Judge Mathis is a long-running, Daytime Emmy Award–winning syndicated arbitration-based reality court show presided over by the retired Judge of Michigan's 36th District Court and black-culture motivational speaker, Greg Mathis. The syndicated series features Mathis adjudicating small claims disputes.
|Presented by||Greg Mathis|
|Music by||Brian Wayy Roy Shakked|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||20|
|No. of episodes||2,000+|
|Production location(s)||WMAQ-TV NBC Tower|
|Running time||42 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution|
|Picture format||480i 4:3 (SDTV)|
480i 16:9 (SDTV)
|Original release||September 13, 1999 –|
The series was originally produced by Black Pearl Entertainment. It is now produced by Telepictures Productions and Syndicated Productions, while distributed by Warner Bros. Television. It is taped at the NBC Tower in Chicago, but includes cases and litigants from other U.S. jurisdictions.
Greg Mathis's "inspirational and positive messages to young people" won the court show a PRISM Commendation in May 2002. The court show also won an NAACP Image Award in 2004 and a Daytime Emmy Award in 2018, just ahead of making it to its 20th season anniversary.
Each Judge Mathis episode runs for one hour and typically consists of 4 cases. The show is broadcast five days a week in every U.S. state, as well as Canada through Omni Television. The show has been on the air since Monday, September 13, 1999 and has taped over 2000 episodes.
By the 2014-15 television season, Judge Mathis made it to its 16th season, making Mathis the longest serving African American court show arbitrator, beating out Judge Joe Brown whose program lasted 15 seasons. Moreover, Mathis holds a record of second longest serving court show arbitrator ever, just behind Judy Sheindlin of the court show Judge Judy.
Judge Mathis is among few courtroom programs able to boast a long, successful series run as most court shows suffer the fate of early cancellations. It is the fourth longest running courtroom series behind Divorce Court, The People's Court, and Judge Judy, respectively. Though both Divorce Court and The People's Court have suffered cancellation(s) and shifting arbitrators, Judge Mathis has not. Consequently, of the court shows with only one production life, Judge Mathis is the second longest running (second only to Judge Judy by three seasons).
The cases on Judge Mathis are classified as tort-law civil disputes with a maximum $5,000 claim, a typical amount for small claims court. The producers of the show select the cases. To acquire cases, the show solicits real-life litigants with pending disputes or individuals with potential disputes. If litigants agree to be on the show, they are paid a talent fee ranging from $150 to $300, and they receive travel accommodations. Mathis has prior knowledge of the cases. In all cases, litigants give their prospective case managers all evidence in advance. Any real legal case pending must be dismissed by both parties. Typically, Mathis's producers only seek cases that they deem juicy and sensational enough for television. Occasionally, Mathis leaves the courtroom to deliberate and then returns with his verdict. Upon final judgment, he may briefly explain the legal principle guiding his verdict, especially if his ruling is based on a particular state's law. Reportedly, Mathis' rulings conform to the laws of the state where the case was originally filed. In recent years, the show has begun to conduct paternity testing in disputes about child custody, and drug testing in applicable cases. Mathis often offers or compels drug treatment and family counseling for parties.
Incorporation of life storyEdit
As a child and teenage delinquent, Mathis encountered frequent legal trouble while growing up. He was a member of a street gang in Detroit, and he was arrested and sentenced to jail for illegally carrying a firearm when he was 17 years old.
It has been stated that the key to Greg Mathis's success as a judge and arbiter is that he's relatable. As a unique role model and personality, he stands out from other court show arbiters by virtue of his rags-to-riches ability to overcome personal-life struggles and demons. So concerned is the arbiter with helping steer troubled youth in the right direction, the show's second season featured a documentary on Greg Mathis's life:
- Mathis was brought up in one of the worst housing projects in Detroit. During his youth, he was involved with gangs, dropped out of school and spent time behind bars. Growing up as a gang member and heroin dealer in the mean streets of Detroit, Michigan, Mathis had done plenty of time in juvenile detention centers before age 17. All this changed when a judge gave him an ultimatum—either get a G.E.D. or go to jail. At the same time, Mathis found out his mother was dying of cancer. Rushing to her side, he promised her he'd turn his life around, which he did: he attended college; passed the bar and earned a law degree; became the youngest judge in Michigan’s history and then served as a Superior Court Judge for Michigan’s 36th District.
Mathis has frequently used his courtroom series to highlight his troubled-youth-turned-success-story as a way of motivating and inspiring his audience (especially youth audience) that there's no adversity that they can't pick themselves up from. It is from his background where Mathis derives much of his courtroom formula. For example, his show's opening theme was formerly a brief documentary of his powerful life story. As another example, he takes a liking to litigants who have seen the error of their ways and have made efforts to improve and better their lives. Mathis also makes efforts to promote treatment for individuals struggling with drugs, using his syndicated show as a platform to send opioid addicts to rehab. In addition, he makes efforts to bring families together through paternity testing.
