Should the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Apply to T.V. Judges?, The

Reality of Courtroom Television Shows: Should the Model Code of Judicial Conduct Apply to T.V. Judges?, The

Lane, Erika


In the midst of the recent celebrity case involving the burial location of Anna Nicole Smith’s body, it was not just the sudden tragic death of this well-known celebrity that had people gossiping. It was, rather, the unusual behavior of the judge hearing the case, Judge Larry Seidlin.1 Seidlin’s bizarre comments and mockery of the dispute resembled, in the public’s view, behavior common to what has become a major popular phenomenon in daytime television in America-syndicated courtroom television shows.2 Seemingly unprofessional and regarding the courtroom as an entertainment show, Judge Seidlin received significant criticism for his jokes, slang language, and what appeared to be a disregard for the integrity of the courtroom.3 In a society where approximately 8.5 million people watch syndicated courtroom shows daily, the line between what is a real arbitration or litigation proceeding and what is doctored on television and not an accurate portrayal of reality becomes so blurred that even our own judges seem to get confused about their role in the courtroom.4

Given the presence of a television in nearly every household in America5 and the soaring popularity of reality television shows, Americans today are increasingly exposed to televised portrayals of our country’s professional sectors as well as to “real” people” with “real” stories. However, while reality shows provide significant entertainment to the public, they do not always accurately present the actual functioning of these sectors or the stories of their “actors.” This carries the danger of confusing the public about what “reality” really is. Specifically, programs like syndicated courtroom shows (also referred to as “syndi-court” shows) may mislead the common viewer into believing that the shows accurately represent the American justice system.6 Syndicated courtroom programs take place in what appear to be real courtrooms, but are in fact simply televised arbitration dispute resolutions.7 The parties present their cases to the arbitrator (who looks like a “judge” to the viewer) and, within minutes, the arbitrator decides the outcome, usually with some form of moral reprimand to the parties, thereby providing substantial entertainment to the audience.8

Part I of this Note analyzes the nature of syndicated courtrooms shows and how they differ from trials and typical arbitration proceedings. It will then demonstrate how syndi-court shows misrepresent themselves and discuss the dangers that may arise from this misrepresentation. Part II presents the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines and examines how they are ineffective at guiding syndi-court judges. Part III examines the Model Code of Judicial Conduct (“Model Judicial Code”) and analyzes its efficiency and stringency for judges. Finally, Part IV speculates about the impact of imposing stricter ethical guidehnes on syndi-judges by enforcing the Model Judicial Code on syndi-court judges.


While syndicated court shows are arbitration proceedings, they portray themselves to the public as litigation proceedings. By engaging in tiiis inaccurate representation, syndi-court shows are neither typical arbitrations nor trials. Further, they mislead viewers to beheve syndi-shows are accurate reflections of how our judicial system works. Such inaccurate portrayals carry with them the danger of confusing the pubhc about their legal rights, about judges and the justice system, and about arbitration.

Syndicated court shows present themselves as real trials, involving real-life cases.9 The shows air for thirty minutes or an hour and the syndi-judge hears two or four cases.10 In each case, the syndi-judge hears both sides of the dispute directly from the “litigants” (there are no attorneys involved) and, within minutes, decides the outcomes.11 The disputes revolve around family and domestic issues and do not involve large monetary awards.12 Usually, when giving his or her judgment, the syndi-judge will deliver a moral message or reprimand to the parties, expressing his or her personal views regarding their situations.13

Syndi-court shows appear as real courtroom settings. The judges enter the set, dressed in a robe, with a gavel in hand. A bailiff swears in the parties, and they each stand before the judge, who sits at a bench and hears their disputes.14 These props and tactics leave viewers with the impression that the show is a real courtroom trial.15

