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Larry King Live

TV Judges Take Their Stands

Aired January 18, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, court is in session. America's favorite TV judges weigh in on legal news, crime and other issues.

In New York, Judge Jerry Sheindlin, who presides over the "People's Court," and Mills Lane, former boxing referee and district court judge now has his own syndicated show. In Memphis, the tough- as-nails Judge Joe Brown is with us. In Chicago, Judge Greg Mathis -- his show a big hit in its first season. And in Los Angeles, Mablean Ephriam, an arbitrator who now oversees "Divorce Court." They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

First, for Judge Jerry Sheindlin in New York, where is Judy?

JUDGE JERRY SHEINDLIN, HOST, "THE PEOPLE'S COURT": Judy is in California. She's filming this week.

KING: OK. So she's working tonight or else she'd have been part of this group.

SHEINDLIN: Absolutely.

KING: ... because it's obvious people would say where is Judy.

What do you make -- first, for each of you, and then we'll get into some wide-ranging discussions, how, Judge Lane, did this show come about for you?

JUDGE MILLS LANE, HOST, "JUDGE MILLS LANE": Well, the fact of the matter is if Mike Tyson doesn't bite Evander Holyfield on the ear in that prize fight, I probably wouldn't have had the show. But I was on the bench. I was just a court judge. Refereeing fights is a hobby. Mike took a chunk out of Evander's ear, and first thing you know people that was a big deal.

And so they pitched the show to me. It sounded like a good idea. We pitched the show back, and got it sold and got it on the air. And that's kicking the tail.

KING: You -- are you still a judge in Nevada?

LANE: No, I retired from the bench because I don't believe you ought to be a sitting judge unless you're able to spend the time to do the job the way it should be done: and reading the pleadings, doing the research, knowing the case inside and out. And I couldn't do that and do the TV show too.

KING: Judge Joe Brown in Memphis, I understand you're leaving now the criminal court to concentrate only on the TV show. Is that right?

JUDGE JOE BROWN, HOST, "JUDGE JOE BROWN": Well, that's not quite correct. I also have a record label, recording studio, doing some books and doing a lot of speaking to people to get the word out. But...

KING: But you are leaving the bench?

BROWN: That's correct, April 15th.

KING: Do you agree with Judge Lane that it's wrong to do both?

BROWN: Well, actually, I had time to do both. I have a lot of time in my life, but I've got too many other things going to concentrate on those two. So I'm going to concentrate on the television show to get the word out that people need to be what they can be -- white, black, red, brown, yellow -- to make America a better place.

KING: Judge Sheindlin, you replaced Ed Koch as host of "The People's Court" and also had the tough job of replacing kind of a legendary figure and married to a legendary figure. How's it working out for your?

SHEINDLIN: Well, the replacement worked out well, and the marriage is surviving. So I guess all in all it's working out pretty well.

KING: How is the show doing for you?

SHEINDLIN: It's doing nicely, so they tell me.

KING: Are you enjoying television?

SHEINDLIN: I'm getting used to it -- finally.

KING: Judge Mathis, how did you get your own show?

JUDGE GREG MATHIS, HOST, "JUDGE MATHIS": Well, similar to Judge Lane, had I not been involved in a very public newsworthy event, I probably wouldn't have gotten my show either. When I ran for...

KING: What was that?

MATHIS: When I ran for judge in '95, my opponents brought up my youth criminal background, my juvenile delinquency background in an effort to sidetrack my election, and it backfired. And I was swept into office beating a 20-year incumbent by 10,000 votes. And it made national headlines that day. The headlines read "Former Street Youth Becomes Youngest Judge in Michigan." And Hollywood came calling. They thought it was something that the rest of the country needed to know. So, that's how it happened for me.

KING: So they did your life story?

MATHIS: Yes.

KING: And now the television show -- are you still continuing to be a judge?

MATHIS: No, I'm not. Michigan does not allow any second vocation, but had they allowed such, I might have attempted to do so, as Judge Brown did. If you're able to serve both, your citizens who elected you and a national audience who you're able to inspire, I think you should be able to do that. Unfortunately, Michigan law didn't allow it.

KING: And Mablean Ephriam, how did you get "Divorce Court"? That was off the air for a while, right?

MABLEAN EPHRIAM, HOST, "DIVORCE COURT": Yes, it was off, and it's been revived since August 30th of this year. The way I got it was through networking, and I believe that it was also divine providence.

My partner was at a meeting of the lawyers. One of the entertainment lawyers there told her that Fox was looking for judge to revive "Divorce Court." She thought that I would be perfect for the job, passed the information on to me. I contacted the 20th television executives, went for an interview on Thursday, called them on Wednesday, and the following Wednesday I had the job. So, that's why I say I believe it's divine providence.

KING: Even though you're not a judge?

EPHRIAM: Even though I'm not a judge.

KING: Well, would you explain how you are arbitrator, what that means, because you're a private attorney, right?

EPHRIAM: I'm a private attorney, but for "Divorce Court" the decisions are made by binding arbitration. The litigants sign an agreement to be bound by my decision.

KING: Do you still practice law?