Mathis believes rehabilitation is within almost everyone's reach if they just receive the right guidance, which is what he tries to provide. In addition to upholding the rule of law in court, he makes a point of emphasizing that education is key to a brighter future. The continued success of his courtroom series has led to the growth of a new generation of younger court show viewers. People understand that it's his concern for their futures that motivates many of his decisions.
The judge's courtroom approach is advertised as a refreshing mix of social commentary, humor and humanity.
Mathis's adjudicating approachEdit
Mathis typically begins proceedings by having litigants expound on their side of the dispute, so as to gain insight into the matter. Cases on Judge Mathis tend to go deeper and to more revealing places than those of most other court shows. He also calls attention to peculiarities or juicy details exposed throughout the course of the proceedings as a means of making the cases more interesting to viewers. Furthermore, Mathis doesn't hesitate to tackle any social issues that emerge during the proceedings, tying his social justice perspectives to the cases.
While hearing the testimonies, Mathis takes on a relaxed, attentive, understanding and open-minded nature. Rarely missing an opportunity to jest or poke fun, Mathis is given to fun, humor, good-natured ridicule and gibes, often rousing his audience to uproarious amusement. He sometimes cuts the tension–even tension he himself has fostered–with wisecracks or taunting remarks. Mathis has bantered directly at audience members on occasion, also resulting in audience amusement. He uses a rather high-pitched voice as part of stultifying litigants and suggesting that they've not recognized the obvious.
Combined with his teasing and comedic tendencies on the bench, Mathis is known for his street smart, urban expressions and stern side as well. In moments in which Mathis has found a litigant guilty of a particularly reprehensible act, he takes on a very resentful nature along with lecturing and shaming behaviors. Sometimes in these moments, Mathis makes a point of solemnizing his courtroom due to prior laughs and lightheartedness, letting litigants and everyone on hand know that things are no longer a laughing matter and that he's to be taken seriously.
The final portion of most of the cases generally see Mathis displaying a harshly corrective side, providing an explanation behind the direction of his verdict in the form of a sharp tirade, unbroken in delivery so as not to allow anyone a word in edgewise before his gavel-pounding exit.
Emanating from the triumph of his venerable courtroom series, Mathis has also made a name for himself as a prominent leader within the Black American community and principal black-culture motivational speaker at various media ceremonies and gatherings.
The success of Judge Mathis is particularly noteworthy in that, generally speaking, court show programming has a very limited shelf life. The programs in this genre are lucky to make it past a few seasons.
Of the long list of court shows, the only programs still existent in the genre originating from the 1990s or prior are Divorce Court (1957), The People's Court (1981), Judge Judy (1996) and Judge Mathis (1999). Of those four, only Judge Mathis and Judge Judy have not suffered temporary cancellations in the midst of their series run. Also of the four, Mathis and Judy Sheindlin are the only two to have hosted their program for the entirety of their run. This makes Greg Mathis the second longest serving court show arbitrator ever, Sheindlin being the longest. Mathis also holds a record for longest serving African American arbitrator in the courtroom programming genre.
Of the court shows that have only had one production life without cancellation, Judge Mathis boasts the second longest run, three years behind Judge Judy. The People's Court's second production life premiered in 1997 and thus outnumbers Judge Mathis by 2 years, though The People's Court's second life has also been presided over by three different arbitrators.
20th season anniversaryEdit
Judge Mathis is among one of the most long-lived, successful programs in the court show genre. As of the 2018-19 television season, it's one of the two courtroom programs to have existed for two decades under one arbitrator.
Asked by Steve Harvey, "Man, you're coming up on your 20th season of this hit show, Judge Mathis. 20 years man, how big is that for you?" "Well since I've been on television first year, I said 'ok, I got two more years on television, I'll go back to Detroit and do whatever.' Then after the third year, I said 'ok, I got three more years (laughingly) on television. Then three more years. Right now, I think I got two left in me. So every three years, I don't take it for granted. I don't take it for granted, I don't take it for granted." In discussing his 20th season, Mathis has also remarked "Today is the 20th season of Judge Mathis—yes, 20 seasons. And I'm so blessed and excited about this milestone, but thank you for tuning in for 2 decades. Your loyalty and support is immeasurable."
2018 Daytime Emmy Award Acceptance SpeechEdit
Mathis was crowned the winner of the Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program in April 2018. In his acceptance speech for his first ever Emmy win, he credited his diverse staff of females and minorities:
- We are very proud and honored to have been awarded this Emmy. And after 20 years, I'm so happy for my staff in particular and the diversity that they represent. The majority of our staff are females and minorities. And in this day of the Me Too movement, I think this shows that if you hire more women and have a more diverse staff, you'll win.
Bailiffs and supporting rolesEdit
In the first season of the show, Court Reporter Leslie Merrill would appear at the end of each case to interview the litigants after the judgement. She was ultimately dropped beginning in season 2 and onward.
The first bailiff on Judge Mathis, Brendan Anthony Moran, died on December 19, 2002, after he fell to his death from the balcony of his 24th floor Chicago condo. His death was ruled a suicide, but his family feels it may have been an accident.
