Skip to content

Judge Judy Reveals How She Became One of the Highest Paid People on TV

"I could make this show without you ... but you can’t make it without me."

For 25 years, Judge Judy Sheindlin has presided over court cases on her syndicated TV series Judge Judy. During that time, Judge Judy also become one of the highest-paid people on television. Now, her show is ending, she's moving on to something new, and she's opening up about her experience, including that massive payday.

In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Sheindlin explained how she ended up as the TV host with the highest salary. It has to do with some negotiating she did years ago and a lot of confidence in what she brings to the table—or, rather, the judge's bench.

Sheindlin knew she held the power in her negotiation.

Judy Sheindlin at the 2008 Daytime Emmy Awards
s_bukley /

In her interview with THR, Sheindlin said that because she knew the show couldn't exist without her, she was able to use that when negotiating her contract.

"The People's Court, they've had several judges. The Tonight Show has had several hosts. But I Love Lucy only had one Lucille Ball," Sheindlin said. "So, almost 20 years ago, I told the company that I worked for this: 'I want to be more of a partner. Don't treat me as a paid employee. I could make this show without you—I created a deal where I could do that—but you can't make it without me. I can take Judy Sheindlin anywhere else. And good luck with you if you can find somebody else. Otherwise, let's share the gift that this program has brought to both of us.' I don't think that there's anything unreasonable about that."

RELATED: The Biggest '90s Reality TV Show Stars, Then and Now.

Her record-breaking salary has been widely reported.

Judy Sheindlin at the 2019 Daytime Emmy Awards
Michael Mattes /

So, how much does the highest-paid TV host make? According to Forbes, Sheindlin has made $47 million per year since 2012 and has a net worth of $445 million.

In the THR interview, Sheindlin was asked about negotiating her pay for her new show, which will stream on IMDb TV, a streaming service owned by Amazon.

"Without giving you specifics, because that's a little unseemly, my compensation has not been a secret," Sheindlin responded. "It's been out there for a long time—not by me, but it got out there and had its own life. So, the folks at Amazon understood what the parameters were. There was no issue."

RELATED: The One Guest Ellen DeGeneres Banned From Her Show.

Her new show won't be a far cry from Judge Judy.

Judy Sheindlin on "Judge Judy"
CBS Television Distribution

Sheindlin's new IMDb TV series is called Judy Justice. It does not yet have a release date, but according to THR, Sheindlin will begin filming it this summer. It sounds like the show will be similar to Judge Judy but with some changes. "Give me a robe and a case, and I'll do my job," the 78-year-old said in the interview. "I had wonderful people producing and directing the Judge Judy program, and a couple of them will be following me to Amazon. That will keep my life on a steady keel."

For more celebrity news delivered right to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

She's not planning to retire any time soon.

Jerry and Judy Sheindlin at the premiere of "The Prestige" in 2006
s_bukley /

After doing Judge Judy for 25 years—and making so much money through it—you might think Sheindlin would want to retire. That's not the case. As she explained, she enjoys her job, so she doesn't see the point in stopping.

"I'm not tired. I don't play golf or tennis. I have no desire to learn how to play mahjong, chess, or checkers. I know what I like to do," Sheindlin said. "Why, at my stage in life, would I try to find something else when I already know what I like? And this isn't a 9-to-5 job." She added of her family, including husband Jerry Sheindlin, "I've still got the time to see the children I love, the grandchildren who are growing up very fast, and the cute mate who I still get a kick out of."

RELATED: This Was the Worst Guest The View Ever Had, Former Host Says.

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
Filed Under