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Larry King Live
Judge Judy Discusses How to 'Keep It Simple'Aired July 11, 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, TV's No. 1 judge lays down the law on family squabbles. Judge Judy Sheindlin is here for the hour, and she'll take your calls, and she's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
She hosts the No. 1 show in television syndication; she's the star of "Judge Judy," and she's the author, bestselling author of a new book called "Keep It Simple, Stupid: You Are Smarter Than You Look." There you see the cover. And if you go to any bookstore, you will see in the window or featured as you walk in. It's expected to be a major bestseller. It's Judge Judy on marriage, relationships and life.
Before we get to that, though, there is a case getting a lot of attention. I wanted your thoughts on it. In Massachusetts, one father accused of killing another father over a fight about hockey. Now they released the guy on bail saying that they were circumstances that might have deal with just out of temper, might be manslaughter kind of -- what do you make of parents fighting over a hockey game?
JUDGE JUDY SHEINDLIN, AUTHOR, "KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID": Do you remember, Larry, a couple of years ago they were really talking about sportsmanship and how parents teach their children poor sportsmanship by how they react at games.
KING: The little league thing.
SHEINDLIN: The little league. It was getting a lot of press. And then of course there was that terrible tragedy of a child being killed because one kid got to be a cheerleader and the other one didn't make the team, do you remember that?
SHEINDLIN: I mean, parents are nuts. They're nuts. I don't understand the priorities. What do I make of the case? I think it's just a sad commentary, and I think it has a lot to do with testosterone, which we could talk about for two hours.
KING: What do you think happens to a parent who might be normal at work and everything is fine, goes berserk over an athletic event involving his child?
SHEINDLIN: I don't know, Larry. I mean, I don't know.
KING: You didn't study it?
SHEINDLIN: It's the same kind of reaction I think that people have when they're on -- driving on a freeway and somebody cuts them off, and...
SHEINDLIN: Rage. My reaction would be, I don't look for trouble. I'm going to back off. Let the nut get as far as away from me as possible. The person that's usually doing driving in my family says he's not going to get away with that, right? And up you go, and they trouble. I've tried cases with road rage. I mean, I don't understand it. Otherwise normal, intelligent people, the idea that somebody gets one car ahead of them when waiting to get off an exit ramp is grounds for getting out and assaulting somebody? It's the same kind of symptom.
KING: What does it teach kid in the car or the kid in the ballfield?
SHEINDLIN: Absolutely right. Absolutely. It teaches absolutely nothing.
KING: Another strange thing happened to you today. You complain you're not in green room on the "Today" show, and Al Gore has got the green room and he brings you out muffins?
SHEINDLIN: On his knees. On his knees. That was adorable.
KING: Only Judge Judy could pull this off, right? They wouldn't let you into the green room.
SHEINDLIN: When I got there -- and I've done the "Today" show before, and they were always lovely. And they have a green room that's full of crue detae (ph) and muffins. I get there at 7:30 in the morning, 20 after 7:00. I'm hungry. There is no food in my house, except dog food, as most people know. And they said to me, the green room is closed. And I said -- a lot of unfamiliar faces there, suits looking people, you know people that...
KING: The little badges and the...
SHEINDLIN: Well, not only badges, but I knew they were Secret Service. You could you tell Secret Service. They're not so secret. They said the vice president is here. Well, my mind started to work, because doing these little book things that I do can sometimes be routine, fun, but not here, not here, but sometimes be routine. My mind starts to work, and I sat down with Matt Lauer, who is a charming guy.
KING: A nice guy.
SHEINDLIN: And he said he's all ready for the interview, and I said to him, I have a bone to pick with you first. He said, do you want to give me a clue what it is before camera goes on? And I said no, I'll tell you when it is on. So when the camera started to roll and I told him that I got locked out of the green room, my stomach is rumbling, I was hungry, and I thought I was very unceremoniously stripped of my green room rights by Secret Service. We did the interview, and then I saw his eyes widen, and I felt a presence at my back. And I turned around, and there was the vice president holding a large tray of muffins, and then to get down on his knees and asked for forgiveness.
KING: One of life's little moments.
SHEINDLIN: It was wonderful.
KING: What do you mean by a statement as we've heard for years, keep it simple, stupid? Who are you talking to?
SHEINDLIN: Everybody. You know, those of us who have been married and divorced. You've been there. I've been there. You've had children from previous relationships, previous marriages. I had stepchildren. I've had biological children. You go through the visitation all that, all that stuff, then you plan a wedding perhaps, of one of your children. You have to remain focused on what the issue is that you want to accomplish. Let's take a simple thing planning a wedding, the most important thing to me should be the bride and groom supposed to have a wonderful memorable day, period. It's not.
KING: It's not for parents.