EPHRIAM: I still have my law practice open, but I have somewhat modified it. I'm no longer a litigator. I'm not going into court every day anymore.

KING: This is for all of you, and then we'll get into some cases current. Why, Judge Brown, do you think these shows are so popular?

BROWN: Well, people are interested in life, but they want somebody to be establish moral compass for them. And the authority figure that is the judge sets that tone, and he does render a judgment. And he says this is acceptable, this is not acceptable. And people want that and they need that.

KING: Do you agree, Judge Sheindlin?

SHEINDLIN: Absolutely. I think that the cases that you see on television are cases that are really the intensity of which touch an awful lot of people. When I sat on the supreme court, of course, I did very, very serious murder cases, rape cases, robbery cases, but very few people are touched by that. In the cases that we handle on television, it's ordinary problems, and we show the solutions.

KING: Judge Lane, it's sort of like Court TV without having to put up with all the extraneous objections and the like. It's one judge. It's sort of like a live soap opera, right, in a sense?

LANE: Well, it has some of that, but what I think also is people like to see conflict. They like to see conflict. And they also like to see it resolved.

But I agree with what Joe Brown said: If you can set some example, if you can point out how people can stay away from a certain problem if they'll do certain things or not do certain things, as the case may be, then I think you're going to see a little better tune to what's going on.

But I also think society now is a little more subtle, sophisticated. They want to be where the public places are. The courts are public places. They've got a right to be there, and they are there by virtue of these various shows. And hopefully, not only are they going to be entertaining, but some good, some law can come out of it.

KING: What would you add to it, Mablean?

EPHRIAM: Well, I think the court shows are entertaining, and particularly "Divorce Court," what we add to it is the ability to get your cases resolved quickly and without the two- or three-year delay that may happen if you were to go into the regular court.

KING: Both parties agree when they go on "Divorce Court" that your decision's it?

EPHRIAM: Yes. Both parties have to sign a binding arbitration agreement.

KING: Not appealable?

EPHRIAM: Not appealable.

KING: Judge Mathis, what would you add?

MATHIS: I'd say it's a couple of things. First of all, in the recent decade or so, we have seen a lot of public drama coming in the courtroom to the television households with major cases that were covered from case to case on the television. And it made the public interested in that. Secondly -- so now they want to see the inside dynamics of the courtroom on television regularly. Secondly, I think that some of the stuff we see on some of the trash talk shows, if you will, and the folks leave there without any resolution -- they just get on there and talk about each other, and my brother slept with my sister and sued so and so and nothing ever happened -- they want to see closure to that. We bring closure to that.

KING: Yes, that's right. There is a result at every show.

We're going to take a break and come back. We'll get into some current matters and we'll include your phone calls.

The judges are the guests. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DIVORCE COURT")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't we just get rid of them all? I don't want half. I don't want half a collection. Half a collection is not worth anything.

EPHRIAM: How is half a collection not worth anything?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I'm collecting them all.

EPHRIAM: Beanies are -- you just said that they're worth value according to each Beanie.

(CROSSTALK)

So one has value; two have value; 102 have value.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've spent so much time...

EPHRIAM: Do you want to get rid of all of them? We can do that.

Mr. Masterson (ph), take them all.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you, your honor.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, just sell them all.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

EPHRIAM: Take them all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will take them.

EPHRIAM: OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Give you an example of how these judges might rule. They deal with human drama. And let's take the most human drama discussed in this country today. We'll start with Judge Brown and run around them all. The young Cuban boy in Miami, Elian Gonzalez, how would you rule?

BROWN: Goes back to Cuba, and plus he needs his father anyway. Boys are suffering these days with too little male guidance so that they become something other than what they ought to be. They need the training that a man can give them. And that boy should go back to his father because first and foremost he is a human being and he needs what all young male human beings need, and that is the input of a conscientious, concerned father.

KING: Judge Sheindlin?

SHEINDLIN: We must start off with the proposition that a parent has the right to raise their child as opposed to anyone else. So the child must go back to Cuba to his father, who is otherwise a decent, caring and responsible parent.

KING: Judge Mathis?

MATHIS: Well, Larry, we pride ourselves on having the best justice system in the world here in America. And if we are to be a model to the other countries, we must stand up to that pride of having a good justice system and show the world what should be done, and that is have a hearing like we do here in America where you determine whether the parent is fit. If the parent is fit to take care of a child, here in family court, you designate that parent as the guardian. If the parent is not...

KING: If you can't interview the parent, do you take the word of the Department of Justice and the Immigration service that did interview him? Let's say you're the judge, and they present they interviewed him in Cuba, and they say he's fit?

MATHIS: Yes, I would then send him back with his father, if he's determined by the INS and the immigration, yes.

KING: Mablean.

EPHRIAM: That child belongs with his father, and he should go back to his father. The United States has absolutely no jurisdiction and no right. If that child had come over here as an adult, he would be an illegal immigrant. There is no basis for us to retain him here in the United States. And more importantly, psychologically, he belongs with his father. He needs the guidance of his father, of the grandparents.

KING: Do you think this could be damaging to him?

