Star Jones Enjoying the View as New Judge on ‘Divorce Court’

Judge Star Jones
Q&A
Fox First Run

Star Jones — renowned television personality, journalist, and lawyer — is proud to don the robes and carry the gavel as the newest judge on Divorce Court. Upholding the show’s legacy is a responsibility she does not take lightly.

“I left the dentist earlier today, and all my dentist wanted to do was talk about a case,” Jones tells TV Insider. “I had to remember which one aired so I could speak intelligently about the facts of the case. Even though I did 180 episodes this season, watching them back on television is as much fun as presiding the first time.”

Here, we approach the proverbial bench as Jones reflects on her experience joining the TV’s longest-running court series. Her Honor also reminisces about returning to the old stomping ground of The View for a recent appearance.

How do you feel about the feedback you’ve gotten about your stint on Divorce Court so far?

Star Jones: I’m really proud of what we put in the can this season. I got to follow behind three amazing and incredible women: Mablean [Ephriam], Lynn [Toler], and Faith [Jenkins]. Then I put my own spin on it — do something a little bit different with a couple of new elements. I’m really proud the audience is embracing it because I think relationship television is very compelling to watch. You see yourself in a lot of these people. You see yourself in not being able to communicate effectively, in wondering about trust issues, in having to survive an affair outside of marriage. These are situations couples face every day. Having the [opportunity] to bring it into your home in a compassionate and empathetic way is really one of the most wonderful things that has happened in my career.

Judge Star Jones

Fox First Run

You presided over the short-lived Jones & Jury early in your television career. Do you find Divorce Court is coming full circle?

It’s interesting you say that. I was the first African American to have my own court show. Then, as I like to tell people, O.J. Simpson occurred.… This really is a full-circle moment. I love the law. Everyone knows that. [Saturday Night Live alum] Tracy Morgan does a better me than me. “I’m Star Jones, and I’m a lawyer.” I absolutely love that with all my heart because he knows how much I love the law. I love how you can come up with a just and fair decision based solely on the law. Then you mix in specific facts and common sense and well-earned common knocks in your life. I think that is the secret sauce to this kind of television. I’m excited to do it all over again but in this way.

What are you most excited to have added to the show in your approach and presentation?

The first thing I wanted to do is look back at its history and where it came from. Divorce Court dates back to the 1950s when actors were used to reenacting the real proceedings. Today it is comprised of real people and real cases. If I tried to write some of this stuff, Hollywood would reject me for being too fanciful in terms of a storyline. Knowing that really did allow me to add an empathetic spin that may have been missing. I bring my life experience to the bench. I’m a former prosecutor so I can ask those tough questions. I hold the litigants accountable and get to the truth. So you get a little bit of “Auntie Star” and Judge Star.

I also prepare and study these cases, so when the litigants walk in, I give them my very best because their stories are important to me. I do anywhere between seven and nine shows a day, four days a week during a tape week. I read every fact pattern [summary] unless my producer wants me to be surprised by a particular piece of evidence such as a DNA result or a paternity test or a drug test because we do want my reaction to that. You have me giving an opening statement. At the end of the case, I welcome you into my chambers for my conversation with the bailiff. I think I have taken the best of Divorce Court and 24 seasons in, Star-ized it just a bit with a little more of a human feel and flair.

Does anything surprise you about the experience?

Probably the thing that surprised me the most was just how brutally open the litigants are — willing to share the most intimate details of their relationship woes. I don’t know if I expected to care as much as I do and be moved by each of the fact patterns. You’ll hear me do a lot of reflecting back on how the litigants are affecting their children and families. I’ve turned my virtual audience into my own jury. I feed off them. I ask for their opinions. I want people to feel part of the show and vested. The one thing that all the cases have in common is the one litigant is coming into court because they have not felt heard in the relationship. They will be heard here.

Do you find a renewed appreciation for your own marriage after hearing these cases?

I very much do. My husband and I had a date night last night. We have been having the most fun. The pandemic is what made us realize we actually enjoy being with each other more than anything else. We play cards, watch sports, and watch the news. We watch Forensic Files. He is a criminal defense lawyer who is an administrative judge now, and I’m a former prosecutor who is a television judge. We sit there and analyze the cases. We have that in common. We are as happy as going to the White House for an event as we are going to the White Castle for those “murder burgers.” My husband brought something to the marriage I never knew I wanted or needed, that’s my son. We have a 17-year-old. I didn’t give Jake the gift of life, but marrying Ricardo gave me the gift of Jake. This family means the most to me.

Judge Star Jones

Fox First Run

It was fun to see you with Sherri Shepherd on her show and your return to The View promoting Divorce Court. How was it revisiting?

I’ve had so much fun. For The View, this is the 25th anniversary. As an official O.G., it was literally as if we had never been apart. When we get into a room, we start the exact same conversation from all those years ago. We are as in tune, in sync, as that first day of auditioning. That is why Barbara Walters was so brilliant in knowing which people would be able to express opinions and disagree without being disagreeable. That is something that was the secret sauce of the early days of The View. I desperately miss spending that time together. Yeah, there are always ups and downs on television shows, but we are family. We can talk about one another, but nobody better say a damn thing about us. There is nothing that made me happier in the past two weeks than to sit with Sherri on the set of her own show. She is one of the best talents. I so wish her the very best. It’s so nice to see other women succeed. Everyone has been so supportive. The nicest compliment was from Joy [Behar]. Privately she said, “You were born to do this, girl, and we are all so proud of you.” It was a nice feeling to know that after all those years, we’ve got each other’s back.

Divorce Court, Weekdays, Syndicated, check local listings or visit divorcecourt.com.