SHEINDLIN: It is not. Who gets to sit where, who gets to walk down the aisle with whom, whose name on wedding invitation because how is paying most of the bill -- all of those things, negatively impact on the success of the day. And believe me, women remember bad things, Larry, you know that. You've been married a couple times, you've had relationships. Most women can remember the bad things that you said to them 30 years ago. They'll go right out of your head, perhaps, but women have a special store back here, and they can regurgitate it at the appropriate time, so that when you have a bad experience at your wedding, if your mother-in-law ticked you off at your wedding, you will remember that forever.
KING: But why Judge Judy in a book on love and marriage?
SHEINDLIN: It's not really on love and marriage. What it really says is...
KING: An institute you can't disparage.
SHEINDLIN: That's true. In family court, I saw families being torn apart, this new nuclear family. We had families 40, 50 years ago, where you lived with mother and father in the same neighborhood until you were 20 or 21 and got married. You married someone of your own religion and you stayed married to them. You didn't live with them first. You didn't do a test run first. And then you had children, gave them grandchildren, and then everybody died. Today that doesn't happen anymore. Today you have stepmothers, and stepfathers, and stepsisters, and stepbrothers, and half brothers and half sifters.
KING: Is this worse or different?
SHEINDLIN: It's different, and it can be much more complicated and it is...
KING; Or much better in some cases.
SHEINDLIN: In some cases it can be very enriching. But the problem is, if you lose focus on what the important issue is -- and take a simple thing like visitation, and I talk about it a little bit in the book. When I was sitting in the family court, I would -- lawyers would present to me visitation agreements that they would work out, you know lawyers working by the hour, that were six and seven pages long, and I've described some of them in the book in I think a humorous way. You know, in every alternate Thanksgiving if he's with his father and mother and if he's with a female present that can bathe the child, the child can be with him. You need a road map to negotiate that kind of an agreement. So instead of keeping it simple, what these two people have done, who don't want to live together anymore, is they have bound themselves to an agreement that is going to keep them in contention for the next 18 years.
KING: Let me get a break and come back with Judge Judy. We'll be taking your calls of course. The I-man, Imus, tomorrow night.
And as we go to break, here is what happened this morning to Judge Judy and the veep -- watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "TODAY")
SHEINDLIN: I arrived here this morning hungry, because, you know, usually you have that lovely spread in the green room where all the talent and the guests stay.
MATT LAUER, HOST: Right.
SHEINDLIN: And I arrived this morning, and somebody said, we have to take you right into hair and makeup. I said, my hair and makeup is done. They said, well, you can't go in the green room. I said, that's where the food is. They said the vice president has taken over the green room.
SHEINDLIN: So I mean, I've been a guest here many times, and you've had some wonderful people, and nobody's ever taken over the green room before.
LAUER: Well, but see, it's the vice president, and you're somewhat of a security risk.
SHEINDLIN: Not anymore. I was teetering before. Now it's clear.
LAUER: We'll get you a muffin. How about that?
SHEINDLIN: I think the vice president ought to bet me a muffin. He could get me a dozen muffins if he wants that vote.
LAUER: Good luck.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Judge, would you like a muffin here?
GORE: How are you doing? I heard that you were hungry in the green room there.
LAUER: Now he's proposing to you.
SHEINDLIN: This I like.
GORE: Yes, here we go.
SHEINDLIN: This I like a lot. Thank you very much. You're almost forgiven.
LAUER: But does he have your vote? That's the question.
SHEINDLIN: We're going to talk about that right now.
GORE: Take a muffin.
SHEINDLIN: Oh, I am. Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: By the way, that great line, "institute you can't disparage," is written by my late friend Sammy Cahn from the wonderful song "Love and Marriage." "Ask the local gentry, and they'll say it's elementary." "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
Why do -- you mentioned the old days. Why do people who are unhappy stay together?
SHEINDLIN: I don't think...
KING: And now they don't.
SHEINDLIN: Now they don't.
KING: And is that smarter now?
SHEINDLIN: Oh, I think that families that are not functioning well who stay together for the sake of children, for the sake of family, once they've made every effort to try to make it work, I think that it's a big mistake. I don't think children flourish in atmosphere of hostility. And I saw that too often. I mean, I even saw that in my own situation, the first time that I was married. I really believed that children are better off not seeing marriage that doesn't work. I think that they're better off seeing a relationship that does work.
KING: Why is marriage hard? Because they're two strangers, as someone once said?
SHEINDLIN: People are basically selfish. Most people are basically selfish. I mean, we are just animals, I think -- and this isn't part of my expertise, so it's an interesting question, so I'm just talking off top of my head -- and we all want to be gratified, ourselves, and then we are asked to share. Sharing is not a very -- sharing is not a natural thing to do, you know. If you're hungry and somebody puts down a hamburger, and somebody says, "Can I have half of that?" You say, "Get your own hamburger. Leave mine alone."
KING: OK. So why shouldn't people be single and occasionally hug someone?
SHEINDLIN: Why shouldn't...
KING: Solves that problem. You could you selfish -- you could have your cake and have it, too.
SHEINDLIN: Well, because what we've done is we've said it's better if you can in a society raise children, have families, procreate in this scenario where you have a female image and a male image. I mean, this is what we say is the ideal.