EPHRIAM: I think it could be very damaging psychologically. And now that you have him here and there is this big fight, he just lost his mother; he needs to understand what that means, and no is talking about that. He needs to be with people that love him. He needs to be in familiar surroundings and an environment in which he was very familiar with, with friends and others that he is familiar with.

KING: You're not saying that people in Miami don't love him.

EPHRIAM: I'm not saying they don't know love him, but they don't know him. He's a stranger to these people.

KING: Judge Lane, are you unanimous, or will you separate?

LANE: Absolutely I'm unanimous. I think the judge in Florida was terribly out of line. There was no issue ever raised that the father was not fit and not a good parent. That fact was brought. That issue was never brought. And the political implication and the political football that we got involved in is just flat wrong. We should have stepped back, done the right thing and sent that boy back to his dad where he belongs. And there's no question about that. I don't understand why that decision was made in Florida.

KING: All right, 5-0 in that area.

All right, let's take another one. Would you -- would the toughest kind of case be, Judge Sheindlin, say if there is an indictment in the Ramsey case, that kind of trial of complicated evidence, and DNA and all the things moving around, and waiting three years before -- is that the toughest kind of case for a judge?

SHEINDLIN: Absolutely. And probably the toughest kind of case for a prosecutor, and in addition, probably a very difficult case for a defense attorney. It -- whenever you get into areas like that, yes, it is extraordinarily difficult.

KING: Do you agree, Judge Brown?

BROWN: Well, it's going depend upon what evidence is accumulated and presented to a jury, and whether or not he can be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that they do in fact have the culprit in front of them. I have tried many murder cases, and complicated though they may be, basically it depends on common sense and what you have available. Most juries can exercise their function and cut through all of the flack and get to the bottom of things, if there is anything to go on.

KING: Do you have faith, Judge Lane, in the jury system?

LANE: I have great faith in the jury system. As a matter of fact, I don't think the case will be difficult for a judge, because the judge really is an arbiter and makes decisions of law. This case should be awful tough for a prosecutor to put on.

But the thing about the murder case, murder is one of the few -- I mean, it's the only crime there's no statute of limitations on. Now, everybody is screaming for an indictment, but if you send a true bill up there, you tee it up, certain things are triggered, certain things have to happen, the due process has to go on. That happens and you don't have the right person and you get not guilty; you're forever foreclosed on that particular individual, so I say proceed cautiously. And when you've got the goods, then tee it up.

KING: Mablean is that the kind of case as a lawyer you would like to be involved?

EPHRIAM: Well, I was a lawyer, and I was also a prosecutor and I was also a defense attorney. So I've covered them from all bases.

KING: And you're now a judge in divorce cases?

EPHRIAM: Now I am a judge.

And I don't think it's anymore difficult than any other murder case. It's just a murder case. The evidence is -- I mean, the elements of the crime are still the same.

KING: You've got to prove it.

EPHRIAM: And you have to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The issue is going to be the factual basis, and as we say, for the prosecution, it's going to be a factual issue. The delay is not going to be a problem. Murder has no statute of limitations. We've tried murder cases over 30 years old. So it's what do you have there? The evidence.

KING: Judge Mathis, would you like to try that kind of case?

MATHIS: I wouldn't mind, Larry. In this day and age, with DNA evidence and other scientific evidence that is admissible in the court and is available to police investigators, I think that the evidence would prove that beyond a reasonable doubt that someone committed this crime against this young girl, and I think that a guilty plea can be obtained.

KING: We'll take a break and come back and ask them about racial profiling, how they might look if a policeman stops someone just because they were black, or at an airport, stops someone because they were wearing a turban, how they might rule in the profiling matter, widely discussed now in the United States. We'll be including your calls as well.

Regis Philbin will be here tomorrow night, with a lot of money.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE MILLS LANE")

LANE: Let's get it on.

Mr. Golab (ph), it's my understanding from the pretrial information you believe Mr. Zale (ph) owes you $3,000 for half of the rent due on the place you're leasing?

GOLAB: Yes.

LANE: All right, let me hear your side of it.

GOLAB: The defendant, Zale, used to be my best friend, but now (EXPLETIVE DELETED). LANE: Hey, hey, hey! You, sir, are a jackass. Let's start out with a that observation. You say something like that one more time -- and let me tell you something else, I am not necessarily final because I am right. I am right because I'm final. I'm it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Judge Sheindlin, we'll start with you. It's in the presidential debate. What do you make of racial profiling, if someone comes before you who was stopped just because they were black?

SHEINDLIN: I am flat-out against racial profiling. I think it is a very, very disastrous way to proceed in law enforcement. You cannot and must not ever accuse somebody, or stop somebody or touch somebody because they are different than you are. There is a place...

KING: Judge Brown.

SHEINDLIN: Go ahead.

KING: Go ahead, Judge Brown. What do you think?

BROWN: Well legally, I think it's a bogus category and it promotes irresponsible law enforcement, and particularly in light of the fact that even as a criminal court judge, I have been stopped several times on racial profiles in various parts of the country, and the officers were shocked to discover that they have a -- they had a criminal court judge, you know, a male black driving a Lexus.

KING: Weren't you ticked?