While the audience of certain televised syndicated courtroom programs may believe that these are real cases brought by “real people,” these realistic qualities to the show really do not accurately reflect both typical arbitration proceedings and real trials. In a typical arbitration, an arbitrator who is either chosen by the parties or administered by a private organization privately resolves disputes.16 An arbitrator’s decision is final and binding on the parties.17 Arbitration, intended to be an inexpensive and time-sensitive method of dispute resolution, does not require arbitrators to follow the Federal Rules of Evidence when resolving disputes.18 However, there are certain checks on arbitrators; the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines encourage arbitrators to adhere to their ethical standards by proscribing that “the purpose of [the guidelines] is to provide basic guidance regarding ethical issues that may arise during or related to the arbitration process.19

While syndi-shows are arbitration proceedings and they do bear certain similarities to typical arbitrations, they ultimately do not portray themselves closely to arbitration proceedings. Similar to a typical arbitration, the parties agree in advance to resolve their disputes by the syndi-judge.20 Additionally, syndi-court shows’ arbitration proceedings are short (each syndi-judge hears two disputes during a half hour time period).21 Furthermore, the syndi-judges’ decisions are final and binding on the parties.22 Syndi-court arbitrations, however, do not take place in private settings, and they include moral messages rendered with the syndi-judges’ final decisions.23 While an arbitrator in a private dispute resolution may voice his or her moral opinion, his or her moral judgment would only be heard by the parties to the dispute. In a syndi-court show, any harsh moral judgment rendered by a syndi-judge can be witnessed by millions of viewers.24 Such moral judgments are often harsh and delivered in ways that are not tolerated by the Arbitration Ethical Guidelines, yet syndi-judges are never sanctioned or reprimanded for harsh treatment of the parties.25 Furthermore, in typical arbitration proceedings, the arbitrator does not dress like a judge and hold a gavel. A bailiff does not swear the parties into the room and they do not have to rise before the arbitrator.26

Unhke arbitration, litigation can be very costly and time-consuming.27 Practicing judges are bound by several rules and guidelines when deciding cases, including rules of evidence, rules of jurisdiction, rules of candor and conduct, and constitutional requirements (such as the Confrontation Clause); they “have checks upon how they do their job.”28 Such checks may include an appeal process to question the validity of the judge’s decision or ethical standards to which the judge must adhere.29 Litigation proceedings are also typically not private (they are open to the public) and judges are pre-appointed and not chosen by the parties.30 Litigation is less flexible than arbitration, as the parties cannot choose the process to hear the dispute (it is determined by procedural laws).31

While syndi-court shows resemble courtroom settings, they do not accurately represent litigation proceedings. Because they are really arbitrations, they do not portray adherence to rules of evidence, motions made by parties, and witnesses, although may be heard by the syndi-judge, are not sworn in.32 Even syndi-court judges admit to the shows’ similarity to trials, without the details of what makes a trial a trial. For example, in an interview with Larry King, Judge Mills Lane admitted to Larry King’s observation that, “it’s sort of like Court TV without having to put up with all the extraneous objections and the like.”33 The props on syndi-shows, including the gavel, the judge’s robe, and the bailiff all give the impression that the disputes are trials, being decided by judges.34 Yet diese props are all that the public sees and syndi-shows, as arbitration proceedings under the guise of trials, lack all that makes a trial a trial.

There are dangers of misperception and confusion among the public that arise from the syndi-courts’ misrepresentation of both arbitration and litigation. As syndi-court shows currently exist, the public may assume that syndi-courts are accurate representations of real trials and are not in fact, arbitration proceedings.35 In assuming syndi-shows are real trials, viewers might conclude that they need not seek the advice and aid of counsel, and that they can bring a limitless range of suits, no matter how frivolous (if so inexpensive and timely).36 This misconception may lead individuals to abuse or neglect their legal rights without even knowing it.37 Further, the parties themselves on the syndi-shows may neglect their legal rights without knowing it. Parties who appear on syndi-shows are typically uneducated about the judicial system and overly eager about appearing on television; they may not necessarily realize when a syndi-judge acts inappropriately towards them.38 This factor combined with the fact that parties sign agreements consenting not to seek redress against a syndi-judge makes them vulnerable to being exploited on public television.39

