October 2, 2023


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Judging the TV Judges’ Bailiffs

Much of daytime television is filled with court shows, which seem to be extremely popular. In the local area alone, six hours worth of courtroom dramas are broadcast between ten in the morning and six in the evening among three TV stations.

All of the judges are well-known, as all but two of the shows are named after the robed, gavel-waving man or woman on the bench. These people have become celebrities, and in one case the highest paid person on TV.

Lesser-known, but almost as vital to the shows, are the bailiffs. Each one has a personality that complements the judicial ruler at their side, thereby adding to the entertainment of the cases.

The first bailiff to gain some notoriety was Rusty Burrell, who kept order for Joe Wapner on the first years of “The People’s Court.” So vital was Burrell’s presence that Wapner, after taking over “Animal Court” for the Animal Planet network, insisted that Burrell be hired along side of him.

Burrell’s replacement on ” The People’s Court” was Josephine Ann Longobardi, who served as the bailiff on the show when former New York City Mayor Ed Koch took over for Wapner on the bench. She for some reason never matched the appeal of Burrell, so her tenure was much shorter than his.

The current bailiffs have each acquired loyal fans, helped undoubtedly by the onslaught of the internet and social media that did not exist during the earlier shows. Here are my five favorite bailiffs, ranked in descending order.

5. Juan Bustamante from “Judge Faith”

He is a big, clean cut officer who does not hesitate to tell litigants to quiet down or wait their turn.

4. Sonia Montejano from “Hot Bench”

A veteran on TV, Montejano used to hold the same position in Joe Brown’s court during its tenure in syndication. Her biggest strength is probably her fluency in Spanish, which frequently comes in handy for the trio of Tonya Acker, Patricia Dimango, and Larry Bakman.

3. Doyle Devereaux from “Judge Mathis”

He provides comic relief making wistful observations during the cases, and his sense of humor is like that of Greg Mathis himself. Quite often he cannot keep himself from snickering when the litigants are being interviewed after their cases.

2. Douglas MacIntosh from “The People’s Court

Judge Marilyn Milian has at her service this former professional football player, who looks as if he is in shape enough to still suit up in the National Football League. Adding to his charms are his disarming humor and his mannerly soft-spokedness.

1. Petri-Hawkins Byrd from “Judge Judy”

The right hand man to the left of Judith Scheindlin is simply referred to as Byrd, who only speaks when she addresses him. Throughout the cases he works crossword puzzles while occasionally researching the automobile blue book or helping Judy work a cellphone.