KING: Since it's complicated by its nature of selfish and animal, how do you keep it simple?
SHEINDLIN: OK. You try to -- as I said, I think if you stay focused, let's talk about this -- let's talk about the visitation. John has one biological child with Mary, but he also was a stepfather to her child for five years.
KING: Very typical.
SHEINDLIN: Very typical. They separate. He says, "This was my child for five years, I really raised him, he doesn't see other father, I want to see both children." Mary says, "You only have right to see one. I hate you."
KING: Mary is stupid there.
SHEINDLIN: Mary is stupid. The law sides with Mary. The law says nonparenting -- no say with regard to visitation with their stepchildren. So what I say in the book and what I've always said is, repeat this mantra: It's not about you. It's not about you. It's about the children. So when you do have to separate, when you've tried everything and it's just not working are you and you say, this marriage has to terminate, the most important thing that you have to do is to protect your children from the animus, not ask to be spies for you when they go and visit, not ask them to ask for money, all the things that people do so routinely. So you have to sit down, and you have to take deep breath and say, "It's not about me." KING: Isn't one of the problems, though, it is about them?
SHEINDLIN: It is, but they are being selfish, right?
KING: But that's the human nature, you say.
SHEINDLIN: It's the human nature, but people should be smart enough. And maybe if they read it enough and if they hear it enough, they'll understand that when their children get older, they will resent them bitterly, they'll resent you. If you're the custodial parent of a child, and you say, listen, I want you go ask daddy for money when you see him, tell him you're not going to camp this summer unless he gives you the $300 for the clothes, the orthodontist says that you can't have your braces put on or taken off until he gets paid, and that child remembers that visitation for that reason. When that child gets older, it's you as the custodial parent that the child is going to resent.
KING: You can use this book then.
SHEINDLIN: Oh, yes.
KING: Not just fun reading.
SHEINDLIN: Oh, no no, no.
KING: We'll be right back with Judge Judy. The book is "Keep It Simple, Stupid: You Are Smarter Than You Look," and it's everywhere.
This LARRY KING LIVE. Jack Lemmon pays tribute to the late Walter Matthau Thursday night on this program. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE JUDY")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know I'm a good man, and...
SHEINDLIN: You're not a good man, sir. A good man doesn't say to a woman, who apparently is more interested in him than he is in her, I'm going to take money from you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never said that your honor.
SHEINDLIN: No, but you did it. You didn't say it, you did it. You took $5,000 from her.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She loaned me $5,000.
SHEINDLIN: Perfect! Oh, good, there we go. Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $5,000.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, your honor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Parties are excused. You may step out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The road to better relationships with Judge Judy. We'll be going to your calls in a while as well.
She just told me something during the break which I've never heard anyone say -- "I have the answer to something." She has the answer to prenups. Donald Trump is now raising the volume -- go.
SHEINDLIN: One of the things that I talk about in this little book is the emotional impact on asking a mate to sign prenuptial agreements, whether you are 30 -- and a lot of people these days have money when they're 30, when they're 28, when they're 25, when they're 50 and older. But there is an emotional problem with getting somebody to say, I love you, I love you, I want to be with you forever, but come over here and sign on this line here, so just in case it doesn't work out, we'll know what's mine, we'll know what's yours.
Most of the problems that we have are about what property is separate property and what property is joint property. Why don't all the states require that on your marriage license, instead of just writing down name and address -- and it's routine, everybody has to do it, so that it's not if you're rich, you do it, if you're poor, you don't have to do it -- you must list all of your personal property that you're bringing into the marriage, because that's -- you must list. No, it's for your protection. It has nothing to do with the state. The state says, listen, we're spending a fortune of the money on courts to litigate these issues in divorce proceedings, what was their before the marriage, what was its value before the marriage, did it actually come in the day you got married, or two days after, or a month later?
We're spending taxpayer dollars on something that could be so simplistically resolved, at least a piece of it could be, if we said to you, you must list all that property that you would one day, in the event that you are one of the 50 percent of couples that divorce, want to say this is not marital property, you've you listed it. You whip it out.
KING: So it's not a prenup, you have to do it.
SHEINDLIN: You have to do it.
KING: It's a Wasserman Test.
SHEINDLIN: Right, it's like a Wasserman Test that you don't have to take anymore. But it would take -- it will remove the stigma of that part of the prenup, the stigma.
KING: Have you ever presented this to anyone?
SHEINDLIN: I just did.
KING: No, I mean like to a state or something, as a concept.
SHEINDLIN: No, I just did. You're a national television program. I reach more people here. KING: Do you think it's workable?
SHEINDLIN: I don't see why not. They ask your name, and your address and your Social Security number. And there is a legitimate state interest in doing it, because the state is expending so much money, taxpayer money, in trying cases.
