Is Anybody Shocked That Americans Trust TV Judges More Than Supreme Court Justices?

from the time-to-televise-the-hearings dept

Cross-posted from

I suppose that’s a rhetorical question. When you live in a nation that’s been reduced to an army of mindless reality-TV-watching drones, it’s not exactly surprising that the average citizen is more inclined to trust a television judge than a jurist who’s been appointed to the highest court in the land.

We care more about the matching camouflage wedding couture Honey Boo Boo’s parents, Mama June and Sugar Bear, wore when they tied the knot this past weekend than the next round of controversial decisions that will be soon be handed down by the Supreme Court. We care more about the Kimye baby bump than the very existence of the Supreme Court, much less the names of the justices sitting on its esteemed bench.

No one who’s been paying any attention is taken aback by the fact that Americans care more about the people they see on television on a daily basis than names they once read in a textbook. That’s why the results of the latest Reader’s Digest Trust Poll as to this country’s judges are expected, and sad, and not at all surprising….

Before we start discussing the names of the judges who ranked the highest in the trust poll, we’ll break down the magazine’s methodology for you. Reader’s Digest rounded up the names of 200 “opinion shapers, leaders and headline makers” across 15 professions and showed the list to more than 1,000 Americans, who then ranked each name based on how trustworthy they thought they were. Here, trustworthiness was defined as “integrity and character, exceptional talent, drive to personal excellence, internal moral compass, message, honesty and leadership.”

All that being said, famous actors — Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, and Denzel Washington — were the most trusted people in America. Our own president was in the bottom half of the list, behind people like Tim Tebow and Adam Sandler. Again, this isn’t at all surprising, because we bring these people into our homes on DVD and pay exorbitant fees to see them in theaters while we eat our overpriced popcorn.

So when it comes to American’s most trusted judges, it’s no surprise that we all love Judge Judy. She was #28 on the Reader’s Digest list. She’s snarky and laypeople love it when she lays down the law in little sound bytes that actually make sense. Plus, her show is only half an hour long, which is about the amount of time it would take for the average citizen with an Adderall prescription to put aside the Supreme Court’s 193-page Obamacare opinion before deciding to use it to papercut their eyeballs.

But how do the Supreme Court justices stack up against our nation’s preeminent television jurist?

  • No. 36: Ruth Bader Ginsburg
  • No. 43: Stephen Breyer
  • No. 44: John Roberts
  • No. 49: Anthony Kennedy
  • No. 53: Sonia Sotomayor
  • No. 62: Elena Kagan
  • No. 60: Samuel Alito
  • No. 66: Antonin Scalia
  • No. 88: Clarence Thomas

So again, I’m going to implore the Supreme Court to start televising its arguments — or better yet, give them all their own television shows, reality or otherwise. Seriously, give us a reason to watch C-SPAN.

Perhaps if something like “Keeping Up With Klarence” existed, the only black member of our country’s high court wouldn’t have been beaten out by Judge Joe Brown, who was ranked as the 39th most trustworthy person according to the Reader’s Digest poll. How about a talk show with Sonia Sotomayor? “It’s Her Beloved World (And We’re Just Living in It)” — she could be the next Oprah!

You want a comedy? “Kagan and Scalia: The Really Odd Couple”. If you’re into shows about buying other people’s expensive old things, you can watch “Antiques Roadshow with Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” where she’d star as a host and as an antique. If you want a late night talk show, you could watch “The John Roberts Show,” with Sam Alito standing in as the witty sidekick. Last, but not least, for some action, why not watch “I Survived” with Stephen Breyer? His calamities could fill out an entire season.

Just think about the ratings, network execs. Please help make American less… stupid.

Reader’s Digest Trust Poll: The 100 Most Trusted People in America [Reader’s Digest]
Reader’s Digest Trust Poll: Here’s What Shocked Us the Most [Reader’s Digest]
Justice Ginsburg is close behind Judge Judy on most trusted list [ABA Journal]

More stories from Above The Law

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Comments on “Is Anybody Shocked That Americans Trust TV Judges More Than Supreme Court Justices?”

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wallow-T says:

I have a rant.

When I was a child, the magazine racks at drugstores and grocery stores all included Time, Newsweek and US News & World Report. Heck, my drugstore carried Foreign Policy magazine, which I would occasionally browse while picking up my issue of Amazing Science Fiction. 🙂

Say what you will about the mainstream media: this retail selection meant that everybody in the country got exposed to the cover stories of the newsweeklies, at least.