Syndi-courts also risk confusing the public into believing that syndi-judges are reflective of actual judges or of arbitrators. Viewers, after seeing harsh treatment towards parties on syndi-shows, may form negative views of judges and of the judicial system as a whole.40 They may not realize that in typical legal proceedings, such behavior is frowned upon and even prohibited.41 Yet even with a negative view of judges, viewers still risk relying on that perception of judges and entering litigation or arbitration with false expectations of what the process will be like. For instance, the State of California Commission on Judicial Performance, a state organization that investigates judicial misconduct, frequently receives complaints from California citizens about disappointment that judges were entirely different than what was expected, based on viewers’ perceptions from syndi-shows.42 This false expectation can lead to confusion of the parties once involved in litigation or arbitration and could lead them to misunderstand their legal rights or the judicial process.43

Furthermore, syndi-courts’ representations as real courtrooms also pose a potential risk of confusing the public between what may be actual law and what may be a manipulation of the law to rationalize an individual’s own moral judgment.44 Many syndicated court shows deliver moral messages, and while they may be positive messages that the public should value, it could create confusion resulting in the individuals acting in ways they believe are protected by the law, when in fact those actions are merely consistent with an individual arbitrator’s personal opinion, articulated in a specific dispute.45

If syndicated courtrooms explained to the public in a clear disclaimer that they are not representative of our judicial system, perhaps the problem would improve.46 These shows, however, do just the opposite by implying that they are the benchmark of our legal system all through unreadable disclaimers, settings, costumes, and props.47


The Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines, while honorable and admirable, are optional and behavioral standards that are really left to the arbitrators’ own discretion. Because these guidelines are not binding on arbitrators, while they may be entirely effective to guide typical arbitrators, because of the nature of syndi-court shows, they do not effectively establish etiiical behavioral standards for syndi-judges.

Similar to judges, arbitrators have ethical guidelines by which to abide, established by the private organizations that administer arbitrators.48 These guidelines, while a helpful means to encourage behavior of arbitrators, are only advisory.49 While other provisions of the Arbitrators Guidelines use binding language, the Ethical Guidelines is the only provision that is optional for arbitrators. More specifically, the language in the ethical portion of the guidelines does not mention the word “shall,” and further states “[the guidelines] are intended to supplant applicable state or local law or rules, [but] in the even that these guidelines are inconsistent with statutes or rules, an Arbitrator must comply with the applicable law.”50 Yet other provisions, such as the rules that determine the process of arbitration, state “these rules govern binding Arbitrations or disputes or claims.”51 Although arbitrators are supposed to seriously consider the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines when resolving a dispute, the suggestion of ethical behavior as opposed to the mandate of certain behavior leaves a wide range of discretion to the arbitrator when resolving a dispute of how to behave. Furthermore, because the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines are advisory by nature and do not mandate specific behaviors by arbitrators, they may be difficult to enforce.

The Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines suggest specific behaviors that arbitrators (including syndi-judges because they are in fact, arbitrators) should follow, including, but not limited to, “treat[ing] all parties with respect at all stages of the proceedings.”52 In particular, the guidelines state “an arbitrator should be courteous to the Parties, to then representatives and to the witnesses, and should encourage similar conduct by all participants in the proceedings.”53 While syndi-judges demand respect in their “courtrooms,” they certainly do not adhere to the suggestion that they behave courteously as well.54 Syndi-judges, unlike typical arbitrators, have a conflicting interest with acting courteously toward the parties; they must keep shows entertaining in order to maintain the survival of the show and high ratings.55 Judge Judy, infamous for her harsh treatment of parties on her show, has the highest rating of all syndi-court shows.56 Perhaps if judges were more polite and courteous to parties, syndi-shows would lose their appeal to viewers and the shows would not survive.