KING: You right that, "People create their own unhappiness. Keeping it simple is just a matter of eliminating all the excess baggage to enjoy a happier life." So you're saying, each individual is responsible for his happiness, not she's responsible for my happiness or I'm responsible for hers.
SHEINDLIN: Oh no. Oh no. You're responsible for your own. You could have the best mate, the best family, the best kids in the world, and you can walk around. You know the Yiddish "forbisina" (ph)? You know, like an unhappy miserable person? There are people like that, because they lament that -- so and so has house that's nicer than theirs, and Sadie has a nicer fur coat, and somebody has a nicer ring than they do. They're unhappy that their child only became a lawyer and somebody else's became a doctor, you know. So you create your own unhappiness.
We also when we marry, we try, most of us, say, I love him, I love him I love him, there are certain things I don't like, they'll change. That is a road map for disaster.
KING: People don't change?
SHEINDLIN: It's a road map if you expect or go into a marriage expecting someone to change.
KING: People can change, but on their own.
SHEINDLIN: Can people change? Depends upon how old they are, Larry. I really believe that there are certain basics things that, you know...
KING: What is the breakoff point? What age can you change?
SHEINDLIN: Give me a child until their 5 and their mine forever -- I think it's a little older than 5.
KING: What age, do you think?
SHEINDLIN: I think probably once you reach 30, you are pretty much set in what's important to you, whether you're an orderly person or a slob, whether you like to spend freely or whether you don't like to spend freely. whether you get a kick out of traveling or whether you prefer to stay at home in front of the television set on Saturday.
KING: Do opposites attract?
SHEINDLIN: I don't know.
KING: I mean, but they can work, people who are very... SHEINDLIN: They can complement each other. They can complement each other. I have kids who are married, and they are totally opposite, some of them to their mates -- one organized, one disorganized, must have a routine, a plan for a trip, and one says, oh, get on plane and go, whatever happens, happens. But it works, it's a nice blend, if it's workable for you.
KING: Our guest is Judge Judy. We'll be going to calls in a while. Her new book is "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
This is LARRY KING LIVE. Imus tomorrow night. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE JUDY")
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, ma'am.
SHEINDLIN: What do you mean "yes, ma'am," either you were awake an hour later...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm agreeing to what you were saying.
SHEINDLIN: ... and remember them giving you the keys an hour later, or you were asleep, and the next time your saw keys were in the morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I go my keys as soon as he came back in the door, and I was on a different...
SHEINDLIN: Just a minute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm going to New York, I'll see you.
SHEINDLIN: John, what you just felt was a what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: An earthquake.
SHEINDLIN: An earthquake, right? An earthquake is a sign, do you understand, that when you don't tell the truth the next one could be a real doozy.
SHEINDLIN: You got it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Should people live together without benefit of marriage?
SHEINDLIN: If they want to. But if they do...
KING: ... a moral position.
SHEINDLIN: Oh, no. Oh certainly not. I have kids who did. My husband wanted to live together, Jerry wanted to live with me. He said, why should we get married? It's just a piece of paper. I talk about this in the book. I was -- I grew up where if you love somebody, you get married, you live together. Doesn't work out, doesn't work out, but you don't just live together. So he tried the old "it's just a piece of paper" routine on me. And my response to him was, listen, darling, it's fine with me, go ask my father. And I knew he would never ask my father, and we were married shortly thereafter.
But what I do point out in this book is the problems that people have, which I see as a judge every day, is that they are not ready to make commitment to marry, but to try the trial waters, but they are ready to make a commitment to having joint bank accounts, a joint lease on a car for five years, an apartment lease for three years, sometimes even buying a piece of property. And then if it doesn't work out, there is no court for people who were just trying to live together. There is a court for people who are married, then they come to you and say, figure this out, I put in so much every month, she put in so much every month, we paid off the car this car, so much of the car, but I really put in more than she did. You can't figure that out.
KING: With your experience...
SHEINDLIN: Don't complicate yourself, keep it simple. Move in together, but don't do all those dumb things that are going to keep you always tied.
KING: Would you agree with Louis Nizer, brilliant lawyer, who said, "The worst cases he ever handled were contested divorces."
SHEINDLIN: Oh, sure. Larry, I've seen people sentenced to life in prison, and they accepted it because they were guilty. I have seen that same man brought before me, who was serving 100 years in prison, and the proceeding before me was to terminate his parental rights so that his children could be freed for adoption by the foster parents because he'd killed his wife, right? He went berserk -- nobody is going to take away my children. I mean, you're far away, mister, you're never going to see your kids. But it's an emotional, it's -- when you deal with people's emotions, it's not like dealing with money, it's not like dealing with property, and if someone has been hurt, someone has been rejected, someone has been tossed aside for someone younger or someone with more money, then those raw emotions take a great deal not only out of them, but out of their lawyers.
KING: Speaking of being away for life, this Monday night on this program Santi Khimes (ph) and her son, Kenneth Khimes, both sentenced to 100 years each for the murder of a woman whose body was never found will be the guests on this program.
