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Judge Joe Brown is an American arbitration-based reality court show starring former Shelby County, Tennessee, Criminal Court Judge Joe Brown. It premiered on September 14, 1998 and ran through the 2012–13 television season for a total of fifteen seasons. Joe Brown was the second highest paid daytime television personality behind Judge Judy during the time the show was running. During the entirety of his series run, he was the longest serving African American television arbitrator; this record is now held by Greg Mathis of Judge Mathis, which premiered the year after Brown's program and is still on the air into its 20th season as of 2018. The first-run syndication series entered its fifteenth and final season on September 10, 2012, also regularly airing in high-definition for the first time beginning in that same season as well.

Judge Joe Brown
GenreReality Court Show
StarringJudge Joe Brown
Holly Evans (1998-2006)
Sonia Montejano (2006-2013)
Jacque Kessler (1998-2010)
Jeanne Zelasko (2010-2013)
Narrated byBen Patrick Johnson (1998-2005)
Rolanda Watts (2005-2013)
Theme music composerJohn Nordstrom
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons15
No. of episodes3,000+[1]
Production location(s)Sunset Bronson Studios
Hollywood, California
Running time60 minutes
Production company(s)Big Ticket Television
DistributorWorldvision Enterprises
(season 1)
Paramount Domestic Television
(seasons 2-8)
CBS Paramount Domestic Television
(seasons 8-10)
CBS Television Distribution
(seasons 10-15)
Original networkFirst-run syndication
Picture format480i (SDTV) (1998-2012)
1080i (HDTV) (2012-2013)
Original releaseSeptember 14, 1998 –
September 6, 2013


Production historyEdit

Judge Joe Brown is the first African American male to preside over a courtroom television show and the first African American person to preside over a long-running courtroom series. However, former New York prosecutor Star Jones is the first African American person to preside over a court show (Jones and Jury 1994-95).[citation needed]

With all of its seasons having aired consecutively, solely under Judge Joe, Judge Joe Brown was the second longest running television jurist for many years prior to his cancellation, just behind Judge Judy Sheindlin. While there are court shows that outnumber both Judge Joe Brown and Judge Judy in seasons within the judicial arena, namely Divorce Court and The People's Court, they are also programs with multiple lives and multiple "judges" in their histories.[citation needed]

The set of Judge Joe Brown was directly beside the set of Judge Judy within the same facility, Sunset Bronson Studios. After Judge Joe Brown's 2013 cancellation, however, the space was used for the courtroom series Paternity Court for a season (2013–14), followed by the court show Hot Bench (2014–present).[2] As Judge Judy was and still is, Judge Joe Brown was both produced by Big Ticket Television and syndicated by CBS Television Distribution (CTD), the successor company to their previous distributors: Worldvision Enterprises, Paramount Domestic Television, and CBS Paramount Domestic Television.

The show was syndicated in the US, and aired during daytime hours. It aired on CTV in Canada and Fox8 in Australia. Like the majority of television court shows, Judge Joe Brown is a form of binding arbitration. The show's producers maintain the appearance of a civil courtroom.


As far as ratings in the legal/courtroom genre go, Brown's program ranked in second place during its entire run, typically just above The People's Court and significantly below Judge Judy.[3] Consequently, Judge Joe Brown was the highest rated male-arbitrated television series during its run.[4] It should be noted, however, that Judge Joe Brown was paired with the highly rated Judge Judy series and that when paired with a program of this caliber, any TV show has the potential to draw at least decent ratings.[5]

Adjudicating approachEdit

For the most part, Brown has a languid and perfunctory nature about him, particularly while gathering all the facts and trying to figure out the case.[6] Occasionally, however, once he's suspected a party of being guilty, Brown has become particularly cantankerous as shown in his irritated, quarrelsome communication. Brown has also subjected these litigants to harsh tirades and judgmental commentary.[6] At several intervals throughout many of the cases, Brown has been seen up on his feet in the midst of a tirade, pacing and raging around the bench area. In these moments, he's also been known to sit atop the desktop of his bench to add emphasis to his long, angry tirades.[6] The harshest of Brown's tirades have generally been delivered to men whose behavior he regards as particularly irresponsible or egregious. In these moments, Brown flings out his personal values and guidance at men, such as: grow up and be a man, you don't know nothing about manhood, quit acting like you haven't got any "home training", be a civilized human being and stop trying to be "cool", quit acting like a "thug", take responsibility, have a sense of class and decency, etc. Brown has been criticized for these behaviors as "lacking self-control."[7]

Brown tends to allow "victimized" or "wronged" litigants ample opportunity to also berate "guilty" litigants, often delighting in this and listening in amusement; moreover, he allows audience applause and laughter at the guilty litigant's expense so that the whole courtroom is against the guilty party.[6] With brasher litigants than other courtroom programs, however, perhaps due to the nature of the cases or at least Brown's approach, guilty litigants on Judge Joe Brown have been known to act out. On past episodes, many litigants who were perceived as guilty by Brown and treated accordingly have not hesitated to chuck items around the courtroom, such as water; disrespect the judge; threaten the other party or spectators, etc. In fact, in February 2010, Brown himself was sued by one of his former television show litigants for alleged slander and fraud,[8] but won the case because of the waivers the court show has its litigants sign prior to the televised proceedings.[9] On the series, Brown has typically responded to most of the aforementioned behaviors by telling the litigants they'll be receiving a ticket or demanding that the litigant be arrested and thrown in jail for violating statute that requires proper behavior and decorum in arbitration.

