The Judge (TV series)

The Judge is a dramatized court show which ran in first-run syndication from 1986[1] to 1993. The series chronicled the family court cases heard by Judge Robert J. Franklin, played by Bob Shield, who died in late 1996.

The Judge
StarringBob Shield (as Judge Robert J. Franklin)
Country of originUnited States
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes70
Production company(s)WBNS-TV
DistributorGenesis Entertainment
Original networkFirst-run syndication
Original releaseSeptember 15, 1986 –
May 28, 1993

This was one of many shows that dealt with dramatized court cases based on real ones. This show was one of several courtroom dramas that were popular at that time such as Divorce Court with real-life Judge William Keene and Superior Court with Raymond St. Jacques. The show was produced and licensed by WBNS (Columbus, Ohio), and was distributed by Genesis Entertainment.

Show formatEdit


After a preview of the day's episode (which sometimes showed a pre-hearing teaser), the show would begin at Judge Franklin's home with Franklin preparing for work (Photographs in the background, all actually of Shield himself, showed Franklin's days in the Army and as a young lawyer). After a kiss to his wife and a wave to their neighbors, Judge Franklin would drive off to work as we heard him narrate:

The opening would end with him entering his chambers, sitting down, and signing some documents; concluding with a close-up of his signature. (The building that stood in for the courthouse is City Hall for the city of Pasadena, California)

Typical episodesEdit

Most episodes opened with an announcer saying, "What you are about to see is a dramatization of an actual case in family court. Because of the emotional and sensitive nature of the issues presented here, Judge Franklin's courtroom is closed to the public. The proceedings are about to begin."

The show was set in an unspecified metropolitan area, and dealt primarily with family-related issues. Many of the stories involved children and adolescents in custody, paternity, delinquency and adoption hearings. Much like similar drama-based courtroom shows of the era—including Divorce Court and Superior Court—the stories involved shock value; to wit, what usually began as mundane or routine often ended up taking a serious or unexpected turn.

For example:

  • A woman named Bernie Roberts sought to regain custody of her seven-year-old son upon being released from prison, after serving a three-year sentence for manslaughter. Her late husband's parents contested this on the grounds that she was dangerous, but it turned out she had actually killed a child molester who had been stalking her son. In the end, Judge Franklin reunited mother and child.
  • A teenager accused a high school teacher of getting her pregnant. But when Judge Franklin ordered her to take a paternity test to find out who the real father was she initially refused to comply, but then admitted that her ex-boyfriend (subpoenaed in court as a hostile witness) fathered her child. The charges against the teacher were dropped, and after Judge Franklin gently reprimanded the girl for perjury, he ordered her to pay all the teacher's legal expenses.
  • In another case involving a teenage girl having difficulties with her mother and stepfather, it was revealed that the girl was pregnant — by her stepfather.
  • An estranged father was suing to regain custody of his young daughter from her activist mother. After Judge Franklin talked to the girl in his chambers, it was revealed in court that the girl's mother and a radical group she was involved in were responsible for a deadly bombing at an abortion clinic.
  • A young couple with limited resources are fighting the state to keep custody of their 10-year-old son, who has serious behavioral issues; a school incident where the lad was accused of poking a girl's eyes out with a pair of scissors had led to a social worker demanding the custody hearing. It appears the parents are winning the judge over until there is a small wastebasket fire in the judges' chambers, after which it is revealed that the boy indeed has the problems his parents have been in denial about.
  • A cycle of revenge unfolds after a teenage girl rapes the boyfriend of another girl whom he had date raped.
  • A dishonest lawyer, in the hopes of swaying Judge Franklin to his side in a losing case, offers him a bribe in his chambers. Franklin neither accepts nor declines in chambers, but later exposes the lawyer's crooked offer on the bench while rendering his decision, and says he will submit a report to the Disciplinary Committee recommending disbarment for the lawyer.
  • A mental competency hearing is held for a teenager accused of brutally killing his parents to inherit a fortune. Though the boy claims mental illness, his elderly uncle, another heir to the fortune, insists that the boy is perfectly healthy. A video is played of the boy during an evaluation, but his claim starts to unravel after a mental health expert notes inconsistencies with his behavior.
  • A street puppeteer files papers to adopt a young foster girl with emotional challenges. The proceedings are working in favor of the father-to-be until the girl's social worker brings to light a new discovery: the puppeteer had been diagnosed with a form of Asperger's and is unable to mentally or financially support the girl. It is up to the puppeteer to deliver the heartbreaking news to his would-be daughter.
  • A teenage girl attending a Catholic school with a strict moral code fights her stern principal for reinstatement after she is expelled for posing for a swimsuit calendar. The principal's fire-and-brimstone values come into question when the girl's attorney reveals evidence that the principal may have had more involvement with the calendar (and other similar projects involving underage girls) than he's willing to admit.
  • During an emotional custody hearing, a schizophrenic father smuggles a loaded gun into the courtroom and holds everyone hostage, demanding that the pending divorce proceedings be dismissed immediately, that his ex-wife-to-be come home, and everything goes on just like normal. Judge Franklin does everything he can to talk the man into giving up, but eventually the man fires the gun badly wounding his own son. The episode ends soon after Franklin scolds the man, telling him in essence, "Look what you've done now!" (Only then does the man see the severity of his mental illness)
  • A mentally unstable criminal, sent to prison five years earlier by Judge Franklin for aggravated robbery and assault, breaks into Franklin's court during a hearing for a teenager about to be sentenced for theft. The criminal then reveals a bomb hidden in his briefcase, confiscates the bailiff's gun and takes over the courtroom. He usurps the bench, orders Franklin into the witness stand and declares himself innocent, though according to Franklin, the evidence and testimony from two eyewitnesses was firmly against him. Franklin does his best to calm the criminal down, even admitting that while he has never been a prisoner, he has been to many prisons and understands the deplorable conditions, and had no choice but to send the criminal there, even going far as to tell him that he is too young to throw his life away. During the standoff, the teen admits he did indeed commit the crime (and lied to his parents about it). His father, normally a meek man, becomes angered and begins to yell at the teen, but then grabs the briefcase bomb and deactivates it. When the bailiff tries to help, the criminal shoots and wounds him. After being informed that the gun had only one bullet, the criminal tries to flee from the courtroom, but is subdued by the attorneys and the teen's father. Franklin decides to send the criminal to a mental facility, and then hands down his sentence to the convicted teen.