BROWN: Yes, I was a little ticked about the whole thing, getting stopped coming through some airports, driving a Lexus in certain parts of the country, male, black driving big car, you must be up to something, stop, go through the whole nine yards, then you read them the riot act about rights, and they stand there mouth hung open and find out you're a criminal court judge and they get a little bit weirded out.

KING: Mablean, what do you think of it as lawyer?

EPHRIAM: Well, I think it's really terrible. But the most difficult thing is to prove it. I mean, we all know that it happens. I've been a victim of it myself, but trying to prove it in a court of law has been the most difficult thing and trying to convince a judge it's happening just because you were black.

KING: But we know in some states it's a practice.

EPHRIAM: It's a very common practice. And I would say in some states, I would say all of the states I would venture to say that it's a handful of officers who practice that.

And I think the real problem is in law enforcement itself, the leaders of the law enforcement. It's a paramilitary organization. If the leaders say, we will not stand for this in this law enforcement organization, then it wouldn't happen. But that's the problem, is law enforcement heads are allowing it to take place in their department. They are well aware of it, and they're covering it up. So the court of law really is a difficult place to prove it.

KING: Judge Lane?

LANE: I agree with Judge Brown. He alluded to something early on, and I thought it was right on the money in his opening statement, I believe, that in this country -- in my lifetime, it may not happen. I hope that it does in my children's lifetime. We must focus on people as people, regardless of race, creed, color or gender. The color of somebody's skin or the way he wears his hair or clothes has nothing to do with anything. We've got to focus on people as people. We've got to get beyond this ethnic thing. We're all Americans, and we've got to recognize that. I think racial profiling is wrong. It cannot be defended. It's just flat wrong. And if a matter came before me, and it could be established that the arrest was made strictly on racial profiling, when I was on the bench, it would be gone.

KING: Judge Mathis?

MATHIS: Well, police brutality is one of the hot buttons in America right now, particularly against minorities. In my opinion, it starts in many instances with race profiling. I think that racial profiling is a form of race discrimination and should be treated as such. Congress should enact legislation outlawing racial profiling and implementing stiff penalties for those in the law enforcement who do it.

KING: Now in the penalty area -- I want to take break and come back and talk to these folks about crime and what they think about programs like Second Chance and giving people opportunities in nonviolent crime, and we'll be taking your calls as well.

The judges are with us. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE MATHIS")

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Masters has been known to be a pathological liar. He has been diagnosed as so.

MATHIS: Were you diagnosed as a pathological liar?

MASTERS: Absolutely not.

MATHIS: Well, that's what a pathological liar would say.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amen. Amen.

MATHIS: They would look me in the eye and say it just like that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Judge Lane, what do you think of this growing concern about overcrowded prisons, nonviolent crime, maybe letting people out, maybe if they stay straight longer time giving more second chances, more forgiveness and the like, the general concept of treating the nonviolent criminal differently?

LANE: Well, I don't think prisons are the answer to everything, obviously. And some people, you've got to lock up. If you don't, they're going to hurt you. But we're talking about not those, but not nonviolent. I think if you can do something better than prison, that ought to be done, but there's some nonviolent people, for example thieves, their professional thieves, and that's all they are and all they're going to be. Those folks you have to incarcerate some kind of way for some period of time. I don't believe it should be for long periods of time.

And yes, I do believe because I've seen it happen, that some people can change. People that change and try to change should be given some assistance and should be given a second chance, if you will.

KING: Well said.

Judge Sheindlin, how about drugs?

SHEINDLIN: Well you know, I had been in the criminal justice system for about 40 years and drug addicts have come before me and rarely, if ever, do you send a person who's addicted to drugs to jail the first time they get arrested, frequently, not even the second time or the third time. I believe in and I always instituted in my courtroom a program where I would carefully observe these people to ensure that they went along the right path. It was only when they failed themselves, they failed their families, they failed the system did they end up in jail.

So the jails are crowded now not with people that are first-time offenders or second-time offenders, but frequently, multiple offenders of the law. So what do you do with that?

KING: Mablean?

Well said.

EPHRIAM: But the question is, even though they're multiple offenders of the law and the jails are crowded with them, obviously jail is not the answer. So you've sent them away once, you sent them twice, you've sent them three times to jail, so it's not working. It's time for us to try something different. For drug offenders, let's try some programs to get them the help that they need to rehabilitate them and get them off drugs. There's usually a reason behind persons with drugs. For instance, we found out later, 30 years ago, now we've discover and lot of it is associated with birth, and people don't know about it, but it happened during birth that you became addicted to drugs. Let's look into that. Let's figure out some programs for that.

When they go to jail, they don't get any help for the drug addiction, so they come out and they go right back. It's a revolving door. Give them some help.

KING: Judge Brown, you're a tough guy, we know that. Are you tough on the drug offender?

