Judge Mathis is an American syndicated arbitration-based reality court show presided over by Judge Greg Mathis, a former judge of Michigan's 36th District Court and Black-interests motivational speaker/activist.
|Genre||Arbitration-based reality court show|
|Presented by||Judge Greg Mathis|
|Music by||Brian Wayy Roy Shakked|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||22|
|No. of episodes||3,000+|
|Production locations||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 courtroom series premiered on Monday, September 13, 1999. The syndicated broadcast features Judge Mathis adjudicating small claims disputes. The series is NAACP Image Award winning, as well as the first court show featuring an African American jurist to win Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program.
Judge Mathis is produced by Telepictures Productions and Syndicated Productions, while distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. The courtroom series is filmed in front of a studio audience at the NBC Tower in Chicago, but includes cases and litigants from other U.S. jurisdictions.
Of the court shows with a continuous series run never halted by cancellation/revival gaps, Judge Mathis is the longest-running in the genre that is currently still in production. Mathis is also the second longest reigning arbitrator in television history. The 22nd season premiered on September 7, 2020.
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 outside 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 those parties in need.
Integration of life story into court showEdit
As a child and teenage delinquent, Mathis found himself embroiled in frequent legal woes. 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.
Mathis was brought up in one of the worst housing projects in Detroit. During his youth, he was involved with gangs (most notably the Errol Flynns gang) 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; attended law school, earned a Juris Doctor degree, and passed the bar.
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, one of his show's opening themes throughout early seasons of the program consisted of a brief dedication to his life story, Mathis narrating the show's opening music video with the lines: "Troubled kids—I was one. Gangs, jail—I was there. Second chances—I got one. I went to law school, became a lawyer and then a judge. Now I get to give second chances. In my courtroom, the disputes are real. The cases are real. It's time for hard decisions and tough love. That's what I'm about."
Mathis also takes a distinct 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.
Veteran court show status and honorsEdit
By the 2014–15 television season, Judge Mathis made it to its 16th season, making Mathis the longest-serving African American court show arbitrator, surpassing Judge Joe Brown, whose program lasted 15 seasons. Moreover, Mathis holds the record for second-longest serving court show arbitrator ever, just behind Judge Judy Sheindlin, the presiding judge of the court show Judge Judy and its spin-off series Judy Justice.
Judge Mathis entered its milestone 20th season on Monday, September 3, 2018, and currently just completed production on season 22. 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. Judge Mathis is the fourth longest-running courtroom series behind Judge Judy, The People's Court, and Divorce Court. 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).
Of the long list of court shows, the only programs still in production in the genre originating from the 1990s or prior are Divorce Court (1957), The People's Court (1981), and Judge Mathis (1999). Of those three, only Judge Mathis has not suffered temporary cancellations in the midst of its series run. Also of the three, Mathis is the only one to have hosted his program for the entirety of its run. This also makes Greg Mathis the second longest serving court show arbitrator ever, only behind Judy Sheindlin.
20th season anniversaryEdit
Mathis has stated that from the beginning, he only expected his court show to last 3 seasons. Judge Mathis is one of the longest running, 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. As of mid-2021, it's now the only program currently still in production to have existed for over two decades under one arbitrator.
Judge Greg Mathis's "inspirational and positive messages to young people" won the court show a PRISM Commendation in May 2002. The court show went on to win an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding News/Information – Series in 2004. In April 2018, the court show won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program, just ahead of making its milestone 20th season.
When Judge Mathis was crowned the winner of the Daytime Emmy Award in 2018, it became the first courtroom series with an African American jurist to win the award. 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.
Court show success vs congressional run opportunityEdit
In 2017 into early 2018, Mathis considered ending his courtroom series as he was heavily encouraged by his hometown community to run for congressman of Detroit, Michigan. Due to the successful direction and longevity of his television series, Mathis eventually opted against the congressional opportunity in favor of carrying on the Judge Mathis program. Mathis stated he would like to do his court show for as long as he can. In Mathis's words, “It’s really not up to me. It’s up to the viewers. I enjoy what we do, particularly the last several years, when we were able to focus a lot more and put more resources, thanks to Warner Brothers and Telepictures, toward changing lives." Mathis expressed value in his court show's influence on drug and alcohol addicts to enroll in rehabiliation, its offering of paternity test results to litigators, and providing counseling to troubled parties.
Judge 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 calls attention to peculiarities or juicy details exposed throughout the course of the proceedings as a means of making the cases more stimulating 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. A trademark, Mathis sporadically uses a rather high-pitched voice to stultify litigants in a manner that suggests they've acted foolishly or have not recognized the obvious.