While there is this conflict of interest, syndi-judges do not seem too conflicted in how to behave toward parties. Syndi-shows continue to thrive, and while syndi-judges admit to their disrespectful behavior, they do not appear to be troubled by it or to have any intention to adhere more to the behavior established in the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines.51 Though there exists a blatant disregard to the guidelines with respect to treating parties courteously, there are no documented complaints against syndi-judges for embarrassing parties on the shows. For instance, in an interview with Larry King, Judge Judy explains that her impolite comments to parties are shielded by the television courtroom, that is, parties sign agreements before appearing on the show which prevent them from complaining against syndi-judges or suing.58 Therefore, if parties are dissatisfied with a syndi-judges’s behavior, they can technically sue him or her, but with a low chance of success due to the signed agreements, no suits have been filed.59

Typical arbitrators do not face the same conflicts of interest as syndi-judges; they are not concerned with keeping the arbitration entertaining, there is no public viewing, and there are no ratings.60 In a typical arbitration proceeding, while the arbitrator’s role is still to choose a “winner” and a “loser,” he or she has no incentive to treat the parties harshly or to impose a moral message because the arbitrator is not trying to influence an audience.61 More specifically, there is less at stake; only the parties to the dispute are affected in a typical arbitration proceeding, unlike syndi-court arbitrations, which influence approximately 8.5 million viewers.62 Therefore, it would seem that the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines are sufficient to guide arbitrators’ behavior. There would typically not be a problem of allowing an arbitrator to use his or her discretion of how to treat a party to a dispute because he or she would not have an incentive to act harshly to the parties. In fact, an arbitrator has an incentive to remain courteous to the parties, as during an arbitration proceeding, a party may “challenge the continued service of an arbitrator for cause.”63 Perhaps harsh treatment, standing alone, may be difficult to constitute grounds for discontinuation of service, but if a party feels that the arbitrator is engaging in ethical misconduct, that party may be able to fight to terminate the arbitrator’s service.64 Parties that appear on syndi-shows, however, sign agreements which make virtually impossible the option of termination of the arbitrator, let alone the option of complaining about the syndi-judge’s treatment of the parties.65 Because of the unique nature of syndi-shows, the discretionary Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines are ineffective at establishing ethical norms for syndi-judges. Therefore, we need to look to other means of upholding the morals of arbitration.


The Judicial Model Code, geared towards judicial conduct and not to arbitrators, has more stringent terms and is binding on judges who preside in states where the Code has been adopted.66 As a binding set of rules on judicial behavior, it is more effective at ensuring the integrity and respect of judges while in the courtroom than the discretionary Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines are at ensuring the same standards in a syndicated courtroom.

Under the Judicial Model Code, judges owe certain responsibilities to the court and to the litigants, such as the duty to remain courteous, honest, and respectful.67 The Judicial Model Code states “a judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and shall require similar conduct of lawyers, and of staff, court officials, and others subject to the judge’s direction and control.”68 Although this language is almost identical to that in the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines, which states that “an arbitrator should be courteous to the Parties, to their representatives and to the witnesses, and should encourage similar conduct by all participants in the proceedings,” the Judicial Model Code’s use of the term “shall” creates a more stringent standard to which judges must adhere.69 Both the Judicial Model Code’s and the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines’ focus on courteous behavior seeks to establish a sense of professionalism across the board in the legal sector. Such ethical behavior is not unique to either type of proceeding; it is highly valued and consistently persuaded in both types of proceedings. The only difference is that judges are held to a stricter enforcement of such behavior than arbitrators.

As a binding set of rules, the Judicial Model Code enumerates sanctioning procedures if a judge should violate an ethical rule.70 For instance, a judge who engages in ethical misconduct may be removed, suspended, publicly reprimanded, and so forth.71 Each state has a commission or highest court that hears complaints and seeks redress of a judge in violation.72 These commissions or courts do, in fact enforce such sanctions against judges who violate the Code.73 Yet syndi-courts are arbitrations, and not typical arbitrations; the combination of the advisory nature of the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines and the requirement of parties to sign agreements before appearing on the shows contributes to a policy of looking the other way when it comes to ethical misconduct on syndi-shows.74 IV. ADHERENCE TO THE JUDICIAL MODEL CODE: THE POTENTIAL FOR A NEW EFFECTIVE CHECK SYNDI-JUDGES’ ETHICAL BEHAVIORS

While maintaining the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines for typical arbitrators may be an effective check on their ethical behavior, as applied to syndi-judges, we should look to the Judicial Model Code to act as a deterrent for syndi-judges to act disrespectfully to parties. Yet because syndi-judges are really arbitrators, the current sanctions of the Judicial Model Code may be inapplicable or inappropriate, and we should develop alternative sanctions specific to syndijudges to act as deterrents from mistreating parties and thus misleading the public.