BROWN: Well, let's put it this way. Relative to alternate sentencing, that's how I got discovered, was my alternative sentencing that came to national attention. See, what you're running into is 75 percent to 80 percent of the defendants in my court have a common background. The mothers were between 11 and 16 when they had them. They dropped out of school somewhere between the eighth and ninth or 10th grade, when they were 17 or 18 years of age and they've never worked 40 hours a week. And what happens is jail becomes a good repository for them, where a lot of people can make enormous sums of money selling essential supervision, services and housing for them. It's a multibillion-dollar growth industry. And they've simply been taken out of the labor market, so you don't count them in the unemployment roll. And we have to do something about bringing them back into line so they become productive citizens, if you can do that, and if not, then you need to put them away and warehouse them if they've simply become sociopaths that are unable to conform their conduct to what is expected of men and women

KING: We'll going to take a break. We'll get Judge Mathis' thought on that. We'll include your phone calls. We'll reintroduce our panel as well. It's all ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.

Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE JOE BROWN")

BROWN: You want to be a man, you better get it right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sure ain't no woman.

BROWN: Well, what do you call yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm a man. I'm a young man.

BROWN: You ain't no young man. You ain't doing what a man's supposed to do. You should have protected this woman. You shouldn't have stolen from this woman. You can't look at your mama. She sitting up there about as mad at you as I am, because you've been giving her a good, hard time, haven't you? She's trying to tell you something, been sacrificing her life for you, and what are you doing? Trying to throw it away, acting like you don't know what a man is all about.

She's saying "amen." Listen to her!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We're going to begin to include your phone calls on any legal matter.

Let's reintroduce our panel on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. They are, in New York, Judge Jerry Sheindlin, the host of "The People's Court," syndicated by Warner Brothers.

In New York, Judge Mills Lane, host of "Judge Mills Lane," syndicated by Paramount, picked up for a third year, recently retired as a boxing referee and former district court judge,Nevada.

In Memphis, Judge Joe Brown is host of "Judge Joe Brown." He is stepping down shortly as judge in the Memphis criminal court system, and he'll concentrate on the TV show and many other endeavors.

In Chicago is Judge Greg Mathis, the host of his own show syndicated by Warner Brothers as well -- which also, by the way, owns this network. And that debuted in September of this past year.

And Mablean Ephriam -- she is the new host of the new version of "Divorce Court," syndicated by 20th Century Television. She's an arbitrator and not a judge.

And then -- we'll pick up on what we asked the others of Greg Mathis, and then go to phone calls.

Judge Mathis, your thoughts on the non-violent criminal and our treatment of them.

MATHIS: Yes, what we should keep in mind, Larry, is that 80 percent of all prisoners are in jail because of a drug-related crime -- either committed a crime to get drugs, under the influence of drugs, or they were selling drugs. Ninety-two percent on them do not have a high-school diploma. There's a correlation there.

We can turn those folks around and make them productive citizens and educate them, and it will be more cost-efficient, not only socially responsible, because we pay $50,000 a year to house them in prisons when it only costs $10,000 a year to pay for a college education, $5,000 a year for a skilled trade. I think it's more cost- efficient and more socially responsible to try to rehabilitate those who are convicted of nonviolent drug-related crimes.

KING: Do you think, Judge Sheindlin, that the public understands that, or are you victims of what some political figures call weak- minded judges who let people go?

SHEINDLIN: Well, listen, the prison system cannot be overcrowded, and then say that there are weak-minded judges that let people go. I mean, one doesn't follow the other.

We on the bench always try to do the right thing, those of us that are committed to the profession that we adopted -- that is, being a judge. We try our best to divert the person from the criminal justice system, from jail. We have rehabilitation programs. What do you do with the offender that refuses to be rehabilitated? What do you do with that person?

KING: Let's take a call.

Grapevine, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Larry, thank you for taking my call. My question for the panel is, with the gluttony of court shows and lawyer ads on TV, does this make our society more prone to settling disputes by calling our lawyer and taking everything to court?

KING: Yes, do we go to court too much, Judge -- well, I'll start with Judge Brown. Do we go to court too much? Are we a litigious society?

BROWN: Sometimes we very much are. A lot of things we ought to shrug our shoulders and go about our business and carry on our lives and forget about. By the way, Judge Sheindlin's wife and I both work for Paramount too, that's Judge Judy. And we like the competition.

KING: OK.

BROWN: We're at the top of the heap, so -- there aren't too many judge shows, but what you're picking up on is America's favorite pastime, historically, was sitting in a courthouse and watching the trials that went on, and watching the oratory of the lawyers and judges.

KING: We love it. But does it mean, do you think, Mablean, that we're more inclined to say, "Sue them -- let's get in that courtroom"?

EPHRIAM: I don't think television is causing us to say "sue them" any faster than anything else. I think it's just the nature of the beast. We're more inclined to say sue because people are less compassionate toward each other. We don't care about anything. We don't talk to our neighbors. We're not friends with each other. We don't try to find alternative solutions. We just want to go in and get something.

I mean, you and the neighbor have a dispute, it used to be you go over to your neighbor's house and you say, this is a dispute. You sit down and you talk about it. Now you go to court and you file the lawsuit. I think it is just a sign of the times.

KING: Do you agree, Judge Lane.