Combined with his teasing and comedic tendencies on the bench, Mathis is known for his street smart; urban expressions; and, once he has closely observed and taken a stance on the litigants and matters brought before him, a stern, shaming and lecturing side as well.
Production and filming detailsEdit
Each case's litigators enter the second-floor studio at the NBC Tower separately and plead their case in front of studio audience. The show pays for the litigants' travel and hotel, provided by a small stipend for those selected to appear before Mathis, standard practice for courtroom television programming.
Mathis, which films from the NBC Tower on 454 North Columbus Drive in Chicago, Illinois reported that production consulted him about shooting the court show from Los Angeles, California. Production had expressed interest in Mathis being closer to the rest of the celebrity industry. Although he considered this suggestion, Mathis vehemently denied the option. In Mathis's words, "I didn't want to interrupt the success. I felt that it was working well, so why disturb that? Secondly, I just love Chicago a lot more than Los Angeles.”
COVID-19 precautionary updates for season 22Edit
Like most television program seasons premiering in the fall of 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Judge Mathis was forced to enter into a new season (its 22nd) in a resourceful fashion. As Judge Mathis cases are pre-taped well in advance of airing for editing purposes, the program had to shoot cases during the height of the pandemic.
Unlike other courtroom programs, Greg Mathis, the bailiff, the litigators and the audience all initially presented in person (as opposed to virtually). That being said, by September 7, 2020, when the series premiered its 22nd season, there were a host of on-set precautionary measures in place: a significantly depopulated courtroom audience; all members of the audience widely distanced from one another; all audience members wearing clear plastic face shields; Bailiff Doyle wearing a disposable surgical face mask; a structure bearing a large window placed between Judge Mathis and his litigators; etc. In this manner, Mathis and his litigators all remained unmasked throughout the court proceedings.
These COVID-19 measures were later updated that same season: the litigants, along with their witnesses if necessary, presented testimony from remote locations through webcam. Video monitors were set up in Mathis's courtroom on the litigant podiums. Mathis himself along with Baliff Doyle presented to the courtroom in person.
Bailiffs and supporting rolesEdit
Judge Mathis's current bailiff, Doyle Devereux, has been with the program for most of its series run, since January 2003, midway into the court show's 4th season. It was revealed in an Hour Detroit news publication that Devereux was never a real-life bailiff, however, rather an actor cast by the program to play the role of one. In Doyle's words, "The show is real, the cases are real, you guys are real. If there’s something that could be a little fake about this show, it’s me."
Prior to Devereux, Kevin Lingle was the court show's bailiff for a short duration during the show's 4th season as well.
The court show's first bailiff, Brendan Anthony Moran, died on 19 December 2002 after he fell to his death from the balcony of his 24th floor Chicago condo. His death was ruled a suicide, although Moran's family think differently.
On September 20, 1999 during the first season of the "Judge Mathis" show, Leslie (Pallotta) Merrill, a former news anchor for WPGH Pittsburgh became the show's court reporter. Her role was to interview the litigants after Judge Mathis rendered his decision on each case and passed judgment. She left the show at the start of season 2.
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 2005 episode, Mathis goes toe-to-toe with performance artist Max Geller about whether Geller is technically a father for donating to a Feed the Children campaign.
- In a September 2014 Rickey Smiley Morning Show interview, Judge Mathis expressed praise towards his courtroom rivals. In the interview, he was asked what three 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 Judge Marilyn Milian made a surprise appearance on Judge Mathis, interrupting one of Mathis's courtroom proceedings. In the episode, she entered through the door to the left of the judging bench that Judge 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 Judge 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, Judge Milian stated, "The realest [sic] judge I know."
- The Judge Mathis program 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 Greg Mathis had appeared at the school earlier in the week, the kids took their case to the Judge Mathis show and won their case.
- Mathis reunited with Steve Harvey in June 2018 on Steve Harvey (talk show). Mathis was interviewed by Harvey about making it to his 20th season of Judge Mathis. Asked about making it to that many seasons, Mathis answered that he goes into each successive season of his program under the impression that he'll soon be cancelled, only to find out he's not.
- In a January 2018 interview, Mathis suggested that he tried emulating Judge Judy 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."
- Judge 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 even The Oprah Winfrey Show at various points of that show's run, such as Oprah's final season.
|Country/language||Local title||Host||Channel||Date aired/premiered|
|Egypt||judge mathis say n'c productions charisma group Kelmet Hak Kelmet Haq Kelmat Heq Kelmat Hek Kalimat Haq برنامج كلمة حق كلمه حق برنامج كلمه حق كلمة حق كلمة حق||Khaled El Sawy||MBC Masr||April 5, 2015|
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