Under the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines, the only recourse a party has to take against an arbitrator is to challenge the continued service of the arbitrator.75 But because parties sign agreements on syndi-shows agreeing not to take recourse against the syndi-judge or the show, they are left without recourse.76 For this reason, the Judicial Model Code, whose proscription of sanctions for misconduct creates a more stringent standard by which to abide, should apply to syndi-judges.77 While such agreements may still exist even if the Judicial Model Code applied to syndi-judges, because the Code is binding, it could trump such agreements and give parties a possible recourse.

There are other factors that encourage the application of the Judicial Model Code to syndi-judges. Syndi-judges face a conflict of interest in adhering to ethical standards and creating conflict on the shows to maintain or boost ratings. Because they have an incentive to not act courteously to parties, there needs to be a stronger check on their behavior than the discretionary Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines. Further, syndi-judges, unlike typical arbitrators, influence millions of viewers.78 The aforementioned dangers that accompany such a large viewing mass need special attention, which the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines do not sufficiently address. The Judicial Model Code does not leave room for discretion among judges; it states that they must treat parties with respect and courtesy.79 While syndi-judges are not judges, they are portraying themselves to millions of viewers as though they were. The use of robes, gavels, bailiffs, the bench, and the introductions to the shows stating that these are real cases all mislead the public into believing these are litigation proceedings rather than arbitrations.80 While it would be absurd to hold syndi-judges to every rule that applies to judges, such as rules of evidence and rules of procedure (these rules are entirely irrelevant to an arbitration proceeding), it would not alter or contradict the nature of arbitration to hold them to the same ethical standards as judges.81 Further, while the Judicial Model Code’s ethical standards are consistent with the behaviors suggested for arbitrators, because of the syndi-judges’ significant potential impact on the public, they should be held to more stringent standards than typical arbitrators. In the Judicial Model Code, we may be able to better find a balance between syndi-shows’ need to remain entertaining to keep ratings high and the parties’ rights to be treated respectfully and courteously as well as the need to reduce confusion and unrealistic expectations the public has of our judicial system.

Although adhering to the Judicial Model Code may be in of itself a sufficient deterrent to syndi-judges to act too harshly toward parties, some of the sanctions it proscribes may be inappropriate as applied to syndi-judges. For instance, syndi-judges are not judges and therefore, the equivalent of removal would not be removing them from a bench, but from a television show. Furthermore, some of the Judicial Model Code’s sanctions would create an inequality between syndi-judges and other arbitrators (rude behavior, standing alone, is probably insufficient to cause termination of an arbitrator). For these reasons, we should develop special enforcement methods to apply specifically to syndi-judges when they violate the Judicial Model Code in order to further encourage them to treat parties respectfully, but to not over-punish them, as they are arbitrators and not judges. The following enforcement mechanisms and sanctions may serve as effective solutions:

(1) The ability of parties to complain to the relevant state Commission on Judicial Conduct about syndi-judge behavior, followed by a thorough investigation of the misconduct.

Currently, because parties are bound by several agreements when they appear on syndi-shows, it is very difficult for them to complain to state commissions about inappropriate treatment on syndi-shows.82 If parties could complain to state commissions, the commissions could investigate the conduct, and if it is so egregious or is such a repeated offense by that particular syndi-judge, the commissions could require a public apology or a fine payable to the relevant state commission.

(2) The requirement of clearer disclaimers on the show, explaining that while syndi-shows appear as litigation proceedings, they are really arbitrations, yet not even accurate representations of such proceedings either.83

If syndi-judges were required to more clearly explain to the public that they are not representative of either litigation or arbitration proceedings, perhaps much of the confusion faced by the public and the negative views the public has of judges and the judicial system will subside.