LANE: Yes, we are too litigious. I don't think necessarily the TV shows are bringing it about. As a matter of fact, I would like to think that our show, for example, the one that we do, "Judge Mills Lane," is I try to tell people why we shouldn't sue, why we are too litigious. We sue for too many things. Every unfortunate event does not give rise to lawsuit. A while back on the show I told the people, I said, "This is not `justiciable.' This is not a matter for a court. Get it settled some other kind of way."

KING: Yes.

New Hartford, Connecticut, hello.

CALLER: I would like to know why the judges are so disrespectful to the people that they have in front of them. They have the gavel, all they have to do is use it.

KING: OK, why -- let's -- all of you, apparently, appear that way. Let's go around.

Judge Lane, are you -- why are you tough on -- why did you get so rough on that guy who cursed?

LANE: Well, I think every now and again, some people deserve to get their butts chewed. Every now and again some people deserve a pat on the back. What I try and do is compliment folk who deserve a compliment, and chew folks out who deserve to be chewed out. I don't think everybody deserves to be chewed out, but I know if somebody swears on television, and uses a word that you wouldn't use in front of your family -- or, as a matter of fact, you probably shouldn't use, period, although most people probably do -- I mean, hey, if you're going to do that, then you ought to get your tail chewed a bit. So if that's -- goes with the territory.

KING: Judge Brown, in the clip we saw of you, you were pretty rough.

BROWN: Well, I started off in a respectful fashion. I always do that. I give you a chance to be heard, and I am fair and impartial. However there's this old tradition called allocution of a judge, when he denounces someone who is a culprit, and he advises that person of their wrongdoing and what a proper opinion of that individual ought to be. He does that in the collective person of we from the bench.

Now, I try to be nice. Sometimes they just won't let me. But that's actually what goes on in a real, live courtroom...

KING: I got you.

BROWN: ... and if you sat around one, you would see that.

KING: Judge Mathis, you try to be nice?

MATHIS: Well, I don't determine what demeanor I am going to have. I simply give it to them as I think they have it coming. If they are acting disrespectful and unruly, then they must be checked. And that's any type of scolding that might be necessary and deserving, I think that they should get it.

KING: Mablean, we saw you get -- the lady said didn't want half the property, clear it out of the room.

EPHRIAM: I'm not disrespectful, I respond to the environment. If necessary, I will get tough. And I do that in the courtroom, I do that at home, I do that with my children. I say, you know, I will respond to your conduct. If you want me to be nice, then you be nice.

KING: But isn't there such a thing as judicial temperament, that the judge must remain calm?

EPHRIAM: The judge -- no, there's...

KING: No?

EPHRIAM: ... no such thing as the judge must remain calm. The judge must remain judicious. You must not allow your temperament or something that has occurred in front of you to cloud your decision.

KING: Of course, if you don't like a lawyer, you don't rule against him just because you don't...

EPHRIAM: But it doesn't mean that I have to stay calm and I can never raise my voice. I am human.

KING: You don't rule against a lawyer just because you don't like his personality?

EPHRIAM: Right, and I don't rule against the litigants just because they may upset me or make me angry.

KING: You get angry too, don't you, Judge Sheindlin?

EPHRIAM: But I can get angry.

SHEINDLIN: I have been known to sometimes.

KING: And your wife gets really angry?

SHEINDLIN: Yes.

KING: Is that poor -- the question was, is that poor judicial temperament for a judge to get angry?

SHEINDLIN: A judge should try to maintain a certain judicial temperament, certainly. It doesn't mean that we have to be machines, and that we can't react to some of the things that occur in front of us. We are a representative of the community, and if someone before us deserves to be criticized, insulted, put in his place because of the conduct that either has come in the courtroom or because of the conduct that they engaged in with other litigants, I think it's a responsibility to say so.

KING: We'll be back with more, and more of your calls after this. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE JERRY SHEINDLIN")

SHEINDLIN: And you're Seth?

SETH: Yes.

SHEINDLIN: What?

SETH: Yes. SHEINDLIN: What's yes? Where do you think you are, in a schoolyard? Is that the way you address a judge, yes, huh? How about, yes, judge? You ever hear of that? Because if you don't want to come back into a courtroom again, you had better learn how to speak.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Mablean, before we take another call, the famous late attorney who was a friend of mine, Lewis Meisner (ph), said of all the court cases, even victims of murder siting in a front row, nothing's worse than a contested divorce.

EPHRIAM: I agree.

KING: Nothing's more hateful.

EPHRIAM: Nothing is worse.

KING: And often nothing's tougher on a judge than custody.

EPHRIAM: I agree. My line is that in "Divorce Court" you have people who are great citizens at their worst, and in criminal court, you have the worst citizens at their best.

KING: You can't like it.

EPHRIAM: So divorce court is cannonball.

KING: You like it?

EPHRIAM: I enjoy it, because it's never a dull moment. You never know what people are going to say. And when you think you've heard it all, you always hear something different. So I enjoy it.

KING: Does your court ever get serious enough that where you award custody of a child and they agree before going in that on television they would let the judge award this?

EPHRIAM: So far we haven't had a case where the custody was the main issue, but custody has been a peripheral issue in a number of my cases and I have awarded custody.

KING: You have?

EPHRIAM: And they have agreed to it, yes.

