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Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining: America's Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out

Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining: America's Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out

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by Judy Sheindlin

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In we get some reality in here? Asks Judy Sheindlin, former supervising judge for Manhattan Family Court. For twenty–four years she has laid down the law as she understands it:

• If you want to eat, you have to work.

• If you have children, you'd better support them.

  • If you break the law, you have to pay.
  • If you tap the


In we get some reality in here? Asks Judy Sheindlin, former supervising judge for Manhattan Family Court. For twenty–four years she has laid down the law as she understands it:

• If you want to eat, you have to work.

• If you have children, you'd better support them.

  • If you break the law, you have to pay.
  • If you tap the public purse, you'd better be accountable.

Now she abandons all judicial restraint in a scathing critique of the system – filled with realistic hard–nosed alternatives to our bloated welfare bureaucracy and our soft–on–crime laws.

Editorial Reviews

USA Today
Stuffed with terrifying tales of juvenile crime. Frightening but fascinating.
New York Daily News
Should be required reading for anyone who cares about law and order: how it has been undermined and what can be done to fix it.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.57(d)

Read an Excerpt

Enough is Enough

It was just another tragedy in family court.

He was fourteen, 160 pounds, and stood before me pleading guilty to sodomizing his five-year-old cousin. His mother, twenty-nine and clearly zonked on drugs, sat next to him, her head resting on her hands.

The five-year-old cousin and her two brothers had been entrusted by the city to the care of this "lady," who had been qualified as a foster mother. She got control of the children when they were taken from their biological mother, who had abused them.

The teenage boy had been their regular baby-sitter, as his mother was rarely at home. So who was to blame? Everybody, it seems, was a victim.

The boy's lawyer passionately argued for his parole, since he clearly suffered from his mother's neglect. The crime, he explained, was induced by the stress of being left to care for his three cousins. He was the victim.

Then the boy's mother began to scream that it was all the city's fault, because she had not been given a homemaker to help her care for the children. When I asked why she didn't hire a baby-sitter with some of the $2,000 a month she was getting as a foster mother, the woman answered that she had other expenses. Sure you do, I thought to myself, like feeding your crack habit. She, too, was a victim.

Next, the city attorney argued that the social worker who was supposed to be supervising this foster home had taken extended leave and, owing to dire fiscal constraints, no new social workers had been assigned. Aha! I thought. The city was the victim.

I was beginning to wonder whether I would ever find someone, anyone, willing to acknowledgeresponsibility for this loathsome situation. Tap-dancing around responsibility has become an art form in my courtroom—and in American society.

As a family court judge, I look down on a daily pageant of dysfunction that would curl your hair. Think of every social problem you can that affects America's disintegrating families—welfare abuse, juvenile violence, abandoned or abused children, ugly custody fights—and you have just begun to scratch the surface of what parades through my court.

After twenty-four years in court, I have come to realize that these are not just legal problems in a downtown building. They are a mirror of what has gone wrong in America, a reflection of how far we have strayed from personal responsibility and old-fashioned discipline. Family courts are a microcosm of social ills, and virtually every one of the forty or so cases I deal with each day convinces me that the time for change was yesterday. The time to wake up is now.

That, in a nutshell, is the message of this book. But before I get into the heart of this, you should know something about me and where I come from. If someone is going to ask you to read 238 pages and tell you what has gone wrong in our society, the least they can do is give you an idea of their background and qualifications.

My career in family court began in 1972, when I was hired by the city to prosecute cases involving juvenile delinquents. Within a month I knew that I had found my professional home. I loved my work and soon developed a reputation as a no-nonsense prosecutor.

Most of the kids during those early years were involved in petty thefts, but as the seventies passed into the eighties, the ferocity of juvenile crime increased. These delinquents were a new breed. And the system did not have a clue how to treat them. We still don't in the nineties, when crimes committed by kids are Xerox copies of those committed by their adult counterparts.

A peek into my private life is important, because it has given me some firsthand perspectives in dealing with the family disputes I must resolve. I was born in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York. My father, Murry, whom I idolized, was a dentist. My mother, Ethel, a remarkable woman, ran my father and the rest of the world. I have a brother, David, five years my junior, who is also a dentist.

