Reality Bites: Nothing "Real World" About TV Judges' Salaries

Williamsburg, VA (Aug. 16, 2012) -- The August 9, 2012 edition of TV Guide Magazine profiles the best-paid television personalities in America.  Judy Sheindlin, star of the ratings-bonanza syndicated daytime television show Judge Judy, who portrays a judge in a courtroom setting, tops the list with an annual salary of $45 million.  That's about 207 times the salary earned by the nation's top real world judicial official, Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts.  Chief Justice Roberts will earn $217,400 in 2012.   Judge Joe Brown-another TV judge-also appears on the list of best-paid television personalities, collecting $20 million a year.

Perhaps more astonishing is the fact that the combined paychecks of all state Supreme Court Justices across the 50 United States total only slightly more than Sheindlin.  Combined, the 341 men and women who serve on a state high court earn $52,136,282.  That is an average of $152,892, or about 1/294th of Judge Judy's annual keep.

"The men and women who work day in and day out to uphold the Constitution and protect our rights need to earn competitive salaries, and in too many states, that is not happening," said Myron T. Steele, Chief Justice of Delaware and President of the Conference of Chief Justices (CCJ).

Other judicial salary facts:

  • The median salary of a trial court judge--Judge Judy's real-world professional equivalent--is $132,500.
  • Trial court judges in only eight states received a pay increase in 2011.
  • The average pay increase for a state judge in 2011 was 0.6 percent.

More information about judicial salaries in the states is available on the Judicial Salary Tracker on the NCSC website


The NCSC Backgrounder is designed to provide the media with statistics and facts related to current issues of interest.

The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Va., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice by providing leadership and service to the state courts. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and Chief Justice of the United States Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation's state courts.