Who Is The Best TV Judge of All Time? (POLL)

Photo by Paul R. Giunta/Getty Images, Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images, Valerie Macon/Getty Images 

There’s something about court shows that satiates an indescribable urge, whether it be its voyeuristic format, seeing drama, conflict, and judgment unfold or learning more about the law and justice system.

Although the genre first began on broadcast radio in the 1930s before transitioning to television in the late ‘40s with shows such as Court of Current and Your Witness, it began to take on a life of its own during the ‘90s.

Arbitration-based reality court shows such as Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, and Judge Mathis sprung up and permeated network daytime television. As such, the titular judges of the shows became household names that continue to have a chokehold on pop culture to this day.

After decades on TV court, each of the aforementioned names has transitioned into other projects, like Judy Justice, Mathis Family Matters, or, in the case of Joe Brown, running for mayor of Memphis and making occasional podcast appearances on YouTube.

Below we list a handful of some of the best tv judges we can think of and ask you who reigns supreme among the selection. Check out the judges and leave your vote in the poll below.

Judge Faith Jenkins Divorce Court
Divorce Court

Judge Faith Jenkin

Faith Elizabeth Jenkins started her legal career in the New York City office of Sidley Austin. After five years as a litigator, she was an Assistant District Attorney, prosecuting criminals at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.

As a legal analyst, Jenkins appeared on several shows, such as CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News. She also contributed opinion editorials in the New York Daily News. Then she landed her own daytime TV show Judge Faith, which premiered on September 22, 2014.

Jenkins also served as host of the true crime documentary series Justice By Any Means, and Killer Relationship with Faith Jenkins.

Judge Lauren Lake attends TheGrio Awards 2022
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Lauren Lake

Lauren Laniece Lake has performed in guest hosting and news anchoring positions for various talk shows and reality legal show, including HGTV’s how-to series Spice Up My Kitchen. In June 1995, she was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan and began her law career as a criminal defense attorney. After this, she established herself in the entertainment industry and sang background for multi-platinum-selling artists, including P. Diddy, JAY-Z, and Snoop Dogg. 

Lake is best known for arbitrating the nontraditional courtroom series Lauren Lake’s Paternity Court. The series ran seven seasons and was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award five times, including a win in 2019. She currently presides over her own series, We the People with Judge Lauren Lake.

Lynn Toler attends Tyler Perry Studios grand opening gala at Tyler Perry Studios
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Lynn Toler

Lynn Candace Toler was born in Columbus, Ohio, graduated from Columbus School for Girls, earned an undergraduate degree in English and American Literature from Harvard College, and a Juris Doctor from the University of Pennsylvania Law School by 1984. While on the bench, she created and ran a mentoring program for teenage girls. In 2002, she received The Humanitarian of the Year Award from The Cleveland Domestic Violence Center.

She became arbitrator over the longest-running courtroom television series, Divorce Court. And remained so from 2006 to 2020, becoming the longest-reigning arbitrator over the series. She has guest-starred on The Ricki Lake Show as a marriage counselor and hosted the WeTV hit series Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars.

Judge Marilyn Milian attends the ceremony honoring Judge Joseph Albert Wapner with a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame
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Marilyn Milian

Judge Marilyn Milian was appointed assistant state attorney for the Dade County State Attorney’s Office, and after ten years in that position, she worked for the Miami County Court, serving in the domestic violence, criminal, and civil divisions. In 1999, Florida governor Jeb Bush appointed Milian to the Miami Circuit Court, where she served in the Criminal Division.

Milian became the presiding judge on the very first, legacy, and longest-running courtroom show, People’s Court, during the current edition’s fourth season in 2001, replacing Jerry Sheindlin (Judge Judy’s husband), and has been with the series ever since. She surpassed Joseph Wapner, the original arbitrator, during 2012, becoming the longest serving judge across the entire history of the series.

Judge Greg Mathis attends the 2022 Harold and Carole Pump Foundation Gala
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Greg Mathis

Gregory Ellis Mathis is a former Michigan 36th District Court judge who new up in Detroit and win the same street gang his estranged father was a part of. In the ‘70s, he was arrested numerous times and was given an ultimatum of jail or getting his GED before a judge granted him leave to be with his sick mother. From there, Mathis turned his life around and was admitted to Eastern Michigan University. He found an interest in politics and earned a B.A. in Public Administration, and before long, he landed the Judge Mathis show.

Judge Mathis is now the longest-running active single-production court show. Mathis is also the second-longest-reigning arbitrator in courtroom television history.

Mablean Deloris Ephriam attends the premiere of Entertainment Studios Motion Picture's 'Chappaquiddick'
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Mablean Ephriam

Mablean Deloris Ephriam, Esq. was born on April 23, 1949, and had never actually served as a judge before presiding on Divorce Court. She started her law career as a corrections officer in the Women’s Division of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and took night classes to earn her Juris Doctor degree in 1978. After opening her own law firm in ‘81, she became a Los Angeles Prosecuting Attorney, which propelled her to arbitrate the third revival and 17th season of Divorce Court.

Ephriam presided over Divorce Court for seven seasons, from 1999 to 2006 and was the first African American and female to preside over the series.

Judge Judy Sheindlin attends the 2014 Heroes Of Hollywood Luncheon
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Judy Sheindlin

Judith Susan Sheindlin, born Judith Susan Blum in Brooklyn, New York, became a prosecutor in the family court system after finding her work as a corporate lawyer unfulfilling. By 1982 she rose in the ranks as a criminal court judge before ascending to supervising judge of the Manhattan district. From there, she gained national notoriety after a Los Angels Times profile and subsequent 60 Minutes interview. A year after that, Judge Judy debuted on September 16, 1996, and ran for 25 seasons until July 23, 2021.

Throughout its run, Judge Judy remained the top Nielsen-rated court show and regularly drew nine to ten million viewers daily, occasionally besting the ratings of The Oprah Winfrey Show. From 2009 to its series finale in 2021, Judge Judy remained the highest-rated show in all of daytime television programming.

She currently presides over her spinoff courtroom series Judy Justice on Freevee. With two seasons already under its belt, it serves as the first exclusive courtroom series for a streaming service and has received a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Legal/Courtroom Program for its first season.

Judge Joe Brown and attends a reception for nominees of the 29th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards
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Joe Brown

Former Shelby County, Tennessee criminal court judge Joseph B. Brown, from the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles, was thrust into the national spotlight while presiding over James Earl Ray’s last appeal of his conviction for the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Brown was removed from the reopened investigation due to an alleged bias, but it also served as the moment Brown caught the attention of the producers of Judge Judy

Judge Joe Brown premiered on September 14, 1998, and ran through 2012 and 2013 for a total of 15 seasons. Joe Brown was the second highest-paid daytime television personality behind Judge Judy during the time the show was on the air. During the entirety of its series run, Brown was the longest-serving African-American television arbitrator, a record now held by Greg Mathis of Judge Mathis.