Judith Sheindlin has been the sole judge, jury and verbal executioner for the last quarter century on her behemoth TV court show, “Judge Judy.” Her trusted bailiff, Petri Hawkins Byrd, has stood by her side during approximately 12,500 cases, and remembers an instance when he thought she got it wrong.
“I told her how I felt about it. And I remember she looked at me and she said, ‘Really, Byrd? You really think that I got it wrong?'” Byrd recalled, remembering Sheindlin’s stern look. “I felt the need to tell her that there was something that she missed.”
Byrd, referred to as Officer Byrd on the show, says he doesn’t remember the specific case but the judge recalled it. “She said, ‘My officer said that there was something that you said that you pointed out in your testimony.’ And I believe she reversed the decision on that one.”
Byrd says that moment sticks out because of its rarity; he only remembers feeling that way one other time on the show. Arguably the most recognizable bailiff in court TV history, he’s the only officer the show has known. But after 25 years, his time — and the show– will end this season.
It may have been that same natural urge to speak up that got him hired. Byrd, a bailiff, and the judge worked together in the New York City court system in the late 80s. In 1995, after learning that Sheindlin was getting a TV show, Byrd wrote her a congratulatory letter and jokingly added that he was available for work. When the synergy with an actor during a test shoot wasn’t to Sheindlin’s liking, she reached out to Byrd.
“I think she was nervous about doing this Hollywood thing. It was something out of her wheelhouse,” Byrd said. “To have a Brooklyn born, fellow Brooklynite start this adventure with her and somebody who knew how she was…I think that made her feel comfortable. ”
Millions of viewers have been educated in courtroom etiquette and legal terminology through the show that at one time beat the legendary “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in the ratings and will close as one of the most successful daytime shows in TV history.
Byrd says Sheindlin’s appeal was her King Solomon-like fairness and consistency.
“When we started, there was like our court show, maybe one other court show and a plethora of talk shows. And those talk shows kind of exploited people’s foibles … I think America, in particular, was looking for answers, or they were looking for somebody to be able to stand up and say, ‘Hey, let’s call a spade a spade,'” Byrd said.