Hypothetical Judge Judy case

I was watching a case on Judge Judy yesterday, and it could have had a questionable outcome had it gone a certain way. Let’s see what you think.

An 11 year old girl (let’s call her Tanisha) and her little sister were accused of scratching a neighbor’s car with a rock. Tanisha denied having done it. The neighbor didn’t actually see her, but noticed that Tanisha, her sister, and a couple of their friends were playing in her driveway around the time of the incident. Tanisha and the plaintiff’s daughter were not on friendly terms, and sometimes they got physical with each other.

JJ: Did you throw the rock?
T: No.
JJ: Who did?
T: I don’t know. I didn’t see no rock.
JJ: Sure you did. Hold up your hands like this and show me how big the rock was.
T: (Holds up her hands indicating the size of the rock is as big as JJ guessed)
JJ: What color was the rock?
T: (Shrugs her shoulders)
JJ: WHAT COLOR WAS IT?!? Was is white? Black? Brown?
T: Um… Brown.
JJ: Was it smooth or jagged?
T: Um… Jagged.
JJ: So you took a jagged brown rock that was this bug and scratched her car. Listen (to her mother), if you don’t learn to raise your daughter right, she’s going to end up in juvie, then in prison.

Judy found her to be liable.

A direction I expected her to take, which she didn’t, was to say that if Tanisha never saw who threw the rock, then how come she could describe it so accurately? That’s clear proof she’s lying.

Let’s assume that’s what happened. Would this have been a good decision?

So Judy badgered and bullied an 11 year old kid into admitting something she might not actually have done.

Good for Judy. She’s a real crime fighter, she is.

I can sleep at night now.


What I noticed is that Tanisha answered every question with the last option offered. That sounds like a scared kid to me. One who is inclined to tell an intimidating adult what she wants to hear.

“When did you stop beating your wife?”

“I never be…”

“WHEN?!? Was it yesterday? The day before? Last week? ANSWER ME!”

“Uh, last week I guess.”

Unless the actual rock used was identified and entered as evidence*, how the hell can they know she’s describing it accurately?
Horrible decision.

*Yes, I’m aware JJ isn’t held to the same standards as a real court. She’s still a bitter shrew.

IANAL, but why do I hear the words “Objection! Leading the witness!” running through my head?

Wow. Judy should have asked some more questions.

Judy: Where did you get the rock: did you find it or did a monkey give it to you?
Kid: Uhm… a monkey.
Judy: And was the monkey brown or purple?
Kid: Um… purple.
Judy: And were you the shooter in the book depository or on the grassy knoll?
Kid: Uhhh… grassy knoll.

I think Judge Judy was taking the position of an adversarial questioner, like a cross-examiner. You may not lead your own witness, on direct, but you’re permitted to lead a witness on cross.

Apart from the informality of having the judge question a witness in such a partisan manner, nothing terrible happened here. It’s a bench trial - the judge is the finder of fact, and she concluded that the child’s initial denial was not credible, and her subsequent descriptions of the rock were enough to conclude that she did it.

Not sure how she jumps from finding the child liable to finding the parents liable, but I’m no civil law expert.

Except that her subsequent descriptions of the rock were exactly what JJ fed to her.

Aren’t parents legally responsible for their minor children? I’ve never thought to question this bit of it.

That doesn’t make them per se incredible. You may question their weight, but there’s nothing about that process that makes the answers useless.

At common law, parents were NOT liable for their children’s torts. Prosser, Law of Torts, Fourth Edition 1971, section 123.

Does Judge Judy use the law of a particular state? Does that state have a statute that operates in derogation of the common law in this instance?

Or am I confused about some basic principle that I’ve forgotten since law school? Again, no civil lawyer I.

She sometimes uses the laws of whatever states the litigants are from. Usually in a mish mash with her own unique interpretation of New York laws. What that means is that laws common to all states are normally good enough to handle most of her cases, but occasionally she’ll invoke a law from somewhere else. This seems to happen mostly with matters of vehicular ownership.

I imagine not. :wink:

I am a rather large fan of the show (I know, I know, my brain is turning to mush, my morals are being decayed, and I’ll probably wind up a gibbering idiot by the time I’m 35) and Judy regularly makes parents pay for their children’s fuck ups.

However, if I understand correctly, both parties are paid to appear, and any sort of award is typically taken out of those funds. So, if Judy finds that you’re a dumb-ass (which seems to be her most common judgement) then you get paid less for your appearance and the other party gets paid more.

It really is freaky that I know so much about this show…

Which is the way I thought law worked. Interesting that that might not be the way it is. I’m curious if any accomplished lawyers or judges are regular viewers, and what their opinions of her might be. Probably a lot of :smack:ing going on.

I imagine that would be like watching a bunch of biochemists watching Outbreak - a lot of head slapping and guffawing abounds.

Or programmers watching ‘Hackers’, or anybody watching CSI…

Is this sort of a “private trial”? Because I don’t think it’s an actual criminal court, in the system, etc.

Otherwise, I would imagine she’d be overturned on appeal about 95 percent of the time.

I believe these shows are binding arbitrations, so the rules of evidence don’t apply and there is no right of appeal unless JJ goes WAYYYYY off the reservation.

Well, I know that. I’m just wondering if Judy’s acting in capacity as an actual judge, or just as a tv star.

In some states, by statute, the parents are deemed liable for the misdeeds of their children within reason.

The principle of being jointly and severally liable may have played into her decision.