A judge has ruled that the US$47 million-a-year salary that Judge Judy Sheindlin earns from CBS “is reasonable.”
Talent agent Richard Lawrence and his company Rebel Entertainment Partners filed a lawsuit in March 2016, arguing that CBS and production company Big Ticket Television had denied the talent agency profits from the show Judge Judy.
According to the lawsuit, the agency claimed it was entitled to a five per cent share of the show’s net profits.
The lawsuit claims that because of the way Sheindlin’s multi-million yearly earnings are structured, net profits of the show are wiped out after deductions.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joanne O’Donnell wrote in her Tuesday ruling: “That Judge Sheindlin is paid more than other television hosts does not establish [that] her salary is unreasonable.”
“Judge Sheindlin has re-negotiated her agreements to star in Judge Judy during the show’s airing … Her present salary was the result of arms-length negotiation and Judge Sheindlin’s final ‘take-it-or-leave-it offer,” the ruling reads. “Plaintiff has presented no evidence that the salary was negotiated in bad faith or is unreasonable in light of the undisputed ‘resounding success’ of Judge Judy and the fact that without its namesake star the show could not continue.”
The lawsuit contends that Rebel Entertainment Partners has been denied profits from Judge Judy offshoot, Hot Bench.
“The Court cannot conclude as a matter of law that Hot Bench is not an ‘episodic television series’ which is ‘based on or derived from’ Judge Judy,” the ruling reads.
In response to the lawsuit, CBS argued that the talent agency couldn’t challenge production costs and that “the salary paid to Judge Sheindlin was the salary necessary to keep Judge Judy on the air, and, ironically, the salary necessary for Rebel to continue to earn millions of dollars in upfront commissions that would disappear were the show to end.”
Sheindlin gave a deposition in the case where she discussed her renegotiation with CBS every three years. She said she would bring along a card with her demands.
She said that once, John Nogawski, former president of CBS TV Distribution, brought along his own envelope.
“And I said, ‘I don’t want to look at it,’” Sheindlin said. “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.’ And he put his envelope away and they gave me what I wanted; not a whole thing, not 30 pages, three things, whatever it was, done. So to suggest that the largest profit participant, which is CBS, would pay me willingly more money is so ludicrous. Their back’s to the wall.”
A CBS spokesperson said that the company is “pleased” with the ruling, adding, “we look forward to defending against the balance of the claims.”
In response to the ruling, Rebel Entertainment Partners lawyer told The Hollywood Reporter, “All 3 causes of action will proceed to trial and we are pleased that the court denied CBS’s attempt to eliminate Rebel’s substantial interest in Hot Bench. We disagree that paying Judy $45 million upfront, which caused the profit participant’s interests to be eliminated, is the custom and practice in the television industry and based upon our expert’s testimony, Rebel will never let go of that claim. Whether in the superior court, the appellate court or the court of public opinion, no one will determine that CBS has the right to deny profit participants their rightful bargained for share of profits.”