We'll be back with your phone calls for Judge Judy, and we'll ask her about what happens when trust ends. Can you rebuild from that? -- after this. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE JUDY")
SHEINDLIN: Were you there?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was in there.
SHEINDLIN: pay careful attention to me! You asked her -- either you asked her to lie for you or she did that on her own.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. No.
SHEINDLIN: I'm not sure whether you asked her or whether she did it on her own.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your honor, I'm telling the truth.
SHEINDLIN: You are not telling the truth, madam. You are not telling the truth. Your witness did not tell the truth, at first. Now she told the truth. She said when he came in, she did not have the suits. And she said the plant is closed on Saturday, come in on Monday. That's not what you say in your answer.
You came -- take put your hand down! She came in on Monday. I don't care what your ticket says. He came back on Monday. She said to him -- she just told me she said to him, your suits still aren't here, wait until Friday.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She is too scared, so she...
SHEINDLIN: Oh, please! She is not too scared. She's scared of you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's nervous, very nervous.
SHEINDLIN: Judgment for the plaintiff in the amount of $1,418.
You're a bad businesswoman.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHEINDLIN: Judge Judy gives you a lot of helpful rules for family harmony in her book "Keep It Simple, Stupid," including tug-of- wars, love your kids more than you hate each other, the family bond is honor your parents the second time around, better be for better, or forget about it -- some pretty good ideas in here.
KING: Before we go to calls, what happens if one of the partners stray -- and adultery, or that kind of thing -- is a marriage repairable? Should it be repairable?
SHEINDLIN: I don't know why you are asking me this question.
KING: I'm asking you for...
... about the problems of life. I don't have that problem, thank God in heaven above, or whoever.
SHEINDLIN: I don't know. You know, I think that one of the things that you rely on in a marriage is trust.
KING: Right. Is -- when trust breaks, is it repairable?
SHEINDLIN: I don't know, Larry. I haven't been tested that way yet. I certainly hope that I'm never personally tested that way.
KING: But does it strain to keep it simple, stupid? It certainly complicates.
SHEINDLIN: Oh, you mean as far as the book is concerned, I thought that...
KING: Yes, I'm referring to your book.
SHEINDLIN: I know, but straying wasn't in my book, so that was...
SHEINDLIN: No, not really. Straying wasn't really in the book, so I think that when you talk about a marriage -- the cornerstone of a relationship is that you can rely on someone. And you can rely on them when they look you in the eye to say: I have honored our vows, that they mean it. And once you can't trust somebody -- I mean a white lie is a white lie about you -- you know, I spent too much money and the shoes cost $12 and they really cost $112 -- we are not talking about that. You know, slipping kids a little extra money, we are not talking about that.
We are talking about the basic trust. Can you deal with it? I think you can. I think that there -- I think we have the situation -- we had a national situation where people looked at it and really had to examine...
KING: Dang right.
SHEINDLIN: ... had to examine that themselves. So I think that some people can. And I think that some people just don't have that capacity to say: I can get over it, because it is gone.
KING: Washington, D.C., as we go to calls for Judge Judy.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. Hi, Judge Judy. I love your style. And I love your show.
SHEINDLIN: Thank you. CALLER: My question for you is I know that judges are supposed to suppress emotion during trials. And has there been any case in particular while you were a judge at the family court in New York that really has affected you emotionally?
SHEINDLIN: Yes. You want me to tell you why?
SHEINDLIN: It's a long case, but I'm going to tell you about it.
KING: Can you brief it?
SHEINDLIN: I'll brief it. There was a case of a Russian immigrant who came to the United States with her young son. And she pretended to be a Jew in order to get the assistance of the Jewish community in helping her relocate. And as a result of a series of bureaucratic blunders, her child was removed from her custody, she was placed in a mental institution, and the child was placed with Orthodox Jewish family, despite the fact she was not a Jewess.
And the case languished in the family court for 12 years. Ten years before it came to my desk, it had been through a series of judges. The boy was very little when he was taken away from her. And I had a long and protracted trial and went through all of these psychiatric records, and had experts. And ultimately, even though the boy loved his family, this foster family, I wanted him returned to his mother. And the city knew that they had made some serious blunders, as did the child care association that had falsified records, et cetera, and they could not appeal the case because of the record.
But it was the most heart-wrenching case that I ever did, when...
KING: Because you cared about the foster family.
SHEINDLIN: When I cared about foster family, and when that biological mother sat before me in the witness stand, and she was questioned, and I said to her: Can you tell me why after 10 years -- because she had been given a series of very terrible lawyers, who just sort of went along -- why you're struggling so hard? And she said to me: I want to have him while he's still a little boy. Because they said: We'll give him to her. Just let him be bar mitzvahed next year. And she said: I want to have him while he's still a little boy.
So I think about them often. I wonder where they are. I wonder -- I mean, it's 15 years ago.
KING: And your decision had to be -- what? -- best for boy or what's right by law?
SHEINDLIN: Well, it was a little bit of both. I really felt that it was travesty of justice, and so, at end of that trial, did everyone else.
