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“Judge Judy” Sheindlin Speaks at Dean’s Council Dinner

“Judge Judy” Sheindlin ’65, who according to Wikipedia.org has surpassed Oprah Winfrey to become the highest paid woman in television history, told the members of the Dean’s Council that it was important to take chances in life and to make time for family and friends.

The Dean’s Council Dinner featuring Judge Sheindlin as guest speaker took place on May 18th at LCB Brasserie Rachou, formerly La Cote Basque, one of New York’s premiere restaurants. The Dean’s Council is a new leadership group of alumni who make gifts of $5,000 or more to the New York Law School Annual Fund. They are invited to three special private events each year, and the Dinner with Judge Sheindlin was their inaugural event.

Dean Richard A. Matasar introduced Judge Sheindlin and praised her for her passion for the law and her willingness to take chances in life. He also shared plans for the Law School’s new academic building with the Dean’s Council members and their guests.

Judge Sheindlin recalled that when she was first offered a job as a television judge, it meant giving up a steady position and income and a guaranteed pension eight years later from the Family Court in New York. Always a pioneer, Judge Sheindlin, who was one of only five women in her New York Law School class, accepted the challenge. Today, she is widely credited with having revived the entire genre of “real” courtroom television shows, and her syndicated program is one of the most popular nationally and internationally.

A native of Brooklyn, Judge Sheindlin graduated from American University in 1963. She came to New York Law School as a second year student from another law school where she was the only female student. After practicing as an attorney for several years, Judge Sheindlin began her career in Family Court in 1972 as a prosecutor of juvenile delinquency cases for the state of New York. She was appointed to the bench as a Family Court Judge by Mayor Edward I. Koch in 1982. In 1986, she was promoted to Supervising Judge for New York County (Manhattan). While on the bench, she heard more than 20,000 cases.

Even before her television career, Judge Sheindlin was known for her outspoken opinions. In 1993, the Los Angeles Times published an article about her that came to the attention of the producers of the television news magazine 60 Minutes. A segment about Judge Sheindlin on that show gave her national recognition and led to the publication of her first book, Don’t Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining. Judge Sheindlin was then offered her own courtroom television show, which went on the air in 1996.

At the Dean’s Council Dinner, Judge Sheindlin spoke about her experiences being a woman in an all men’s club for many years. She also said that she and her husband, Jerry Sheindlin, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of New York and former presiding judge of The People’s Court from 1999 to 2001, always took time “to smell the roses.” Making that time is the key to happiness, she advised, no matter how busy life gets. And her life is nothing if not busy.

In addition to her television show, she has written several books, including: Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever; Keep It Simple, Stupid; You’re Smarter Than You Look: Uncomplicating Relationships in Complicated Times; and two children’s books, Win or Lose by How You Choose and You Can’t Judge a Book By Its Cover. Judge Sheindlin and her husband, who both had previous marriages with children, married in 1977. They have five children between them and ten grandchildren.

The second Dean’s Council Dinner of 2006 will be held in the Fall.