Judge Judy. It’s a TV show. It’s on every day all over the USA and other countries. It’s the best known of the syndicated court-type television shows and Judge Judy, a.k.a. Judith Sheindlin, is the highest paid TV judge in the world, by far. I get it. You probably love the show or hate it, but I readily admit that I watch it often. It’s one of my guilty pleasures of retirement.
Despite its comical and sometimes ridiculous stories and litigants, you can actually learn something from the show. I’m in constant amazement about what appears to be the most common sense concepts that are unknown or truly ignored and regularly quoted to the “real people, real cases” by Judge Judy. So here is some of the best advice I’ve heard from Judge Judy over the past years (considering that I’m no lawyer, judge, or legal expert myself). It’s some of the best advice to keep in mind if and when you are dealing with issues that can come back to haunt you in a court of law. Since lawsuits are almost always determined in monetary amounts, think of this advice as “money making and saving tips 101”.
- Always get it in writing. All agreements and contracts should be in writing and dated. “He said, she said” just doesn’t work in a courtroom. Even text messages between parties, voice recordings or voicemails can prove your case. Be sure to write out all the details (such as repayment schedules, cancellation policies, or warranties) up front.
- Use photos to document what happened with whom and where. If you have a cell phone camera, use it on the spot as your evidence to account for injuries, accidents, and vandalism.
- Always keep your pets under control, especially your dog when taking it for a walk. Dogs unleashed can do damage, attack people, and fight with other animals causing injuries among other things. No matter what happens, if your pet isn’t under control, you are responsible for whatever they do!
- When you rent an apartment or home, make sure you get it all in writing, and take pictures of conditions both before you move in and after your move out. Security deposits can be withheld from you if the landlord claims damages to the property and photos can help prove your case in court.
Breaking a lease can be very difficult. You need to document the reasons why you are leaving before the lease is up, such as poor living conditions and unresolved repairs. Photos, texts, and phone records can document the communications and support your reasons for leaving the property.
- Courts will not settle monetary disputes between “live-in roommates” as it does with married or common law couples. Assets between roommates that are accumulated during the time they live together (such as furniture and monies spent on household expenses) are not viewed as community property to be divided by law when relationships are dissolved. You need to make agreements on who gets what amongst yourselves before you “play house”.
- Never loan money to anyone without a written agreement (with details) or it will be considered a gift. Without written proof of intention to pay the loan back, it is always a gift. Additionally, if you loan someone money and they haven’t begun paying you back on time, never lend them additional money. It will appear under law that you are giving it as a gift since repayment hasn’t happened on your first transaction.
- Always get references (preferably more than one) for any work performed for you by repairmen or contractors. Get the details in writing and never pay in full before the completion of the work.
- Never use cash as payment for goods and services unless you get a signed, written and dated receipt. Cancelled checks and money orders are good court evidence. Cash has no paper trail.
- When buying a used car, always get a qualified mechanic to examine the vehicle for damage and repairs needed. Used cars are always sold “as is” (except in the case of fraud, which is difficult to prove) and thus it is “buyer beware” and non-refundable the minute you take ownership. Always get a legal title document when you purchase.
- Whenever there is a potential crime committed and you are involved in any way, get a police report. The report will provide evidence about who, what, when and where, and help you defend your rights and property in a courtroom.
If you do happen to find yourself in a courtroom, be sure to dress appropriately, bring all the evidence you may need for your case as well as any witnesses, and above all, remain respectful. Of course if your issue is serious, you’ll probably want to seek out legal counsel in advance.
Still want more advice from the judge? You can download Judge Judy’s latest e-book for free on her site, WhatWouldJudySay.com.
So there you have it. Silly as it may sometimes seem, Judge Judy and syndicated court shows can provide some real education to you and yours. Now you tell me, what have you learned from Judge Judy or her courtroom TV buddies?
Image courtesy of Susan Roberts on flickr.com (with changes)