KING: Would you have sent the Gonzalez kid home? SHEINDLIN: Oh, absolutely, but I would have done it a long time before he had -- he actually went home. I mean, I think that we even talked about that, you and I, at one point...
KING: When it first happened.
SHEINDLIN: ... when it first happened. And I was very open, at that point, even though the country hadn't gotten there yet. I said a child has a right to be raised by a biological parent. And a biological parent, absent a showing of abuse or neglect, has the absolute right in this country to raise their children. Otherwise...
KING: No matter where that...
SHEINDLIN: ... children would be taken from poor people, right, and given to rich people to raise, who wanted a child, because you say it's best for the child. How can you say that? It is outrageous.
KING: Cleveland, Tennessee, hello.
CALLER: Hey, Judge Judy. I really love the Judge Judy program.
SHEINDLIN: Thank you.
CALLER: But I want to know what you think about the grandparents having special rights.
KING: Yes, it was taken away in a historic case.
KING: Grandparents have no rights, right? Apparently, that's what it said, the court.
SHEINDLIN: I'm not sure whether grandparents have no rights. But some jurisdiction, they are going to tweak the law a little bit. You know, it always amazed me that a grandparent could, in New York state, could seek custody, custody of a child, if they could show that there was some special circumstances -- a stranger -- perfectly biological stranger could go into court and seek custody of a child if they met the test -- which was, there was some neglect abuse or special circumstances and it was in child's best interest.
I always believe it is in a child's best interest to have the widest possible community of love and affection. I love my grandparents.
KING: But if a mother wants to move from Miami to Seattle, and grandparents are in Miami, they don't have any say.
SHEINDLIN: They have absolutely no say. But the mother is supposed to be smart enough to say: My grand -- my children would benefit from being loved by their grandparents twice a year. So I'll make arrangements either to send them there or they could come to visit here. Let them know that they have grandparents. That community is something that we shouldn't lose in this country. And my problem is, I think that we are losing it.
KING: Logic, with Judge Judy. The book is "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
I'm Larry King, and we will be right back with more calls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE JUDY")
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I did not know, again, what the needs of those plants were.
SHEINDLIN: Then you shouldn't have taken the job. Then you shouldn't have taken the job.
If you didn't know what the needs of an animal are -- somebody asked you to take care of a ferret and you've never taken care of a ferret before, and you didn't ask for the specifics on how to take care of a ferret, then you have no business taking on that responsibility.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your honor, I am taking care of a ferret right now and I have not taken care of very many of them. And all I've been told to do is give it some cat food and some water. And that's all that I know about taking care of this ferret.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Judge Judy. Her new book is "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
Back to the calls. Bellflower, California, hello.
CALLER: Hello. My question was, Judge Judy, have you ever made a ruling that you later regretted?
SHEINDLIN: I probably have. I probably have. But you know, when you deal with as many cases as judges deal with in the family court and you start to second-guess yourself, you become immobile. So I decided very early on in my career that what I was going to do I was going to do the best that I possibly could, that I was going to be motivated by nothing other than trying to get all the information, make a judgment based on the truth, and move on.
I wasn't motivated by whether I was going to get reappointed if I made a decision that was unpopular or if an attorney was somebody that I knew or if a litigant was somebody, you know, who I had met in passing. Nothing else mattered. I mean, I, as they say, would send my own mother to jail if she was -- if she were guilty.
So I didn't look back. I really didn't retrace my steps.
KING: Are the toughest cases custody?
SHEINDLIN: Custody are tough cases, termination of parental rights.
One of the toughest cases was termination of parental rights based on mental illness, and that means that if you are found to be mentally ill or mentally retarded...
KING: I can lose my right as a parent.
SHEINDLIN: You can lose your right as a parent. And I always found that...
SHEINDLIN: ... so difficult, because especially in the case of the retarded, these people were not...
SHEINDLIN: ... they were not bad. They didn't mean any harm, and they were very loving. And the state unfortunately, what they did was they sort of led them down a primrose path and said, well, we're going to try to help take care of the child. You can come to visit. If you visit twice a week, you know, we'll give you lessons and stuff. And they were very diligent about going to visit their children, about doing everything. But at the end of a period of time, the state says: "We don't think you're ever going to be able to parent this child. We want put him for adoption." That's terrible.
KING: Daytona Beach, Florida, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Judge Judy.
CALLER: I'd like to ask the question, what characteristics do you consider the most impressive in a litigant and also what characteristics do you consider the least impressive in a litigant?
KING: What impresses you?
SHEINDLIN: I like somebody that looks me in the eye when I ask a question. We're talking about a nonjury trial now.
SHEINDLIN: I like somebody that knows enough to come to court dressed appropriately. And I like somebody that gets to the point, understanding that courts these days, whether it's a real court or even a television court, is a place where you get to the point. Nobody's interested in your story from the day of the flood. We want to find out what happened on July 10. So be direct.