(3) The possibility of a judgment becoming void if after receiving a complaint, the state commission determines that the syndi-judge’s ethical conduct was so outrageous as to constitute a bias against a particular party and thus not be a neutral decision.

If syndi-judges faced the possibility of their judgments becoming invalidated, the shows and syndi-judges might lose then grandeur status in the eyes of the public, and more importantly, the shows would lose money. While this sanction would only be enforced in a situation where the syndi-judge’s behavior was outrageous, the possibility of such a sanction may be enough to deter syndi-judges from going overboard in their rude behavior to parties.

These possible enforcement methods under the binding standards of the Judicial Model Code would not hold the syndi-judges legally liable for rude behavior and would still allow them a certain degree of discretion in their ethical behavior. But at the same time, they would keep a more stringent check on syndi-judges than what currently exists under the discretionary Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines.


While syndi-court judges are arbitrators, and thus subject to the Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines, these guidelines are not an effective means of establishing ethical standards for syndi-judges. Syndi-court show arbitrations have unique conflicts of interests that typical arbitrators do not face. Additionally, syndi-court shows, while viewed by millions of people, do not represent themselves as accurate arbitrations. In fact, they more closely resemble litigation proceedings through the use of props and costumes. The danger of this representation’s impact on the public requires sensitive attention to the syndi-judges’ behavior when on the air. Because the Judicial Model Code requires certain behaviors rather than leaving ethical standards up to the arbitrators’ discretion, we should adhere to this set of guidelines when considering syndi-judge behavior. Furthermore, we need to establish alternative enforcement mechanisms and sanctions of the Judicial Model Code that are more appropriate to syndi-judges in order to reduce the dangers of exploiting parties on the shows, confusing the public about what is a typical arbitration proceeding and litigation proceeding, and negatively influencing the viewers’ perception of the judicial system, judges and arbitrators.

1. See Matt Sedensky, Florida Judge Mocked Over Anna Nicole Case, ASSOC. PRESS, Feb. 23, 2007, available at

2. Id.

3. Id.

4. See Kimberlianne Podlas, The Monster in the Television: The Media’s Contribution to the Consumer Litigation Boogeyman, 34 Golden Gate U. L. REV. 239, 260 (2004).

5. See Lawrence M. Friedman, Lexitainment: Legal Process as Theater, 50 DEPAUL L. REV 539, 553 (2000) (noting that nearly all Americans own television sets today).

6. See Philip Z. Kimball, Syndi-Court Justice: Judge Judy and Exploitation of Arbitration, 4 J. AM. ARB. 145, 147 (2005).

7. Id.

8. See Friedman, supra note 5, at 551.

9. See Divorce Court (MY9 television broadcast Mar. 8, 2007); Judge Hatchett Show (FOX television broadcast Mar. 7, 2007); Judge Joe Brown Show (NBC television broadcast, Mar. 7, 2007); Judge Judy Show (CBS television broadcast Mar. 7, 2007); Judge Mathis Show (WPIX television broadcast Mar. 7, 2007).

10. Id. See also The Ultimate Judge Mathis Page, judgegregmathis.html (last visited March 16, 2007); Judge Joe Brown, 21466/summary.html (last visited March 16, 2007).

11. Id.

12. Id. See also Michael M. Epstein, Judging Judy, Mablean and Mills: How Courtroom Programs Use Law To Parade Private Uves to Mass Audiences, 8 UCLA ENT. L. REV. 129, 132-33 (2001).

13. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9. See also Steven A. Kohm, The People’s Law Versus Judge Judy Justice: Two Models of Law in American Reality-Based Courtroom TV, 40 Law & Soc’y Rev. 693, 714 (2006) (commenting on an episode where Judge Judy expressed her disgust with the parties, merely adding in her legal judgment as an “afterthought”); Transcript: Larry King Live: TV Judges Take Their Stands (CNN television broadcast Jan. 18, 2000, available at 0001/1 8/lkl.00.html (discussing the syndi-judges’ manners of delivering a moral message to the parties).

14. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9.

15. See Friedman, supra note 5, at 552 (noting that the California Commission on Judicial Performance receives complaints that judges are entirely different than as they appear on television and as viewers of syndi-court shows expect them to be); Kimball, supra note 6, at 147 (commenting that the public perceives syndi-shows as accurate reflections of real trials).

16. See Arbitration Defined, (last visited Mar. 16, 2007).

17. Id.

18. See JAMS COMPREHENSIVE ARBITRATION RULES AND PROCEDURES, R. 22, available at http:// (commenting that “strict conformity to the rules of evidence is not required … the arbitrator shall consider evidence that he or she finds relevant and material to the dispute”).

19. ARBITRATORS ETHICAL GUIDELINES, Introduction (2003) [hereinafter ARBITRATORS GUIDELINES], available at

20. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9.

21. Id.

22. Id.

23. Id. See also Kimball, supra note 6, at 150 (commenting that “there is a vast difference between an arbitration that can be viewed by millions of people and one [that] is conducted in private”).

24. See Kimberlianne Podlas, supra note 4, at 260 (estimating an audience of 8.5 million viewers of syndicated court shows).

25. See ARBITRATORS GUIDELINES (showing that the Guidelines are not binding on parties and only advisory).

26. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9. See also Christina Leb, Arbitration, July 2003, (last visited March 7, 2007) (describing the process of arbitration and explaining how the parties have a lot of choice in the process – bailiffs are not involved).

27. See Stoel Rives LLP, The Litigation Process, (last visited March 7, 2007) (describing the duration of a trial); The Litigation Process, news/suit.html (last visited March 7, 2007) (depicting the various stages of a litigation proceeding).

28. See Leb, supra note 26. See also Kimball, supra note 6, at 153.

29. See Leb, supra note 26 (describing how most arbitrations do not result in appeals). See generally Model CODE OF JUDICIAL CONDUCT (2004) [hereinafter JUDICIAL MODEL CODE].

30. See Leb, supra note 26.

31. Id.

32. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9.

33. Transcript: Larry King Live TV Judges Take Their Stand, supra note 13.

34. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9.. See also Kohm, supra note 13, at 716 (commenting how the props on syndi-shows give an air of a real trial).

35 . See Kimberlianne Podlas, Please Adjust Your Signal: How Television ‘s Syndicated Courtrooms Bias Our Juror Citizenry, 39 AM. BUS. L.J. 1, 8 (2001).

36. See Kimball, supra note 6, at 155 (citing Wendy Bay Lewis, Why is the Legal System Denigrated in Public Discourse ? The Disrespect Appears to Be Linked to Views About Civil Litigation, MONT. L. MAG. (2003) (warning that the greatest danger of the public’s misperception of syndi-shows is to interpret them as trials, and conclude that they are the representation of how trials work and thus develop unrealistic expectations of the litigation process)).

37. See Kimball, supra note 6, at 155.

38. See Lawrence M. Friedman, The One-Way Mirror: Law, Privacy, and the Media, 82 WASH. U. L.Q. 319, 340 (2004) (describing a typical party on syndi-shows).

39. Id. See also Transcript: Larry King Live: Interview With Judge Judy (CNN television broadcast Nov. 13, 2006), available at

40. See Podlas, supra note 35, at 8 (exploring the possibility of viewers forming negative views of the bench, of legal outcomes, and of the judicial system as a result of syndi-shows).

41. See JUDICIAL MODEL CODE Canon 3B. See State of California Commission on Judicial Performance, available at (receiving complaints about judicial misconduct); Friedman, supra note 5, at 552, citing Gail Diane Cox, TV Judges Worrying Judicial Watchdog Agency, THE RECORDER, June 7, 2000, at 3.

42. See Friedman, supra note 5, at 552.

43. See Kohm, supra note 13, at 714 (describing how Judge Judy barely used legal reasoning in her judgment and how the defendant still accepted this judgment as a legal ruling).

