Judge Judy, CBS don't negotiate salary; her demands are met

Sheindlin rakes in $47M a year

Judith Sheindlin, who sits at the helm the Emmy Award-winning show “Judge Judy,” dominates both daytime ratings as well as contract negotiations.

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It turns out, the sharp-witted prosecutor-turned-TV sensation doesn’t negotiate per se; rather, she comes with a list of demands every three years when she sits down with network executives, according to The Hollywood Reporter, which obtained a copy of a 2016 deposition in a lawsuit involving her salary.


During her testimony, the star, who gained a reputation for her outspoken and no-nonsense demeanor, spoke candidly about how she became one of the highest-paid TV stars, raking in a hefty $47 million fortune annually, according to the outlet.

“We sit across the table, and I hand him [the president of CBS] the envelope and I say, 'Don't read it now, let's have a nice dinner. Call me tomorrow. You want it, fine. Otherwise, I'll produce it myself.' That's the negotiation,” Sheindlin said


Sheindlin said the only executive to try "something a little bit different" was John Nogawski, the then president of CBS TV Distribution, the outlet reported.

To no avail, Nogawski tried to hand over his own envelope detailing an offer for the courtroom star, Sheindlin recounted.

Judge Judy Sheindlin (Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images)

"John Nogawski came to the meeting at the Grill on the Alley, and I handed him my envelope, and he said, 'Judy, I have my own envelope,'" Sheindlin recounted. "And I said, 'I don't want to look at it.' He said, 'Why not? Maybe it's more than what's in your envelope.' And I said, 'Well, John, if I look at your envelope, it's a negotiation. This isn't a negotiation.'"

Nogawski reportedly put the envelope away and gave Sheindlin what she had wanted. At the time, Sheindlin noted the network had “their backs to the wall.”

“They pay me the money that they do because they have no choice. They can't find another one. They've tried to find another Judy. If they find another Judy, good for them. So far they haven’t," the star added. “The Judy program is all over the world, and even though they had to take a deep breath, they paid the money because they know otherwise I'd take the same people with me that are producing the show now and I'd go and do it myself."


It is that very notion that has reportedly served her well over her long-standing career. To date, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard of the retired New York City Family Court judge who has appeared on national TV clad in her black robe and red lips for nearly 25 years.

During a sit-down interview with Ellen DeGeneres in 2016, the Brooklyn native shared some of the most valuable things she's learned during her career presiding over real-life small claim disputes in a televised courtroom, including how to be financially smart as a woman.

"The only way it won't happen is if you equip yourself to be financially independent," Sheindlin responded to DeGeneres' question about how to not be taken advantage of financially as a woman. "You have to be prepared because if you are not prepared then you are stuck."

The rise of Judge Judy started shortly after she was the subject of a "60 Minutes" segment in the early '90s. Shortly after, Sheindlin was approached about the possibility of presiding over a televised courtroom. In 1996, "Judge Judy" became a reality.

Since its debut on CBS, the show has become the top-rated court show in daytime television. She is dubbed one of the nation's most well-known media personalities and highest earners.

Last year, Sheindlin also claimed a spot on Forbes' coveted list of the country's most successful self-made women entrepreneurs and executives, measured by their net worth. She is one of the top-100 earning celebrities of 2019 with a net worth pegged at about $49 million by Forbes.

Sheindlin pulls in the green both through her show "Judge Judy," which is slated for its final season this year, and through producing "Hot Bench," a courtroom show that debuted in 2014 that utilizes using a three-judge panel, according to Forbes.

Sheindlin is in the works in creating a spin-off series, "Judy Justice," which will reportedly debut sometime after "Judge Judy's" final run. She has yet to reveal which network it will air on.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.