A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled that Judge Judy Sheindlin’s annual salary of $45 million is not unreasonable.
The ruling comes in a lawsuit brought by Richard Lawrence, a talent agent who receives a commission on “Judge Judy” profits. Lawrence, through his company Rebel Entertainment Partners, has accused Big Ticket Television and CBS of overpaying Sheindlin, thereby reducing his piece of the profits.
“That Judge Sheindlin is paid more than other television hosts does not establish her salary is unreasonable or that Defendants negotiated the salary in bad faith,” Judge Joanne O’Donnell wrote. “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 would not continue.”
The plaintiff’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, has alleged that Sheindlin is grossly overpaid. O’Donnell’s ruling finds that her salary does not constitute a breach of Lawrence’s contract, though the case goes forward on other issues. Freedman said he would appeal.
“As for admitting and then ignoring Rebel’s uncontroverted expert opinion evidence that frontloading the 45 million dollar salary of Ms. Sheindlin was not consistent with the United States television industry, the court committed a reversible error,” he said. “That issue will be decided by the court of appeal.”
Lawrence represented two producers who helped package the show in the mid-1990s. The lawsuit claims that the defendants stopped sending Lawrence his residual checks in 2010. The defendants contend that Lawrence’s agency was in fact paid $17 million for “doing nothing.”
Lawrence also alleges that he was not consulted on a spinoff show, “Hot Bench,” which constitutes a breach of contract. The defendants contend that “Hot Bench” is not a spinoff but a separate show produced by Sheindlin. The court ruled in Lawrence’s favor on that point, declining the defendants’ request to dismiss the claim as a matter of law.
“The ruling which granted a part of the motion and denied another part the motion does not affect the trial in this matter,” Freedman said. “All three causes of action are proceeding to trial and Rebel looks forward to prevailing in front of a jury.”
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