Are TV Court Judgments Legally Binding?

Reality TV, and in this case TV court shows, is a different spectacle. Most people today know of its contrived plots, but still have a difficult time determining what is real and what is fabricated. When it comes to televised legal spats, like Judge Judy or The People’s Court, many assume it’s all just one big ruse designed solely for entertainment… However, in most situations, the cases and people are real.

TV court cases vary in situations from personal spats, divorce court and even business disputes between two people. A common dispute can easily be settled if the proper contracts were in place from the beginning. In season 25, episode 70 of Judge Judy, a non-disclosure agreement would have prevented a lot of the issues arising in this case involving former business partners.

Arbitration v. Actual Court

To be clear, what’s happening on these shows is nothing close to an actual trial, nor are the judges acting as real judges. In truth, you’re watching a legal process known as arbitration or “alternative dispute resolution.” Most individuals in the real world use arbitration or mediation to work out disagreements without having to deal with the court system, and attempt to resolve their dispute in a beneficial manner to both parties. Often times, favour is granted to individuals that can provide evidence. A useful example of this would be the art consulting agreement between a freelance artist and buyer. The terms of the contract and sale are stated clearly and signed by both parties, allowing this to be used as evidence in a case.

While an arbitrator’s ruling is legally binding, it can be overturned if a court decides the issues included in the arbitration fall outside the scope of the agreement. Regardless, the TV participants sign a contract, forfeit their own legal authority, and abide by whatever the “judge” decides. On the plus side, the television show pays the judgment to the winner of the case and has an often speedier response than a local court hearing.


Fact v. Fiction

What truly makes compelling TV? We all know the answer. Two idiots with a dispute that is equally stupid. Many times reality TV is staged and they find people willing to go on TV who are either aware or unaware of their own stupidity… But when the disputes are real, it becomes hypnotic. That’s the magic of reality TV court shows because all the judges were all at some point real judges in the US court system. With this said, these individuals would’ve passed the bar and have full knowledge of the law.

Final Verdict

Let’s take a look at Judge Judy, otherwise known as Judy Sheindlin. No doubt you’re sceptical about Judy, but she really is a former judge and prosecution lawyer. Most shows’ “judges” are arbitrators and what is depicted is a form of binding arbitration.

So, if your case is heard in small claims court or on a reality TV court show, know there will be a real winner and loser. Except, if you lose in the TV court, that’s the end of your case.

Is there a way to ensure your case is more solid and in your favour? Yes, when you have all of your paperwork at hand to prove your side. As an example, if two businesses decide to create a referral agreement for services exchanged, and one person in the agreement doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain, a referral agreement would come in useful as it is a contract between both parties and can hold up in court.

Have read all of this, what do you think of reality TV court shows?

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