not everybody is the same.
Alan: 30:24 In one of your books, I read this wonderful funny and fascinating account of you and Jerry before you got married. You had a bargain with him. You gave him an ultimatum as I remember.
Judy: 30:42 You mean, about getting married?
Alan: 30:43 Yeah. Well, about where you were going to live as I remember.
Judy: 30:47 Oh, no, no, no. You mean, when I was first married.
Alan: 30:51 Oh, that’s when you were first married.
Judy: 30:53 First married to my first husband.
Alan: 30:55 Oh, I didn’t realize who it was.
Judy: 30:56 Yes.
Alan: 30:58 That was a very strange situation that was being proposed.
Judy: 31:03 You mean about whether to live in Brooklyn or Queens?
Alan: 31:05 Yeah, but once you’re being asked to live like in close proximity to his former wife.
Judy: 31:10 No, no, no. I’ll tell you the story.
Alan: 31:12 I must have read the wrong book.
Judy: 31:14 No. You read the right book. I know what story you’re talking about. I started law school in Washington, D.C. and then I was introduced to my first husband who’s a very, very nice man, who was a lawyer and had a job in New York City. It wasn’t a great job, but then in that time, and I was doing well in law school in Washington, you move to where your husband was.
Alan: 31:42 Yeah, in those days.
Judy: 31:42 In those days. That wouldn’t happen today. I moved back home and finished law school here in New York. Ron and I were married during law school. The question was, “Where should we get our first department?” His family lived in Queens. I didn’t know anybody from Queens except his mother and father. I knew nobody. My whole family lived in Brooklyn. In those years, Queens was a little bit more like country than Brooklyn. Many of the people who married left Brooklyn and moved to Fresh Meadows, whatever place in Queens they moved. It was a step up. We said, “We’re going to move to Queens.” I said, “Why would I want to move to Queens when my whole family is in Brooklyn? Well, because it’s the right thing to do. We’ll move to Queens and we’ll find a house later. On the island some place, quarter of an acre.”
Judy: 32:56 I didn’t just want to say no. Why make a fight if you didn’t have to. I got a job in Brooklyn after law school. Working for a cardiologist, giving cardiograms. I said, “Well, there’s no question now, I’m not going to go from Queens to law school in New York, then to Brooklyn to my job and then back to Queens. That’s crazy.” We have to live in Brooklyn. We took an apartment in Brooklyn. My job lasted four weeks with a cardiologist because I could never figure out where to put the leads. If that’s on, you had a jelly that you had to put on and leads. He tried to teach me. I was unteachable. I lost the job, but I got to live in Brooklyn.
Alan: 33:54 Yes, and you stayed there.
Judy: 33:55 I stayed for a while. We stayed for a while then moved. Westchester and then back to the city.
Alan: 34:06 For some reason, you made me remember, I love the humor in your show and in your writing. It’s terrific. You were talking about a woman who was living with somebody but not married for 21 years and you said, “A test drive shouldn’t last the life of the car.”
Judy: 34:06 The car. Right.
Alan: 34:28 You should wear out the car.
Judy: 34:31 Right.
Alan: 34:33 Are you distressed by the low rate of marriage increasingly?
Judy: 34:43 Am I distressed by it? No. I don’t think about it. I think that you’re very fortunate if you found a mate that you can live with for decades and still get a kick out of.
Alan: 34:59 Yeah. Yeah.
Judy: 35:00 That’s wonderful, but if you can’t, I don’t dwell on that. I’ve said to my children and I’ve said to a lot of people, “Listen, they put erasers on pencils for a reason. If you try it and it doesn’t work, children are better off in a peaceful house than in a house of war.”
Alan: 35:24 Well, you said an interesting thing that I had never thought of before. They have a court system for people who separate who are married but there’s no court system for people who separate who aren’t married.
Judy: 35:40 Right.
Alan: 35:40 If you’re just living together and your eggs are scrambled in a way, very hard to unscramble and-
Judy: 35:48 Well, that’s why I-
Alan: 35:48 Who is going to help you do that?
