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Top 10 Fictional TV Judges

VO: Rebecca Brayton
From Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince to good old Roy Snyder in the Simpsons, we find these fictional TV judges to be guilty of being really damn entertaining. While we are ranking television judges, we also have a motion to dismiss real judges from television shows like Judge Judy, as they get a lit of their own. So join WatchMojo as we adjudicate the definitive list of the best fake judges on television. Let us know if you agree with our verdict.
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Transcript
Ladies and gentleman, these are the Honorable Courtroom Creations of the small screen. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Fictional TV Judges.

For this list, we’re looking at the most memorable magistrates of television who either presided over numerous seasons or just one unforgettable performance. We’re not limiting this to actual judges, so if the characters “play one on TV,” that works too.

#10: Philip Banks

“The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-96)
We rarely see him in his robes, but you can tell what kind of judge Uncle Phil is by the way he runs his household. Beginning the series as a senior partner at Firth, Wynn and Meyer, Philip has a background as a civil rights activist, receiving his education at both Princeton and Harvard Law. He adds “judge” to his resume later in the series, and we can only assume his tenacity and patience transfer over to the courtroom. His authoritative demeanor earns him respect, both in his job and at home, but it’s his thorough understanding of the legal system that allows him to offer help and advice to his family members when they get into trouble.

#9: Justice Strauss

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” (2017-)
Serving as quite the contrast to her peculiar and not-so-nice neighbor Count Olaf, Justice Strauss is a sweet and highly educated woman who immediately earns the affections of the Beaudelaires. Played by Joan Cusack in Netflix’s black comedy-drama, this judge owns a massive library, to which she allows the children access and where you’ll often find her reading her law books. Despite her good intentions, she inadvertently marries Violet and Count Olaf during a play performance. Luckily it all works out in the end, and Strauss continues to keep the Beaudelaires close to her justice-seeking mind and heart.

#8: Owen French

“Drop Dead Diva” (2009-14)
While we’ve gotta mention Paula Abdul’s turn as the court judge of Jane’s dreams, her ex-fiancé Owen French clearly had a bigger part to play in this quirky Lifetime comedy. Serious but unconventional, he began to court Jane almost immediately after they first met – which was when he was a judge on one of her cases. While trying to balance work and their personal lives, the two eventually fall in love and become engaged, but of course, complications ensue. Though the practical magistrate ultimately leaves his judge’s robes behind to become a partner – and Jane’s boss! – at Harrison Parker, we’ll never forget his work behind the bench!

#7: Judge Henry Bone

“Picket Fences” (1992-96)
Portrayed by the late Ray Walston, this man is your quintessential disgruntled judge who’s got no time for any of your tomfoolery. Based in the midwestern town of Rome, Wisconsin, Judge Henry Bone feels it necessary to mold the community with some tough love. And by that, we mean he plays by his own rules. And why not, considering he deals with folks like the self-righteous Mr. Douglas Wambaugh? Sure, Judge Bone’s a little cranky, and it’s easy to imagine him saying “Get off my lawn!,” but he keeps the courtroom in check, demands respect and functions as the moral compass of the community.

#6: Roy Snyder

“The Simpsons” (1989-)
Based on the late Robert Bork, this man brings a bit of baggage to the courtroom, as his wife left him and incompetent lawyer Lionel Hutz has repeatedly run over his son. Such traumatic experiences could explain his passive-aggressive behavior and odd sensibilities, but then again, it could also be an identity crisis, as Judge Roy Snyder was originally named Judge Moulton. He’s a stern judge who makes keen observations, and he understands that “boys will be boys.” However, he’s certainly milder than the alternative, cause when Judge Snyder’s away, Bart and company are left with the honorable yet shrewd Constance Harm, who is a little… less forgiving.

#5: Judge Felix Afterman

“The Good Wife” (2009-16)
Jerry Stiller is best known for his longstanding roles as Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza and Arthur Spooner from “The King of Queens,” but all it took was one narcoleptic episode on “The Good Wife” to leave his mark on that series. During some tea party testimony, Diane Lockhart grills ballistic expert Kurt McVeigh only to discover that Judge Felix Afterman is a bit “detached” about the whole thing, lending credence to one lawyer’s comments that, “It’s not the act; it’s the cover up.” Want proof? Not only does Judge Felix miss some crucial evidence being presented; he also lazily pretends to be forming actual thoughts. It’s a bizarre event, but even move perplexing is the fact that nobody seems to even care.

#4: Judge Reinhold

“Arrested Development” (2003-06; 2013-)
In Season 3 of this dysfunctional family comedy, the Bluth family’s legal problems lead to a chance encounter with an ‘80s movie star. No, Judge Reinhold isn’t an actual Judge, but he plays one on TV – however, to be honest, first name aside, he doesn’t actually seem to know anything about the legal system. But hey, Judge Judy made 25 mil in one year, so it only made sense that Judge Reinhold would want to team up with producer Jan Eagleman for a courtroom reality show with a theme song featuring American Idol’s William Hung. Ok, maybe Judge Reinhold wasn’t the real deal, but his courtroom sure seemed like a lot of fun. If only all “hung” juries were this entertaining.

#3: Amy Gray

“Judging Amy” (1999-2005)
Television doesn’t always allow us an insider’s perspective of the legal system, but this woman gave viewers plenty to contemplate. Based on the life of lead actress Amy Brenneman’s own mother, “Judging Amy” showcases a woman named Amy Gray, who comes to grips with divorce, being a single mother, the realities of her job as a young judge and the task of managing business and pleasure. She works in Connecticut’s family court and displays a hardened attitude towards the individuals that pass through her courtroom. Amy epitomizes the hard-working single mother, and through her investigations cases, she learns plenty about who she is and who she wants to be.

#2: Arraignment Judge Janice Goldberg

“Law & Order” franchise (1990-)
This long-running franchise gave us many notable judges, like Gerald Crane, Barry Moredock and Liz Donnelly from “Special Victims Unit.” But who better to play a New York City arraignment judge than actual New York fixture Fran Lebowitz, a real-life Big Apple author and former columnist for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine? Appearing in a dozen episodes of the original “Law & Order” as well as on the spin-off “Criminal Intent,” Judge Janice Goldberg served up some real talk in her courtroom. This was most notable when she commended a defendant for taking out her cheating husband. She’s got no time for any “chutzpah,” but Judge Janice also often added some comic relief to the deadly serious NBC drama.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- Judge Roberta Kittleson
“The Practice” (1997-2004)

- Judge
“Family Guy” (1999-2003; 2005-)

- Judge Sardine
“SpongeBob SquarePants” (1999-)

#1: Judge Harold ‘Harry’ T. Stone

“Night Court” (1984-92)
In the early ‘80s, comedy writer Reinhold Weege created this young maverick with a quirky sense of humor, and made him the young judge of a Manhattan municipal court. Always the entertainer, Judge Harry T. Stone keeps everybody on their toes, both with his enthusiastic expositions on popular culture as well as his more serious soliloquies. He’s a laidback kinda guy who’s able to maintain a life beyond the courtroom – and who doesn’t love a judge that doesn’t take himself too seriously? On a light-hearted show focused on the intricacies of the courtroom, Harry slams down the gavel with comedic and memorable force.
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