We will occasionally have polls that leave me deeply depressed and the recent poll, conducted by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, is such a case. When college graduates were asked, ten percent said that they believe Judith Sheindlin, aka “Judge Judy,” serves on the Supreme Court. That’s right, Judge Judy.
I am admittedly not a fan of faux television judges who, in my view, degrade our profession and trivialize the legal process. (here and here). Judge Judy and other faux judges caricature the legal system and misrepresent how conflicts are legally addressed. They use people as if they were circus animals performing for the entertainment of the public. The fact that anyone would even confuse Judge Judy with a real jurist is incredibly depressing. It has about as much basis as believing Judge Dredd is on the Supreme Court. However, CNN and other networks routinely ask her to comment on legal issues as if she were anything other than an entertainer. The merging of law and entertainment does not produce some hybrid. It simply produces entertainment like an dominant social gene.
For the record, Judge Judy was once an actual judge. In 1982 Mayor Ed Koch appointed her as a judge, first in criminal court, then later as Manhattan‘s supervising family court judge in 1986. However, that is about as relevant as saying that Joe Lewis (left) was once a real police officer before becoming a circus clown cop.
This is not to say that Justices cannot sometimes act like Judge Judy in departing from the record or holding forth on their views of issues beyond the immediate legal question. However, the last time I checked, Judge Judy did not make it into the annual Court portrait.
The survey also found that only 28.4% of college graduates correctly identify the father of the Constitution as James Madison. Some 40% of college graduates appear unaware that Congress has the power to declare war.