Judy: 35:50 Well, I’ve always said, don’t make things difficult for yourself. If you’re doing a test run, don’t sign a lease, don’t buy a timeshare, don’t buy a house together, don’t buy a car together, don’t buy a dog together. Because I have limited patience for trying to extricate what’s reasonable and what’s fair from this. Well, I put in $6 and he put in $8 and now, you’re coming to me and I’ve had seven years of post graduate work and you want me to figure out who’s going to get the extra 50 cents. We really don’t care. The court system is busy.
Alan: 36:27 Yeah.
Judy: 36:28 I don’t care. I’ve said that to people. “I told you, don’t sign a lease together, get an apartment, get an apartment that each of you can afford if it doesn’t work out.” It’s very hard to live with somebody.
Alan: 36:44 I often thought, if the Pope and Mother Theresa tried to live together, they’d have the same trouble that everybody else has.
Judy: 36:52 Oh, they would, but that’s why they chose their professions.
Alan: 36:57 Probably other people would have trouble working with daily. The idea that you can ask somebody or considering to live with to ask them to put it all down in paper in advance seems like a good idea but it seems hard to accomplish.
Judy: 37:15 It is. It’s like a prenup.
Alan: 37:17 Yeah. It’s like saying, “I really care for you and this is going to be great, but here’s my doubt on paper.”
Judy: 37:27 Well, do you feel the same way about a prenup?
Alan: 37:32 Well, I never actually thought about it. When I got married, I had nothing. She had nothing.
Judy: 37:36 Right.
Alan: 37:36 Our prenup was built in.
Judy: 37:38 Right. Me too.
Alan: 37:40 Yeah.
Judy: 37:42 I do think that more than 52% of the marriages in this country fail these days. That is a far greater percentage than having your house hit by a hurricane or a tornado.
Alan: 37:56 Yeah. Right. Right.
Judy: 37:56 You have insurance for that or having a fire.
Alan: 38:00 There is no insurance for a failed marriage, is there?
Judy: 38:04 There is no insurance for a failed marriage but for a prenup, you’re talking about financially.
Alan: 38:11 I see what you mean. Yeah.
Judy: 38:12 That’s insurance. That says, “Right now, we love each other, but before we met each other, I made $2 million that I put away and had a house. Before we were married, you had a car but you didn’t have a house. If we’re married for a couple of years and it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to share my house with you. I love you now.” A prenup only comes into existence when people aren’t getting along. If they are, it doesn’t matter. I see you hesitating.
Alan: 38:54 No, I’m thinking of complications that come into any relationship as it goes on in time and they’re the unspoken things. “You hurt my feelings that day, so I’m entitled to one room in the house.” (Laughing). That kind of crazy thinking but that is almost unavoidable.
Judy: 39:17 Yeah. Maybe. I think that agreements between married people, people who are contemplating marriage, I think it’s difficult to raise. Things that we couldn’t imagine, actually, Alan, because we had nothing and you were in love and it was romantic and you just wanted to be together and snuzzle and hold each other and the rest of the stuff was irrelevant because you really didn’t have anything. In the same way, I can imagine saying to a mate and I know everybody does it now, “Could we get tested before we have sex? I want to see it.”
Alan: 40:00 Yeah. Right. I don’t want you just to tell me about it.
Judy: 40:02 I’m not interested in what you tell me. I want to see the paper.
Alan: 40:07 Does that put a damper on things?
Judy: 40:10 I don’t know, but that’s a dose of reality.
Alan: 40:12 Maybe if they both feel that way, if they’re both realistic enough, I could imagine it wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Judy: 40:18 It’s reality.
Alan: 40:19 Yeah.
Judy: 40:19 Most people, when we married, that we knew had nothing.
Alan: 40:24 Right.
Judy: 40:26 My age, nobody had anything. My best friends who was really comfortable didn’t have a dining room set. She ate on a little birch thing with her husband for two years until they saved up for an appropriate dinette set and they had money. We didn’t know people who had acquired wealth. It would be something that I probably would find difficult. When I was growing up, you either got out of your house in a white dress or a pine box. You didn’t go away with somebody for a weekend. You didn’t go to fire island. I said to my parents when I was 19, “I want to go to Grossinger’s along with a friend for the weekend.” My father said to me, “If you want to go to Grossinger’s, we’ll all go.” We did.