KING: What turns you off?
SHEINDLIN: What turns me off are people that come to court looking like they're going to a beach party, you know, with...
KING: Television court included?
SHEINDLIN: Television court included. Oh yes. Television court included, and I've thrown them out, you know. And sometimes we get into fights with the producers. They say, well, you know, a little bit of low cut is good for, you know, is good for ratings. I say, put a sweatshirt on this broad because it may be good for ratings but it is clearly disrespectful, and even though this is a television court, it's my place. And in my place you don't wear a slit in your dress up to your, you know, up to your (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
So I think that it's important to be prepared. I think that it's important to look right and make a good impression, get to the point, and look the judge in the eye.
KING: When people say that the way television court works, and Judge Judy, undermines the dignity of a court, you're so rough, how do you respond?
SHEINDLIN: Well, there are only a couple people who have said that.
KING: But some print critics have said it.
SHEINDLIN: Some print critics have said it. They're wrong because a lot of people watch, and the people that watch -- I know people who watch my program, the demographics of those people are very young, senior citizens, from 8 to 80. And these are people who have, you know, bachelor's degrees, they have master's degrees.
KING: But they may not like you and watch. You know, Howard Cosell would finish at the top in both liked and not liked.
SHEINDLIN: Liked, categories, but they're watching and they're watching for a reason. I think they're watching because there is a frustration with the judicial system over the last 10 or 15 years, because people had an opportunity due to Court TV to be able to see it. And people like me have pointed out to them, listen, this is very expensive, it's coming out of your pocketbook. When some judge looks like they're napping up there and letting the whole thing get out of hand, that costs an extra hour or two. Maybe a $1,000 or $1,500 an hour: You're paying for it. You're the taxpayer. And then people see that these cases are progressing so slowly, and ultimately, the end result is not just.
They get frustrated. So here I come along and I say, listen, you can do it: not really serious cases. I don't profess to be able to try a very serious case in 15 minutes or a half hour or an hour.
KING: You're not doing a murder trial. SHEINDLIN: But I'm telling you that if what I can do in 15 minutes or 20 minutes, if it took another judge to do an hour and a half, and that hour and a half is being paid for in taxpayer money, because the judge sometimes says to himself or herself: Listen, I get paid the same amount -- and I know my colleagues are going to scream -- I'm getting the same money whether I do five cases today or 25 cases today. Why am I going to break a sweat? I'm going to get the same money.
So you can either be a judge who's an umpire, who says to the lawyers, "Listen, you take care of it, I'm going to sit back here; when you're finished with the jury, you wake me up," or you can take control.
KING: You are...
SHEINDLIN: I take control.
So what do I say to the critics? (a) If you're a print critic, you have -- you're entitled to your opinion. (b) The ratings of my program suggest that the public likes what they see.
If you are a professional critic, which means you are a lawyer or a Harvard professor, who has...
KING: Teaches law.
SHEINDLIN: ... who teaches law, who is a television wannabe and doesn't like what they see, I say to them sometimes I saw things that I didn't like. I didn't like people twisting the truth. I didn't like people trying to mask the truth and taking on a pompous attitude about the justice system, but that doesn't mean that I have the right to say, I think that you are unprofessional.
KING: We'll be right back with more of Judge Judy on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JUDGE JUDY")
SHEINDLIN: It seems to me that the negligence was on his part, not on her part.
SHERRIE HILL, PLAINTIFF: Right, but she was babysitting my daughter in her home. I feel if she was watching her better, she wouldn't have got cut. If she would have told her to go sit down or something, she wouldn't have got cut.
SHEINDLIN: Oh, stop being foolish. Stop being foolish. She was doing you a favor, she was babysitting for your daughter at your request. She had absolutely no way of knowing that he had left an open razor blade in his bag. You wouldn't, if he came into your house and said, let me inspect your bag...
HILL: No, I wouldn't but...
SHEINDLIN: No, you wouldn't. HILL: But I would pay for my nephew or my niece if they got cut in my home. I would help them.
SHEINDLIN: Well, that might be a nice thing to do, but if you come to court, you have to affix blame.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with a never dull Judge Judy. Pittsburgh, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: Hello, Judge Sheindlin.
CALLER: I watch, Judge Judy, every weekday and absolutely love the show.
SHEINDLIN: Thank you.
CALLER: I was wondering if you watch tapes of the show and ever think you may have been a little harsh, and have the producers ever disagreed with any of your verdicts?
KING: Good question.
SHEINDLIN: Very good question.
The first year I did not watch the program, because -- for six months, because I was afraid that if I watched it, that ego would take over, you know. Is this a good angle? Is this a -- you know?
And I said, I have to be as natural as I was when I was sitting in court, so I didn't watch for the first six months the program was on. Now that I've sort of taken control of that chair I will watch myself occasionally. And do I think that I'm too harsh sometimes? Sometimes I'll cover my face when I'm watching and say, "Did I really say that?" That's the truth.