In "tempering justice with mercy", Judge Franklin's decisions were generally fair-minded, and usually gave the guilty a chance to redeem themselves. In almost every episode, Franklin would end his dissertation before adjournment by gently pleading with all involved, "Please, try to be good to each other. That's all it takes."

However, for all his avuncularity, Judge Franklin never hesitated to rebuke anyone who stepped out of line in his courtroom. For example: a teenage boy was suing for emancipation from his overbearing father, an Army colonel. When the colonel began overstepping his authority during the hearing, Judge Franklin angrily reprimanded him, saying "Colonel, in this courtroom, I give the orders!"

Other regular charactersEdit

One character who appeared frequently on the show, often as a source of comic relief, was Police Sergeant Terrance Fox (played by Brendan Burns). Fox was an honest police officer, but his abrasive personality would often irritate Judge Franklin to no end. In one episode he told the officer that he would try the patience of a saint, adding, "And I am no saint!"

Franklin's courtroom assistant was Janet Page, or Miss Page.

Broadcast historyEdit

A drama that later became The Judge, called Municipal Court (changed to The Judge while still a local program), ran for 12 years as a local television program in Columbus, Ohio. Shield, playing Judge Franklin, won four regional Emmy Awards for his performance. In 1986, The Judge was picked up for national syndication, where it enjoyed a seven-year run.

Repeats of The Judge aired on the USA Network in the early 1990s.

The nationally syndicated version was originally taped in Los Angeles for its first four runs of 10 episodes each (1986–89), and later moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada for its final three runs (1991–93). The show was licensed by WBNS-TV in Columbus.

Episode list in alphabetical orderEdit

  • And the Beat Goes On
  • As Good as Gold
  • Ashes, Ashes
  • Better Living Through Chemistry
  • Blood is Thicker
  • Brothers in Arms
  • The Brutal Truth
  • Burnin' Down the House
  • Cruisin' Down the River: Part 1
  • Cruisin' Down the River: Part 2
  • Cry Rape
  • Date Rape
  • Double Play
  • Dueling Grandmas
  • An Explosive Decision
  • Fetal Abuse
  • In Violation of Michael
  • The Indigent Father
  • It's Only Rock and Roll
  • Just Another Lover's Quarrel
  • Just Leave Me Alone
  • Life After Death
  • Live and Let Live
  • Loved to Death
  • The Master
  • Mastermind
  • A Matter of Conscience
  • Motorcycle Mama
  • My Angel Mother
  • The Never Ending Gory
  • Nun of Your Business
  • Over-Reaction
  • Paparazzi Pete
  • Pendleton High Bust
  • Racing Hearts
  • Right to be Fat
  • Sexual Healing: Part 1
  • Sexual Healing: Part 2
  • Six Months to Life
  • The Sound of Silence
  • Stand by Me
  • Sudden Impact
  • The Terrorist Tot
  • There's No Place Like the Home
  • The Trojan Horse
  • Victim of War
  • Watch Me
  • We're Number One
  • Who Loves Tippi?
  • Wrong Baby


External linksEdit