Since then, Judge Mathis has had two bailiffs. The current bailiff is Doyle Devereux. Sharing a somewhat similar nature as the judge himself, bailiff Doyle often acts as a comic relief for the show, interjecting lighthearted observations about the litigants and the cases. Among recurring themes, both Doyle and Mathis frequently banter back and forth and tease one another. As just one example of their antic-filled, jocular relationship, Doyle and Mathis will often insinuate that Doyle enjoys smoking marijuana and has an uncontrollable eye for pretty women. During the litigants' afterthought segment after the case, Doyle is seen monitoring them in the area just outside of the courtroom. In this capacity, the litigants break the forth wall, expressing their feelings towards each other and Judge Mathis' ruling with Doyle standing in-between them.
Crossovers and other media personalitiesEdit
- Aspiring singers and rappers who appear on the show may even be granted a moment to showcase their talents from the lectern.
- In a September 2014 Rickey Smiley Morning Show interview, Judge Mathis expressed praise towards his courtroom rivals. In the interview, he was asked what 3 other court show judges he'd most enjoy sharing a meal with. For his first choice, he answered "Are you kidding? It would be Judge Judy at the head of the table. Oh my goodness, that Judge Judy is something else." His second choice was Judge Marilyn Milian, and third Judge Mills Lane.
- On October 29, 2015, during a 17th season episode of Judge Mathis, People's Court arbitrator Marilyn Milian took Mathis by surprise by interrupting one of his courtroom proceedings. In the episode, she entered through the door to the left of the judging bench that Mathis uses to enter and exit the courtroom and stated, "Hey, hey, hey! Excuse me! Let a real judge do this." Following that, she exchanged greetings and hugs with Mathis, who responded, "That's right. She taught me all I know, the best judge on The People's Court. I'm going to get some consultation from her in the back." In response, Milian stated, "The realest [sic] judge I know."
- In other media, the Judge Mathis show appeared in an episode of The Steve Harvey Show. Romeo, Bullethead, and Lydia sued Steve and Regina over a damaged computer that Steve confiscated from them during class. Since Judge Mathis had appeared at the school earlier in the week, the kids took their case to the Judge Mathis show (and won).
- In a January 2018 interview, Mathis—who holds a record as one of the longest serving arbitrators, surpassed only by Judge Judy, suggested that he tried emulating her early on and received input that his gender and race made this approach short lived.
- In speaking on the early days of his courtroom series, Mathis stated:
- “I tried to be like Judge Judy. And she was mean all the time. And then ultimately [my] producers said, ‘Well, no, an older white woman can talk to white folks like that, but a young black man can’t.’ So I learned that lesson early on. White folks love to see black people sing and dance. So instead I decided to just be myself"
- Mathis also took care to note of his high opinion of Judge Judy. He stated that he did not deserve Sheindlin's salary, that her salary is owed to her because of her impressive ratings and that she even "ran Oprah off television" with ratings that surpassed those of Oprah's own show.
- "The Raw Word". July 30, 2018. Retrieved September 4, 2018.
- "Judge Mathis Bio". Judgemathistv.warnerbros.com. September 11, 2006. Archived from the original on February 27, 2012. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Judge Mathis website. Online at: "About the Show" Archived 2007-05-05 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed May 8, 2007
- Judge Mathis website. Online at: "When its on". Accessed March 5, 2011
- Omni Television. Ontario "Judge Mathis" Accessed May 8, 2007
- "Judge Mathis recalls highlights from his Chicago-filmed TV show ahead of Season 20 premiere". August 30, 2018. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
- "'Judge Mathis' Is About To Start Its 20th Season". July 26, 2018. Retrieved August 26, 2018.
- The A to Z of African-American Television - Kathleen Fearn-Banks - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Judge Mathis interview. Online at: "Interview with the Judge Mathis" Archived 2011-07-07 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed March 5, 2011
- Gun-Toting Judge Greg Mathis Was Arrested As A Teenager – Showbiz Spy Archived 2014-08-08 at the Wayback Machine
- Encyclopedia of Television Law Shows: Factual and Fictional Series about ... - Hal Erickson - Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- Roger M. Grace (October 2, 2003). "Seven Courtroom Shows Appear on TV's Fall Docket". Metnews.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- [dead link]
- "Judge Mathis Credits Diverse Staff For Emmy Win". Globalnews.ca. April 30, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2018.
- PERNELL WATSON Daily Press (July 26, 2003). "Bailiff On 'Mathis' Killed In Fall - Daily Press". Articles.dailypress.com. Retrieved September 9, 2013.
- "Judge Mathis On Why Judge Joe Brown Isn't One Of His Favorite TV Judges [EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]". September 11, 2014. Retrieved September 2, 2015.
- "Judge Mathis Tried to Be Mean Like Judge Judy, But Couldn't … Because He's Black". Blast. Retrieved January 17, 2018.