KING: And has a producer ever said I disagree with that, your verdict there completely?
SHEINDLIN: No. Nobody has...
SHEINDLIN: They may have, they may have disagreed with it.
KING: But they don't tell you that.
We'll be back with our remaining moments with Judge Judy. We'll get another call in as well. Her book is "Keep It Simple, Stupid."
The "I" man, Imus, fell off a horse and returns to television on LARRY KING LIVE tomorrow night. Don't go away.
KING: Our guest is Judge Judy.
All right. A couple should obviously read this book kind of and discuss it, right? I mean, this is good coupling.
SHEINDLIN: A couple can read -- a couple should read it, but everybody will find something in this book, because we start with cradle to grave. We talk -- the last part of the book talks about a man who was married 35 or 40 years to his wife, and she unfortunately passes away. And he remarries, and he's remarried for eight years, finds out that he's ill, and he's a very, very organized man. He's trying to plan things out so that his children and his wife won't have to go through all of those machinations after he dies.
And the problem arises, where shall he be buried? His children say: He's got to be buried with my mother, they were married for 35 years. His wife, who has been married, too, for a long time says: Where does that leave me? Where will I be buried?
And again the focus is -- should be on pop. Pop's the one who's sick, pop's the one who's trying to make the arrangements.
KING: Where does he want to be buried?
SHEINDLIN: So where does he want to be buried and what is most comfortable for him? And if you have to go to two places to see your mother one place and your father someplace else, that's not such a major sacrifice, because to spend the last three months of somebody's life bickering over where they're going to be buried to me is just stupid.
KING: You think that happens, though?
SHEINDLIN: Oh, I know it happens! Oh, I know it happens. I mean, I have friends who had that problem. Haven't you?
KING: What role did children have? I mean, can children boss parents around? Is there a time when children take over?
SHEINDLIN: It's interesting. I never wanted to assume the parental role. When my brother was 9 years old, he went to the store with my father and my father came back and he was just hysterical. My brother took his arm to help him across the street. I mean, my father was 35. And I tried to be a child as long as I could. I enjoyed that role, that function. And I do think that there is some -- there comes a time, especially when parents become ill and incapable of taking care of themselves emotionally, that you have to sort of pitch in. They took care of you for a long time.
You know, the problems that arise, I try to address in this book in a funny way. I try to keep it humorous and light, but make you look at yourself and look at your family situations. When you have a parent who's old -- you're one of three siblings, but one of you doesn't work. So the other two say, well, you don't work outside of the home so you have to take ma to all her doctors appointments and take her for therapy and take her for this. And all of a sudden, this one sister says: You know, there are three of us. Why can't we all pitch in a little?
So there does come a point when you do have a role reversal. I think you should try to stave that point off as long as you can.
KING: Probably the hardest thing to deal with that develops in a marriage over time is boredom, is it not? Do you have any thoughts on...
SHEINDLIN: Yes, we were talking about that -- we were talking about that, Larry, during the break. We were talking about traveling. You know, you do a lot of traveling.
KING: Good idea to travel.
SHEINDLIN: And I do a lot of traveling...
KING: You'd think.
SHEINDLIN: ... with my job. And I know that the time that my husband and I come together again, because I'm away two or three days every other week, so we've both had experiences that we like to share and catch up on. You know, there's that little bit of, you know, away, I think, nicely just about the time when I'm beginning to miss him a little bit, I'm home, and just about the time that he's beginning to irritate me a little bit, I'm off to California, or I him.
KING: Boredom is worse than irritation, though, isn't it?
SHEINDLIN: Yes, but people can create their own boredom. You know, there are things that you can do. If you're going to sit in your apartment, and you know, occasionally open the window and say, "Will somebody find me a volunteer job that I like?" and they close the window, or "Will somebody find me a job that I like?" or "Maybe I would like somebody to send me an application for a school to take a course," close the window, you're never going to get -- you're never going to get it.
KING: You make your own.
SHEINDLIN: You make your own.
KING: We only have a minute. How do you like fame?
SHEINDLIN: It has its places.
KING: Getting a table in a restaurant.
SHEINDLIN: And it has its -- absolutely. And I think that people have probably said that to you. I think I'm very fortunate that I had the celebrity when I was a fully cooked human being, because I can see how really seductive it can be for young people. I see how seductive the celebrity of it is, how you treat other people. I have seen young people treat other people very badly who are in this business, when they get the celebrity and the money and all the accoutrements that come along with it.
So getting it at, you know, 50-plus was really wonderful, because I really appreciate it.
Can you be anonymous? No, you've got to walk outside and you've got to put powder on your nose.
KING: You've got to -- go to the store.
SHEINDLIN: And you've got to go to the store. Right.
SHEINDLIN: Always a pleasure.
KING: Judge Judy, the book is "Keep It Simple, Stupid: You're Smarter Than You Look." Imus tomorrow night. Thursday night, Jack Lemmon talks about Walter Matthau.
Thanks for joining us from New York. Good night.
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