I love watching the law on television. I enjoy Court TV. I watched every moment of the O. J. Simpson trial as it unfolded live. For pseudo-law junkies, there are new programs dealing with small claims court cases on the air this television season and I will review them for you now.

Judge Joe Brown
Joe Brown grew up tough on the streets and he plays tough in the courtroom. He’s a bully and a bore. He lords his rough life over those appearing before him and I can’t think of a less enjoyable experience than watching a boring boor beat up on those he commands to bow before him.

Sentence: Immediate cancellation.

Judge Mills Lane
Former Marine and moonlighting professional boxing referee Mills Lane is a marble-mouth on television. It is difficult to understand his speech and that’s a hard obstacle to overcome as a viewer. I don’t know if Mills Lane has a speech impediment or not, but I can testify that one must work doubly hard to decipher his sentences. Mills Lane is a bully behind a bench and when he yells at the Plaintiffs and Defendants, shakes his gavel at them and curses them out, I get turned off. He’s a shrew and entertaining television should not be prissy or mean and Judge Mills Lane is both in a black robe.

Sentence: Immediate cancellation with viewer restitution.

Judge Wapner’s Animal Court
Joseph Wapner was the original judge on The People’s Court and he’s still a classic. Easily irritated and suffering no fools lightly, Judge Wapner relies on his wits and his humanity to bring the rule of law home. Judge Wapner has come out of retirement to host a new small claims court show on The Animal Channel and the only cases he hears are those related to animals. Rusty the Bailiff is back. The set is small and well-designed. Unfortunately, watching case after case of dog bites and rabid owners gets old fast. The show is also the only one of the current crop of TV Judges that isn’t Closed Captioned and there’s no excuse for that cruel oversight.

Sentence: Expand the definition of “animals” to include people and get the Closed Captions happening!

The New People’s Court
The re-birth last year of The New People’s Court starring former New York City mayor Ed Koch was a yawn. The show was wracked with trouble and I wrote about that misfortune for Go Inside Magazine in an article titled Finding The New People’s Court Guilty! This year, the show is better! The vapid studio hostess is history and Ed Koch is FINALLY much tougher, animated, angry and justifiably outraged at the cases before him. This year, Ed Koch isn’t shy in telling folks to shut up and shape up! Harvey Levin’s Manhattan Mall interviews and Web Polls are simply silly and detract from the drama. Who cares what other people think?! I know what I know and the only person I want to match wits with is Ed Koch, not the other dead heads Levin pushes in my face! The New York Wackos appearing before Koch are even wackier this season and that only helps bring out the conflict and the blood in the courtroom.

Sentence: More Koch, minus Levin.

Judge Judy
Judge Judy is my absolute favorite. She’s witty and strong and hardcore. Where Koch deals with New York Wackos, Judy deals with California Flakes, and she eats them for breakfast! Judge Judy cares about kids and her decisions demonstrate a deep value for the family. Judge Judy is always fun, continually warm, good natured, smart and brilliant. You wish she could be both your mother and your President — she’s that loving and that leading. I can’t wait for the day when a stunned Plaintiff replies “Yes” when Judge Judy lifts her bangs and asks innocently, “Is ‘Stupid’ written on my forehead?” Ooof! The delight of a watching a foot placed in a mouth and then seeing it softly plunged down a throat will bring roars of joy from an unjust world! In the Judge Judy universe, insight and common sense rule the day and we all yearn to live there with her! Judge Judy? You are beloved!

Sentence: 10 more years of shows!

(Note: Judge Judy is from Brooklyn. She got her robe sitting as a judge in Brooklyn Family Court for 25 years. She also appears on the local news a lot when she comes back home to visit. She’s more beautiful and more charming in street clothes than she is in her robe and you realize her outrage, while real on television, is wholly missing from her real life personae. Only Judge Judy could wear a robe with lace trim and pull it off.)

While I confess these entertainment-only small claims court shows have no real bearing in what actually happens in these court situations in real life, I can’t help but believe we’re all a bit better off seeing how the law is shaved and parsed and manipulated in order to come to what sometimes can be a bitter end or a beautiful beginning.

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