KING: Clinton, Maryland, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hi. My question is for Mablean concerning child support. Why is it that when men go in front of a judge, they're being the ones that are treated so harshly, and then women, when their kids get at least 16 or 17 years old, they won't bring the cases back into court, review the cases, and have the woman go out and work a job if she's sitting home and not helping to support the kid? Why are they so hard on men and won't allow that woman to go out and get a job and help support the child? KING: A woman speaking up for men.

EPHRIAM: Well, I don't believe that you find that in my court, because I am quite the opposite. On child support, I often tell women that they have to go out and get a job. But we have to deal with the reality of the issue as it is before us.

Usually, most women that come in and asking for child support are not employed and the man is employed. So we have to order child support for the noncustodial parent. Rarely is the man the custodial parent. If he were the custodial parent, he could get child support.

KING: He can, right. Yes.

EPHRIAM: And so -- and that's the way it goes.

KING: Judge Mathis, what's your toughest type of case?

MATHIS: I'd say cases dealing with relatives, particularly mother-and-child cases where the child is suing the mother or the mother is suing the child. That's so disheartening to see...

KING: Boy.

MATHIS: ... the immediate family members in court fighting each other passionately over small sums of money. That's very disheartening to me.

KING: Judge Brown, what's your toughest type, hardest for you, thing you dislike the most?

BROWN: Generally when the parties just simply hate each other and the case before you is simply a device to come to grips with each other. And that can cover a whole lot of cases.

It's -- people need to understand that they need to start getting over some hard feelings they have and start trying to cooperate and not be so thin-skinned and be a little bit more personally resourceful.

KING: Judge Lane, what do you like the least?

LANE: Well, I -- all cases to me have interest. Every case is important to somebody, the people litigating that case. But the most difficult case for me is the case where one person says a, the other person says b, and you just don't know for certain who is not telling you the truth.

Any judge that can tell you that he or she knows every time somebody is lying to you, they're lying to you. You don't.

But what you do is ask a series of questions to try and discern what the facts are and try to come to some truth if you will.

But those types of cases, where the questions of fact are not easily discernible, are the most difficult for me. KING: And for Judge Sheindlin, what are your toughest?

SHEINDLIN: Well, I've had several of them, and the toughest case that I found was when young people had a dispute with each other. One kid stole a bicycle, another kid threw a hat out the window, another boy broke somebody's glasses, and the youngsters came to a reasonable solution which was unraveled because the parents couldn't see what the right thing to do was.

Those cases I find to be extraordinarily difficult and disappointing.

KING: We'll be back with more of Sheindlin, Lane, Brown, Mathis and Ephriam on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Regis Philbin tomorrow night. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "DIVORCE COURT")

EPHRIAM: Two days after you married the man you stood at the altar and said you loved, you picked up a barbecue grill...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And threw it at the car.

EPHRIAM: ... top and threw at him. And he wasn't anywhere near the car?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. He was in the car.

EPHRIAM: Who do you think you're talking to? A zip-dang fool?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't say that.

EPHRIAM: Because you really didn't want to hit him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was hitting the car.

EPHRIAM: OK. See if my 5-year-old granddaughter will believe it. I don't.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back. Fayetteville, North Carolina, hello.

CALLER: Hello. How you guys doing?

KING: Hi.

CALLER: My question is for judges Ephriam, Mathis and Brown.

KING: Yes.

CALLER: And what I would like to know is by them being African- American judges and by black people making up 13 percent of the population and maybe 80 percent of the prison system, do they feel they have a responsibility to go back to the community -- communities and either revamp some of the programs or start up new programs for the youth? And do they have anything going on besides just judging?

KING: Excellent question. Let's start with Judge Brown.

BROWN: Well, as an enlightened individual with some leadership capacity, it's your obligation to go back and lead. You have got to spread the word and you've got to get your inner-city communities on top of the job that they have, which is to do what men and women are supposed to do about making where they live a better place, safer, more sound place, economically viable place with some sense of order and morality, and inspire people to do that.

And every day of my life I'm always out there trying to do it from morning until midnight on the streets around and about where I happen to be wherever I may be.

KING: Is it tougher, Judge Mathis, to, frankly, sentence a black person?

MATHIS: Well, no, it's not tough if they've committed a violent crime in particular, because typically they've committed a violent crime against another black person.

KING: How about a nonviolent crime?

MATHIS: Well, it is a little tough. But let me tell the caller that, first of all, it's not 80 percent black men making up the prison population. It's 62 percent of the black men make up the prison population who only make up 6 percent of the general population.

And what I have done, going back 15 years, when I first graduated from college, I founded a youth agency to help young adults -- it's called Young Adults Asserting Themselves -- to avoid the prison system by giving them skilled trades and other alternatives to life. We're in our 15th year of existence, and we train and provide services to over 500 young adults per year. Take them when they come out of prison and try to catch them before they go to prison. And I speak throughout the country trying to do the same thing.

KING: Mablean, is it tougher?

EPHRIAM: No, it's not tougher, but for me I don't think my role as a judge, I think my role as a human being says that I should give back and that I have a responsibility to help not only my community, but all communities become better persons, and I've been doing that since my childhood and I've been doing...