Alan: 41:22 Yeah. Yeah. There was more connection with family members.
Judy: 41:27 Right. Not only connection, that was my sexual experience. It wouldn’t dawn on me to say to somebody that I met, “I’d like to see your test.”
Alan: 41:42 We talk more now, don’t we? I remember a line in one of your books where you said … I think it was your grandparents who had two modes of speech; silence and yelling.
Judy: 41:55 Yelling, right.
Alan: 41:57 Yeah. That sounds like the old days and the old country more than now, I think people talk more. They might talk more with bitterness but there’s a little bit more back and forth between people, I would imagine.
Judy: 42:12 I think that that’s true. That got started with yoga and Montessori and feelings. It’s also true, Alan, that people paid more attention to their feelings depending upon their geography. I found people-
Alan: 42:30 What do you mean? What do you mean?
Judy: 42:32 I find people in California deal a lot with feelings. People in, I don’t know, the Midwest, either it’s yes or no, I don’t want to hear, “Well, that really hurt my feelings.” I hear little kids, five, six years olds say, “Well, you’re yelling at me. You hurt my feelings and you’re not supposed to hurt my feelings because if you hurt my feelings, I’ll grow up feeling badly about myself. What? Get over there.”
Alan: 43:05 They got the whole line of thought. Yeah.
Judy: 43:11 I had a case in court. It was a young woman from Beverly Hills who was stopped for speeding by a police officer. Police officers in Beverly Hills are uniformedly polite and they have these recording devices. Anyway, she was speeding and he stopped her. She was clearly a girl who was attached to her father and who had been pampered. “I don’t know what I was thinking. Can I have your license or registration? Would you just speak to my father.”
Alan: 43:50 Oh, well, not a good approach.
Judy: 43:54 My father, he used to be a police officer. He was an officer. The cop said, “I don’t want to speak to your father. I want your license and registration.” He gave her a ticket. She went to his precinct to complain about his rude behavior.
Alan: 44:15 It’s now rude to catch somebody breaking the law.
Judy: 44:19 His rude behavior and he sued her because even though he was cleared of a wrong doing, they opened up the case, he was wrong and I questioned her. Her response to me was, “Well, because I played the tape.” I said, “There’s nothing wrong with this tape.” He said to me, “Give me your license and registration.” She said, “The way he said it may be feel bad.” I said, “The feeling was, for me, I’m a Brooklyn girl. I don’t much care about your feelings. You take the ticket. You give them the license and registration. If you’re interested in feelings, you’re living in a great place.” I think that feelings become more intense depending geographically where you live.
Alan: 45:16 Well, also, the situation, what the cast of character is? It’s probably not a good idea to expect a police officer to worry about your feelings …
Judy: 45:24 Feelings.
Alan: 45:25 … if you’ve just gone through a red light.
Judy: 45:27 Right, but some people think that there are many ways to say it. You could say, “I feel terrible, but it’s my job.” The streets have to be safe and people who speed put other people in danger. If I had my druthers, you look like a very nice girl. I would not give you a ticket but I really must. You were caught.” Explain it. That’s what she wanted.
Alan: 45:56 Yeah. From a guy who’s got robbers to catch.
Judy: 46:01 Right. It was ridiculous, but she and her father-
Alan: 46:06 Her father joined her in this attitude.
Judy: 46:07 Her father was there.
Alan: 46:09 Really?
Judy: 46:09 Her father was there. I said, “Are you mad?” I don’t want to understand, you came from the same … he said, there are ways to say things that are more palpable. Even though his words themselves were not oppressive, there were ways to say it that should’ve taken into consideration how nervous she was.
Alan: 46:30 There is this idea of community policing where you develop a relationship with the people in the community. All of the things that you said just now about, “You seem like a nice person,” but that gets to be the unspoken undertone …
Judy: 46:53 Of community.