Recurring rolesEdit

The program also featured a news reporter and bailiff. Holly Evans, was the bailiff from 1998 to 2006. Sonia Montejano replaced her for the rest of the run in 2006. Jacque Kessler was the show's news reporter from 1998 to 2010. Former FOX Sports and current MLB Network freelance reporter Jeanne Zelasko succeeded Kessler as the reporter in 2010. Ben Patrick Johnson was the show's announcer from 1998 to 2005. Rolonda Watts succeeded him as announcer in 2005. Popular musicians Coolio, Ike Turner, and Rick James have all been litigants on the show. As of 2014, Sonia Montejano now serves as the bailiff on the new panel court series Hot Bench, while Rolonda Watts now announces the long running series, Divorce Court.


It was reported in mid-2012 that Brown was the second highest paid daytime television personality, earning $20 million a year, only second to Judge Judy, who earns $45 million a year.[10] In April 2013, however, following the show's cancellation, Brown disputed these reports claiming that CTD was only paying him $5 million a year.[11]


As reported on February 27, 2013, by Broadcasting & Cable, CTD had told Brown that the salary amount they were paying him–of $20 million (though Brown disputes this, claiming that CTD has never given him a salary of any more than $5 million[11])–would be cut in the wake of his declining ratings, license fees, and advertising revenues.

Ratings for Judge Joe Brown were declining during its last several seasons on the air. In the 2013 February sweeps, the show was down 20% to a 2.4 live plus same day rating from a 3.0 last year according to Nielsen Media Research. Brown refused to do the show under the new terms. Rather, he shopped his program to other distributors.[5] Station executives told Broadcasting & Cable they were less than happy to be learning about the dissension at the end of February 2013 when their options for replacing the show were limited.[5]

CTD announced on March 26, 2013 that they would be cancelling the court show and cease distributing the series after its summer 2013 reruns. The final CTD-produced episodes were taped on March 14, 2013. Fox station owners (that had contracted to air the program) were reportedly not interested in a CTD-chosen replacement judge.[12]

Brown later called out CTD for their treatment of him, claiming they had reneged on contract agreements, cheated him out of money, failed to give him sufficient advertising in favor of concentrating their advertisements in Judge Judy, and engaged in several other unjust, underhanded and unethical business practices.[13]


  1. ^ "JUDGE JOE BROWN 2002/03 Basic Information". CBS Television Distribution Syndication Bible. Retrieved 2019-01-16.
  2. ^ "'Paternity Court' Clearances Hit 92%". Retrieved 2013-08-16.
  3. ^ "Syndication Ratings: Syndies Steady Headed Into November Sweeps - 2012-11-07 20:08:46 | Broadcasting & Cable". Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  4. ^ "Smith & Hassler Announce Television Ad Campaign with New Media Spokesperson, TV Actor Judge Joe Brown | Mar 20, 2013". Archived from the original on 2013-04-11. Retrieved 2013-03-20.
  5. ^ a b c "Exclusive: 'Judge Joe Brown' Star, CTD Explore Split - 2013-02-27 23:55:00 | Broadcasting & Cable". Retrieved 2013-03-01.
  6. ^ a b c d Roger M. Grace (2003-10-09). "Black Judges Represented on TV as Loud, Crass Jerks". Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  7. ^ Roger M. Grace (2003-10-02). "Seven Courtroom Shows Appear on TV's Fall Docket". Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  8. ^ "Judge Joe Brown Sued in 'Nookie' Case". 2010-02-22. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  9. ^ Gardner, Eriq. "Judge Joe Brown wins ruling in his own lawsuit". Reuters. Retrieved 2013-01-20.
  10. ^ Chow, Andrew (August 14, 2012). "Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown Among TV's Top-Paid Stars". Findlaw. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
  11. ^ a b Associated, The (2013-04-11). "Judge Judy: 4 More Years And $180 Million? - Careers Articles". Retrieved 2013-04-19.
  12. ^ "CBS Cancels 'Judge Joe Brown' Amid Salary Dispute". 2013-03-26. Retrieved 2013-04-19.
  13. ^ "Judge Joe Brown Slams CBS for 'Hollywood Trick Economics' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. 2013-04-09. Retrieved 2013-04-19.