KING: But as a prosecutor, was it tougher to prosecute black people? When you're a minority, is there a tendency to root for -- I would understand that.

EPHRIAM: Oh no, it wasn't tougher for me to prosecute a black person. As a minority, it was tougher for me to prosecute a black person when I realized that the only reason this black person was stopped was because of the racial profiling or because the cop had done something wrong, and I was saying to the officer, that was an illegal stop, that was an illegal search, that was an illegal seizure, and my supervisors were not upholding me in that, and we got off into conflict. When I saw over and over and over again, there were black males being stopped for a rear taillight out, and I never saw a white male stopped for a rear broken taillight, that's what was difficult for me.

KING: But to prosecute someone who did what they did and not profile didn't bother you. It didn't bother you at all.

EPHRIAM: It didn't bother me at all.

KING: Back with our remaining moments and closing comments from each of our panelists after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE MATHIS")

MATHIS: Man, do you think I'm a fool?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No I don't.

KING: No I'm not. I am an ex-street guy for real. You should stay in school, do the right thing, and work hard and compete, and you'll win, all right? That's what I did. I was out there on those streets until I made the right choice, got my GED, went back to school, went to college, went to law school, compete, worked hard, and I won.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Judge Sheindlin, does being a judge and seeing humanity as you see it increase your faith in the human soul or decrease it?

SHEINDLIN: No, it increases my faith in the human soul. I think that, basically, people are good. I think occasionally they just exercise bad judgment, and we deal with it.

KING: Judge Lane, same question.

LANE: Well, I think unfortunately, I don't agree completely with Judge Sheindlin. I think most folks are good folks. I think, unfortunately, some people are just bad, they're just born bad, and I don't know why. Some people, you know, are born with a deformed leg maybe, and some people are born with a deformed consciences. They just don't have any conscience. And if you don't believe that, read the book called "The Bad Seed," where somebody was just bad.

But I do believe this -- I believe that fundamentally, society is headed in the right direction or wants to head in the right direction, and I think judges have an obligation to try to help it head there. So fundamentally, I don't believe people are all bad, but I believe there are some people that are true sociopaths, antisocial personality, and Joe Brown knows what they are. You read about it in the book, and you see them, and those types of folk, I just don't know what to do with them.

KING: Judge Brown, has your faith in humanity based on all you see increase, or decrease or neither?

BROWN: Well, it's about the same. I do have faith in humanity. And because humanity is worthy of faith that's why they watch these shows. They like to see the aberrations of appropriate conduct so that they can guide what they do to be more appropriate. They like the idea that justice is dealt out to those who deserve to be dealt with, so that they can be reassured that in fact society works in an orderly and just fashion.

KING: Judge Mathis?

MATHIS: Well first of all, I don't place my faith in humanity at all. I place my faith in God. And as much, being a man led by my spirituality, I believe that we all are born into a very sinful world, and it's only getting worse, and much of what we see in the immorality and the downswing in the morals of humanity as a result of that. And as such, I would have to say that things are getting worse, Larry, and we need to try and turn toward God and try to redeem ourselves, because thank God for grace and mercy.

KING: You're not saying, Judge Mathis that God has disappointed you?

MATHIS: No not at all. God has not disappointed me at all. I have my faith in God, that indeed the things that he has taught us, if you read the Koran, the bible or the Torah -- the three major religions -- it's all coming to fruition. And so from a spiritual point, in terms of looking at society, I would suggest that society is doing just what the prophets told us would happen in this day and age.

KING: And, Mablean, when you couples in distress, does this give you faith more in marriage? Because you've seen marriage at its worst.

EPHRIAM: I have not lost my faith in marriage because of couples in distress, because couples in distress are just human beings.

And I again come from Greg Mathis' point of view, the Biblical premise that all have sinned and come short. We're all human beings. We all have weaknesses. We all have frailties, but yet we're still great people and the grace and mercy helps us all, so no, I believe in marriage as an institution, it's just individuals are not acting out with their vows on what marriage is all about, but I haven't lost faith in marriage at all.

KING: Do you think because of things like divorce...

MATHIS: Anybody want to marry me?

KING: You're not married?

MATHIS: No.

KING: OK, because of divorce court and things like it, do you think people think divorce is too easy?

MATHIS: No, not because of divorce court. People already know that divorce is easy, because most of the states have no-fault divorce, and you don't have to prove the adultery, you don't have to prove any type of wrongdoing on the part of...

KING: So you think vows mean less?

MATHIS: I think vows mean less these days, and I think people are marrying and intermarrying so fast, and how do you stand up there and say I promise to love and cherish until death do us part, and you say that eight times? Obviously you don't believe it.

KING: Thank you, my dear.

MATHIS: Thank you for having me.

KING: Our guests have been Mablean Ephriam, and Judge Greg Mathis, Judge Joe Brown, Judge Mills Lane, and Judge Jerry Sheindlin. We thank them all. Tomorrow night, Regis Philbin.

Stay tuned for CNN NEWSSTAND. A profile of the Bushes. That's next.

See you tomorrow with Regis. Good-night.

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