I married my first husband when I was twenty and in law school. He was and is a nice guy. My mother liked him and I thought I was ready. Our marriage ended twelve years and two children later, when we no longer shared the same dreams and our home was no longer a happy place for our children. I was already a lawyer working in family court, and was determined that my personal divorce process would be different from the knock-down, drag-out fights I saw every day.

By and large, I was successful, and my former husband remains a friend and, more important, a good father.

I married Jerry Sheindlin when I was thirty-three. It was a love affair from the moment I saw him. He was perfect: handsome, smart, funny, emotionally complex and very needy. I knew that marriage to him would be a lifelong project, and since I always was in need of a project, it was a match.

Jerry's divorce had been less amicable but still relatively civilized. He had three young children; they are all grown now and I love them as if they were my own. Jerry and I always say that together we have five children, and with the addition of three fabulous grandchildren, we have been truly blessed.

In 1982, I was appointed by Mayor Edward I. Koch to the family court bench. Six months later, my husband, Jerry, who had been a defense lawyer for two decades, was appointed to the criminal court bench. We were now a two-judge family, but as the junior jurist, he still took out the garbage.

Jerry and I were both assigned to Bronx court; I in family court, he in criminal court. In 1986 I was appointed the supervising judge in Manhattan and Jerry was elevated to the Supreme Court. In addition to my administrative responsibilities, I preside over trials daily, and since my appointment I have probably heard over twenty thousand cases. Some are just difficult, others are excruciating.

I hear cases involving juvenile delinquents, custody, visitation, child neglect and abuse, paternity, child support, adoption, domestic violence, guardianship and the termination of parental rights. From the beginning, I was committed to becoming proficient—not only in the law, but in the machinations of the various systems that translated the orders I made into practical solutions.

After more than two decades, I have become adept at both. But sadly, I have concluded that the systems barely function, rendering many of my orders empty promises. Part of the problem is that too many people have come to expect too much from government. And the assorted social service systems, however well-intentioned, are crumbling under the sheer numbers of people who look to government first, instead of relying on themselves and focusing on government as a last resort.

Somehow, we have permitted irresponsible behavior to be socially acceptable and have set up an elaborate bureaucracy that encourages lack of individual responsibility, thereby ensuring the longevity of both.

During my years in family court, I have seen a dramatic deterioration in the lives of adults and children. At the same time, there has been a dramatic increase in expensive public programs. We are spending a fortune and the result is failure. The recipients of these monies are in the same or worse shape than before, and the consequences are all around us:

More and meaner delinquents

More unwanted children

More abused children

More dysfunctional adults

More teenage pregnancies

By shifting the emphasis from individual responsibility to government responsibility, we have infantalized an entire population.

There are those who feed from the public trough as recipients; there are service providers who stay up nights, conjuring up in their insomnia ever more wasteful ways to spend our money. There are executives and legislators whose eye on the next election causes gridlock and impotence; there is a judiciary whose vision of reality dates back to Spanky and Our Gang. And there is the media, which transforms villains into victims, manipulates our sensibilities and makes all of us feel guilty.

Our government has spent decades and billions exploring the root causes of crime, violence, teen pregnancy, drug abuse and welfare dependency. We have been exploring forever; now it is time to discover.

That, my friends, is the fundamental point of this book.

By peeling away the layers of dishonesty and hypocrisy that blanket so many social programs, we can discover the underlying problems that face us—and how best to solve them. We need to be truthful and direct, because the time for playing games with people's lives and our precious resources is over.

Meet the Author

Judge Judy Sheindlin established herself as a tough but fair judge in New York's family court. She is the presiding judge for Judge Judy, a nationally syndicated daily television show based on real court cases, and the author of two best-selling adult books and a children's book. She lives in New York City with her husband, Jerry, a New York Supreme Court Judge. She is the mother of five and a grandmother of four.

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Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining: America's Toughest Family Court Judge Speaks Out 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is right on the money when it comes to family court justice. Judge Judy reminds us that the child's needs come before those of the parents, something that gets lost all too often these days when children's only advocates are bitter parents looking for revenge and will stop at nothing--including using their kids--to get it, with horrible results. As hysteracle, hard-hitting and sassy as the book is, Judge Judy is telling it like it is, in a way that extends the most compassion and protection to those who can't protect themselves--kids. Right on woman! All judges should read this as a reminder of why they sit on the bench.