44. See Kimball, supra note 6, at 153 (commenting on how the disclaimers in judge shows are nearly impossible to read without videotaping and pausing the image); Podlas, supra note 35, at 15 (commenting how the public has a limited view of the judicial system and syndi-courts act to fill their knowledge gaps).

45. See Friedman, supra note 5, at 555 (describing how the minimal legal reasoning in syndi-court shows is overcast by what are really entertaining moral judgments). But see Gary Minda, Denial: Not Just a River In Egypt, 22 CARDOZO L. REV. 901, 907 (2001) (applauding Judge Judy for applying the law in an efficient, pragmatic, and innovative fashion).

46. See Kohm, supra note 13, at 693-694 (showing that the public perceives syndi-shows as the norm for our judicial system).

47. Id. at 716.




51. JAMS Comprehensive Arbitration Rules and Procedures, supra note 18, at Rule 1(b).



54. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9.

55. See Friedman, supra note 38, at 342 (explaining that in order to survive, the syndi-show must be engaging and entertaining); Friedman, supra note 5, at 556 (commenting that above any other goal of syndi-court shows, entertainment is the main priority to keep ratings high). See also Transcript: Larry King Live: TV Judges Take Their Stands, supra note 13 (quoting Judge Mills Lane as commenting that there needs to be conflict and drama on syndi-shows to please the authences).

56. See Nielsen Media Research Top TV Ratings, rnenwtera43af2fac27e890311ba0a347a062a0/?show=%2 selChemaÎx=2&vgnextoid=9e4df9669fal4010VgnVCM100000880a260aRCRD Gast visited March 18, 2007) (assessing the Judge Judy Show as the tenth-highest rated show for the week of Feb. 26, 2007 of all syndicated programs).

57. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9.. See also Transcript: Larry King Live: TV Judges Take Their Stands, supra note 13 (syndi-judges commenting on how sometimes on their shows it is necessary to act harshly toward parties and that in doing so, they believe they are sending the audience positive moral messages).

58. See Transcript: Larry King Live: Interview With Judge Judy, supra note 39 (Judge Judy comments that parties cannot lodge complaints against her in a television courtroom and that no one has ever gone through the grueling process of suing her because it would be difficult to break the agreements of not to sue).

59. Id.

60. See generally Leb, supra note 26 (depicting the characteristics of a typical arbitration proceeding).

61. Id.

62. Id. (showing how arbitrations are usually private proceedings). See also Podías, supra note 4, at 260.



65. See Transcript: Larry King Live: Interview With Judge Judy, supra note 39.

66. See JUDICIAL MODEL CODE, Pmbl. (stating “the test of the Canons and Sections is intended to govern conduct of judges and to be binding upon them”).



69. JUDICIAL MODEL CODE. See also Arbitrators Ethical Guidelines R. VIB.




73. See Kimberlianne Podlas, supra note 35, at 16 (commenting how a judge who was rude to litigants was officially sanctioned by her state’s highest court). See also State of California Commission on Judicial Performance, supra note 41.

74. See Transcript: Larry King Live: TV Judges Take Their Stands, supra note 13; Transcript: Larry King Live: Interview With Judge Judy, supra note 39.


76. See Transcript: Larry King Live: Interview With Judge Judy, supra note 39.

77. See JUDICIAL MODEL CODE Model Rules for Judicial Disciplinary Enforcement.

78. See Podlas, supra note 4, at 260.

79. See JUDICIAL MODEL CODE Canon 3B(4).

80. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9. See also Kohm, supra note 13, at 716.

81. See generally Leb, supra note 26.

82. See Transcript: Larry King Live: Interview With Judge Judy, supra note 39.

83. See Divorce Court, supra note 9; Judge Hatchett Show, supra note 9; Judge Joe Brown Show, supra note 9; Judge Judy Show, supra note 9; Judge Mathis Show, supra note 9. The disclaimers on these shows are so small and come across the screen so quickly that they are virtually impossible to read.


* I.D., Georgetown University Law Center (expected May 2008).

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