Alan: 46:54 … “of the police relationship with the community.” It seems like that’s an attempt. Now, you know better than I. This is really in the form of a question. Is that do you think an attempt to accomplish a change in tone or a perceived change in tone that might grease the relations between the community and the police?
Judy: 47:14 The community and police?
Alan: 47:16 Yeah.
Judy: 47:19 Maybe, but I think that there is authority. Your parents may love you and may sit and talk to you and read a book to you at night when you go to sleep and stroke your head when you’re not feeling well. “You know that I’m always there to comfort you, but you also know that they are authority.” When they say to you, “You will be home after school at three o’clock. You’re not going out with your bum friends. You’re going to be home at three o’clock.” There was-
Alan: 47:48 Or don’t play with fire.
Judy: 47:49 Or don’t play with fire. You have to respect. There is a respect. I don’t think that you have to be harsh to be respected if that’s the suggestion, so that community policing have people more visible, have police officers more visible in the community, not only when there are tragedies, so that they’re getting to know the people that they’re not strangers in the community, fine. You also have to know that I believe that everyone wants to have police in their community. I feel safer when there are police in my community, and I’m sure you do. You would feel less safe if there weren’t a police presence in case you needed them. “Someone is breaking into my house. Someone is breaking into my car.” You call 911, you’re happy that they respond.
Judy: 48:44 I’m a police fan. I also know that because of the kind of work that it is, you have too often because it’s displayed, you see people who should not be in a position of authority and definitive authority, in authority, and that’s a police officer who doesn’t belong to be a cop, who shouldn’t be a cop. You do need a special kind of psyche to be a police officer. You know that, often, you’re putting yourself on the line everyday.
Alan: 49:23 I would imagine part of knowing you putting yourself on the line especially when you’re confronting somebody who may be dangerously unstable emotionally maybe armed that I imagine that it’s important to be able to judge what state of mind they’re in to have a workable sense of empathy so you know what you’re dealing with.
Judy: 49:50 Yes, but it all comes about very, very quickly.
Alan: 49:54 Right. I don’t mean empathy in the sense that you feel sorry for them or you’re compassionate-
Judy: 49:58 No. I’m thinking, you’re trying to figure out whether this is somebody that truly presents a clear and present danger to you.
Alan: 50:03 Right.
Judy: 50:05 Is that what you’re talking about?
Alan: 50:05 Yes. Yes.
Judy: 50:06 Making that kind of-
Alan: 50:07 That’s an extreme example that you made.
Judy: 50:08 Making that kind of judgements.
Alan: 50:10 Yeah.
Judy: 50:11 Well, at a moment, there’s that thought process and then the self-preservation. If you’re dealing with those two different thought processes, self-preservation usually takes over.
Alan: 50:28 I wonder if it depends on the training. I had a friend who taught at the police academy in New York for years. Training police to deal with situations where they’re brought in to cope with either a family argument or how to deal with somebody who was mentally unstable. The family argument episode was so interesting to watch because they were asked to come in, asked for a glass of water not a display authority. In some cases, take off their gun belt and hang it on the chair as a show that they’re coming in as a person and not as a threat. Apparently, that training was very helpful.
Judy: 51:19 I think it probably is helpful, the same way we were speaking before that there are negotiating skills that you can learn, parenting skills that you can learn. Some people do it naturally. Some people have to be taught.
Alan: 51:39 Right.
Judy: 51:39 There were some people who are unteachable.
Alan: 51:43 Yeah. Like you with the electrodes.
Judy: 51:46 Yeah. Right. There were some people that are unteachable. I don’t know. I think that you can try to teach. It depends upon your psyche. You have to be receptive to being taught.
Alan: 52:01 Yeah. Well, and then you have to get to that point where you’re both willing to enter into this …
Judy: 52:14 Dialogue.
