Arkansas Judge Barred From Using Her Court For Show . . . Resigns And Rents Courtroom For New Reality Court Show

Former Circuit Judge Mary Ann Gunn of Fayetteville has added her name to the expanding number of lawyers who are degrading the legal profession with faux court shows that mete out justice as a form of entertainment. I have previously denounced these shows and the types of lawyers who reduce their profession to the level of farce and freak shows (here). In Gunn’s case, the state bar informed her in 2010 that she was violating ethical rules by arranging to have her hearings filmed and released to shows. Rather than give up her desire for fame, Gunn resigned from the court and created a fake court called “Last Shot with Judge Gunn,” a show criticized by drug law experts as harmful and misleading. The problem with people like Gunn is that these shows are the product by unrestrained and self-consuming egotism built on the ruins of such professional values.

Though at the time of her resignation, Gunn denied she was quitting to start the show, she soon did precisely that.

The National Association of Drug Court Professionals has denounced the show, “Last Shot With Judge Gunn.” Ironically, before learning of the show, the NADCP had given an award to Gunn. They now appear to regret that act and are denouncing her decision to start of the new show.

I am equally concerned that Washington County, Arkansas has allowed this show to rent an actual courtroom despite the embarrassment and harm caused by shows like Gunn’s sideshow act.

Once again, I am astonished by the relative silence of the national and state bars in denouncing these shows. While I would be the first to defend these shows in their right to air, we should leave no question in our condemnation of the type of people like Gunn who cash in on reality shows by degrading their profession. These characters always insist that their brand of faux justice is educational. I agree that it does educate viewers but offers a false and misleading image of the law. Like Nancy Grace’s snarling, biased persona, these fake jurists reduce law to entertainment and defendants to props.

Here is the 2010 ethical ruling on Gunn: 2010-01_advisory_opinion

This is a clip from 2009 when she was still sitting on the bench. The clip starts with a highly polished lead featuring Gunn in various poses:


15 thoughts on “Arkansas Judge Barred From Using Her Court For Show . . . Resigns And Rents Courtroom For New Reality Court Show”

  1. I watch the show very often and I have a family member that is a drug addict and I wish he could get help. He just got out of jail and he has lost custody of his child and as far as I know will never get her back. He has had a very rough childhood when his father shot his mother,sister,and then himself. He still has a living brother that tries to help because he went threw the same thing by trying to shoot himself but did not succeed and he got help and is doing great. His brother needs help badly but refuses and I’m slowly watching him die it hurts so bad. He lives in missouri. So I watch the show in tears wishing I could one day see him on the show. For now I will just keep praying for him that’s all I know to do.

  2. I jest wont to thank judge gunn and team for saving my life I no if it was for them and the tools thay gave me to work with saved my life I got to get incontact with my daughter and still to this day we are stoll togather and living life on tje high sode clean and sobaer thank u jidge gunn and team for giving my life back love u all @gpd bless

  3. This is like so not true. Tv court shows is all real. i watch them all the time and me and my friends beleve them is real. Judge judy is the coolest she is real time bad when she gets down on the wrongers. people who ddont beleves them needs to edducte themselfes and pay more atention to what Tv is about. get a life and stop dissin Tv judges cause they is real deal I no thois for facts.

  4. Gyges,

    “I liked Mock Trial with J. Reinhold”

    Now that was funny although strangely absent from his IMDB credits.

    Judge GFunn’s sideshow?

    Not so much.

  5. sounds like judge gunn’s got a bit of a smokers hack. i love listening to one addict lecture another about addictions.

  6. I’m pretty well satisfied that a judge that is more interested in money than justice or ethics has removed herself from the bench. She’s done justice and America a favor.