At some point in the late 20th century — long before the Internet kicked off the death spiral for print — general retail outlets decided that news magazines did not belong in their stores. Maybe it was thought the covers were too depressing. Ever since then, the magazine racks at mass-market retail have all been gossip, tabloid, entertainment and lifestyle. People Magazine is about the most advanced magazine you’ll find in most general stores.

I believe firmly this magazine retail change has contributed to the decline of USA civic culture.

anon (profile) says:

This comes as no surprise to me considering this country is controlled by the media. People are glued to basic cable and it’s simple issues. The moment they encounter something that is too complicated or uninteresting, like most government television, they switch the channel. Why do think most people don’t even know what PBS is? Also I take slight offense considering I have an adderall prescription, but I’ll let it slide. 🙂

Haywood (profile) says:

I'm not sure it isn't justified

The Supreme court judges have been writing law, as opposed to interpreting it, for decades. The political parties game the system, a judge in failing health, has them salivating, when in a position to appoint. I’ve seen some very questionable rulings lately, that have to be (IMO) just following party lines. the problem is; they an oath to uphold the constitution.

Faceless Minion says:

I’m not sure that the fact that people trust Judge Judy more than the supreme court is based entirely on ignorance. Lord knows -I- trust Judy a lot more than judges that keep making their own laws, crushing civil liberties, and helping corps gain power over our government.

The real question here isn’t why people trust TV judges more, but why don’t you?

Revelati says:

Maybe the people are in the survey are high IQ, well read, politically conscious individuals. Perhaps these individuals think that our political system is filled to the brim with scheming, incompetent, ideologues. Perhaps the people appointed by the aforementioned ideologues, aren’t much better.

These are the folks who ruled in favor of citizens united after all…

At the end of the day who would I feel more comfortable loaning 5 dollars to, John Roberts, or Tom Hanks? Its a toss up.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Judge Judy Rocks!!

I know you are joking, but…

Judge Judy doesn’t pay out judgments more than $5000, if I’m correct. More importantly, it’s the show that’s paying those judgments in exchange for getting those stories on TV.

Prenda would love to go on Judge Judy because they lose nothing except reputation. And if it’s one thing they’ve shown, it’s that they’ll sacrifice every scrap of their reputation to save a few bucks.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Judge Judy Rocks!!

Yeah, I know that she really couldn’t do much in her made for TV role but I would love to see a judge with her blunt no-nonsense approach rip Prenda Law a new one. What Judge Wright did is very effective especially reporting them to the I.R.S. but I would still love to see them get the in-your-face ass chewing that Judge Judy would give them.

Drew says:

Completely different domains

IIRC, TV judges handle small claims cases where the parties agree in advance to abide by the judge’s decision. Its been a long time since I watched one, but I don’t remember hearing much discussion about the law. Instead a TV judge’s decision is almost entirely determined by what’s “fair.” They also explain their decisions in plain English.

If you compare that to the written opinion of a Supreme Court justice full of legal jargon and citations dating back 220 years or more, I’m kind of surprised that all nine justices actually made the top 100 list.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I saw a screenshot once, on an article that was making fun of reality shows IIRC (on Cracked, maybe?). In any case, it was enough to make me cringe whenever I see the name of that show. I don’t even remember what the screenshot was like anymore (thankfully), but I still do the involuntary cringing.

I don’t even own a TV.

Ron says:


I usually never disagree with any story on this blog, but this was just like WTF??? Do you really think people are that dumb to trust people just because they are on TV. I don’t think anyone here is that dumb, except a few trolls. Judge Judy has common sense. Something that is seriously lacking in politics and the judicial system. I like her for that, not because she is on TV. You should apologize for this post, whoever wrote it.

Anonymous Coward says:

most Americans believe the earth and everything was created 4500 years ago, and that having a gun in your home somehow makes you safer, and that the King of England is planning an invasion on the US.

So not too many people would be too surprised at anything Americans believe, or do not know.

Not that it matters at all if you Gomer Piles know the names of US Justices of the supreme court. Justice Soutimire (however it’s spelt) comes to mind, but I am not American.. so I don’t count.

But who cares, and what difference does it make ?

Why do they need to know,, OR CARE ?? who they are ?

From what I see, most Americans have trouble working out what day it is.

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