Monday, August 25, 2008

I'm probably in the wrong branch of law.

Petri Hawkins Byrd, the bailiff on Judge Judy, reportedly makes $500,000 a year. The bailiff. Judge Judy herself makes $45 million.

This is for filming a TV show three days a week, once every two weeks. (To the extent one can believe Wikipedia!) And, of course, on the show Judy's not actually acting as a judge, but as an arbitrator under the terms of a contract signed by the contestants litigants.

I know lawyers who appeared before her when she was a real family court judge here in New York City. That's where she got her famous demeanor -- family court will do that to you. They say that back then she was just like she is now.

Mr. Byrd was Judy's real-life bailiff for a while, then moved to California. He was working as a high school student counselor and delivering pizza on the side for extra money when he read in the newspaper about Judy landing the TV job. He wrote her a letter congratulating her, adding "If you ever need a bailiff, I still look good in uniform." She called him right back on the phone, and the rest is history.

Moral: It can pay to leave on good terms and stay in touch.

I have a dream of a day when there will be a nationally syndicated hit TV show, Tax Court: Small Case Division!, starring a small-case arbitrator who gets paid $45 million a year...