Dear 100 Hour Board,
re Board Question #23127
Just to clear things up here, the daytime TV court shows are a form of alternative dispute resolution called an arbitration. In an arbitration both parties to a dispute sign an agreement wherein they elect to present their case to an "impartial" third party. When signing the arbitration agreement, the parties agree that the arbitrator's ruling will be legally binding and cannot be appealed in court. So essentially it is a legal settlement that is facilitated by someone who presumably has legal expertise and has the capacity to decide the case impartially.
I know that the "judge" in People's Court, for example, (which happens to be one of the more "legit" seeming shows, if you can even say that), was actually a Judge in Florida before doing the show. In other cases the "judges" are certified arbitrators or mediators in the states where they are licensed to practice law.
The producers of these shows research case filings from around the country, usually looking at small claims courts. They try to find the most interesting cases and convince the litigants to have the case arbitrated by Judge Judy, Joe Brown, etc. However, I also think that since the popularity of these shows has skyrocketed, a lot of the litigants end up on the show without having ever filed in court, and instead contact the show directly about having their case heard.
Regarding Texas Justice, Judge Larry Joe Doherty is for real, and is a practicing lawyer in the city of Houston. I have a friend who has tried a case against him. He tells a hilarious story about Larry Joe getting himself so worked up during closing arguments that he picked up a visual aid and flung it across the courtroom, creating a surreal moment of horror for my friend who was a newly admitted attorney at the time.
- Some Guy