Alan: 52:14 … dialogue.
Judy: 52:15 You’re both willing to … yeah.
Alan: 52:16 You’re both willing to dance together.
Judy: 52:17 Yeah. That happens less frequently because people become entrenched in a position. People become entrenched in a position and unless you’re prepared to have a civilized dialogue and open up a little bit, you will continue to be entrenched in your position. That, usually, is not helpful.
Alan: 52:37 Well, I enjoyed this civilized dialogue with you.
Judy: 52:39 It’s fabulous.
Alan: 52:41 I think I’m a little less entrenched in my position having to talk with you. We usually do this thing where we ask seven quick questions and hope for seven quick answers. Just off the top of your head.
Judy: 52:53 Okay.
Alan: 52:53 It’s fun and you might enjoy them. Okay. (1) What do you wish you really understood?
Judy: 53:08 I wish I really understood how a computer works.
Alan: 53:13 Okay. (2) What do you wish other people understood about you?
Judy: 53:28 Nothing. I think they know about me as much as I want them to know.
Alan: 53:33 It’s great. Okay. What’s the strangest question someone has ever asked you? What a look on your face. You’re rearranging over your whole life.
Judy: 53:55 I don’t know. I can’t think of a strange question anybody ever asked me.
Alan: 54:02 That’s the most interesting answer I’ve had yet. That’s really interesting.
Judy: 54:06 I can’t think of a strange …
Alan: 54:08 How do you stop a compulsive talker?
Judy: 54:20 I say, “Order already. You know the menu.”
Alan: 54:27 How about this, is there anyone that you just can’t feel empathy for?
Judy: 54:32 I cannot feel empathy for an animal abuser.
Alan: 54:36 There’s no reason-
Judy: 54:38 No. No reason for that person to live.
Alan: 54:39 Yeah. Wow. Now, what about bad news, how do you like to deliver bad news? In person, on the phone, or by carrier pigeon.
Judy: 54:51 A carrier pigeon.
Alan: 54:53 You deliver bad news everyday to people on television.
Judy: 54:56 Right, carrier pigeon.
Alan: 54:59 What, if anything, would make you end a friendship?
Judy: 55:04 Dishonesty.
Alan: 55:08 That’s great. Thank you so much being here today.
Judy: 55:10 It’s been a joy.
Alan: 55:11 I really have enjoyed talking to you.
Judy: 55:12 Me too.
Alan: 55:13 Great.
Judy: 55:14 Thanks.
Alan: 55:14 Thank you.
Judy: 55:17 Who is your next victim?
Alan: 55:21 Isabella Rossellini.
Judy: 55:22 Beautiful lady.
Alan: 55:23 Yeah, and very interesting. She’s very interested in animals.
Judy: 55:28 Is she?
Alan: 55:28 She keeps chickens and pigs, has a farm and studying animal behavior.
Judy: 55:34 Where?
Alan: 55:36 On Long Island. She has about 28 acres, I think. It’s what little I know about her in advance.
Judy: 55:41 Oh, well, that should be fun.
Alan: 55:43 Yeah. Thank you so much.
Judy: 55:44 Then you get to go home?
Alan: 55:47 Yeah. Well, then [Tina Fe 00:55:48] is coming in to do the seven questions.
Judy: 55:50 Oh, Tina Fe.
Alan: 55:51 Yeah.
Judy: 55:51 She’s under my best.
Alan: 55:53 That was so nice of you.
Judy: 55:55 Talented lady.
Alan: 55:56 I really appreciate it.

This has been Clear + Vivid, at least I hope so.

My guest today was my good friend Judith Sheindlin, as the rest of the world knows as Judge Judy. Judy is the presiding judge on the Emmy Award-winning JUDGE JUDY– the #1 court show in daytime television. And, after 2 decades on air, her program continues to average 10 million daily viewers, making her one of the best known TV personalities of all time.

Beyond TV, Judy is a best selling author. The titles of her books are as funny and memorable as she is … like “Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining” and “Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever.”

You can find information about all of her books at her website, whatwouldjudysay.com

You can watch Judge Judy each weekday, please check your local listings for channels and time.

This episode of Clear+Vivid was produced by Graham Chedd with help from our associate producer, Sarah Chase. Our sound engineer is Dan Dzula, our Tech Guru is Allison Coston, and our publicist is Sarah Hill.
You can subscribe to my podcast for free at Apple Podcasts.
For more details about Clear + Vivid, and to sign up for my newsletter, please visit alanalada.com.

You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram at “Clear and Vivid” and I’m on Twitter @alanalda.

Thanks for listening.

Bye bye!