  7. Now don’t be say’n anything bad about Judge Judy y’all. 🙂 She’s has always been my favorite.

    Total and inappropriate digression on some local breaking news: the lead story on the local news after Judge Judy (which I just watched) is that a local artist/visionary/entrepreneur Bob Cassilly had died in a construction accident. He was a local ghod as well he should have been. I found myself in one of his fabrication studios by accident and got to see his work for the Zoo before the general public did, it was a magical experience. City Museum was his project as well as much of the architectural sculpture at the St. Louis Zoo entrance and the sculpture at a couple of local parks- if you visited St. Louis as a tourist in the last 20 years you may have seen his work. He also did private commissions. He was in a bulldozer that rolled down an embankment off rough terrain and died of his injuries, possibly of head injuries. Darn.

    He didn’t have his seat restraints on the newsreader is saying. Y’all buckle up! Those things are in cars for a reason!

  8. Well, when people fantasize about those semi-imaginary “un-elected, unaccountable judges,” they can turn on the TV and their fantasies will be fulfilled.

    This is not to say that there are no unprofessional, activist judges – there are, of course, and they can be found across the political spectrum. The thought underlying my snark is that perhaps these TV “judges” fill the void left in the public’s imagination given the absence of cameras in most appellate/supreme courts. Most Americans only hear sensationalized versions of various rulings – my guess is that they are “filling in the blanks” with images of Judge Judy at work. California’s gay marriage ban overturned? Must have been some arbitrary, capricious “un-elected” judge making it up off the top of his head, just like you’ve seen on TV!

  9. It’s a fad and like all reality show fads, will fade … besides, at the risk of being labelled an elitist … yahoos need their entertainment too … I was a fan of HBO’s “Family Bonds”.

    Good lord, look at the show Covert Affairs on USA … does anyone actually believe the CIA pulls a ditzy blonde trainee out of class and puts her in the field with a blind guy?

    Now, in my opinion, a bunch of overage high schoolers dancing and singing their way through the halls in Glee or Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens confronting moonshiners in Justified ( Based on the Elmore Leonard novella, “Fire in the Hole.” ) … that’s entertainment.

    What’s the alternative here … censorship?

  10. I generally agree with the professor’s criticism of these shows. The kind of judes they attrack seem to be the kind of sanctimonious a-holes most attorneys (with the possible exception of prosecutors who more often than not benefit from the judicial hubris) hate to practice in front of. The exception is the original, Judge Wapner. This man had clearly spent a life- time being patient with, not yelling at, pro se litigants. He also made an effort to explain the legal theory behind his decisions. The rest have been a bust.

    I will say this about “Drug Court, With Judge Folksy-Wisdom Firecracker Sugar-Britches”; I’ve never seen a judge take that much time to talk to a guy on a v.o.p. for a dirty urine drop. I suspect this would not be happening if the cameras were not rolling. Most judges run their “violation calls” like frickin cattle calls. So while I doubt her sincerity, there may be a silver lining to this mess. I’ve always been in favor of cameras in all court rooms with the exception of juvenile proceedings. I’ve often heard judges complain that they are afraid of attorneys show-boating, but I think the real reason is that judges in certain jurrisdictions wouldn’t be free to act like imperious a-holes.

    I think reality shows encourage bad behavior from judges.

    I suspect real time recording of actual proceedings might do the opposite.

  11. raff,

    What is it with Judges anyways…Why does not the MSM expose the judges for what they really are….Don’t forget Wisconsin and Michigan….a very good Michigan Sct Judge was basically run off by 3 assshats on the conservative bench…Weaver, if I recall was a die hard GOP…She had family values…Oh…Yes…she was a female and she was good….

    Now back to this Clown…She…She….She…Don’t wanna sound like I am hating women….So I won’t say it…

  12. Professor Turley,

    Gunn resigned from the court and created a fake court called “Last Shot with Judge Gunn”
    Reminds me of that Arkansas controversy where they considered making it legal to carry concealed weapons in churches, and the other Arkansas episode where the cops shot the Fire Chief during a hearing in open court.

    Then there was the near shoot-out in a Fort Worth courtroom where the Judge jumped from the bench then knocked out the prosecutor.

  13. The attraction to these pseudo-Court shows is the same as the attraction to Jerry Springer. Watching dumb people interacting with each-other and making the viewer feel superior. This indeed harms the sobriety of the legal profession, but indicates too that many who attain the Judicial Robes, were never worthy of them.

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