Controversial Bad Judge Show A Case of Bad Judgment?

Judge on black background

Have you watched the new NBC show, Bad Judge? The series, starring veteran TV actress Kate Walsh, has recently come under fire for its depiction of a female judge who engages in — to put it lightly — highly unethical behavior, both on and off the bench.

After its debut earlier this month, Deborah Baker, president of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers, sent a letter to NBC CEO Steve Burke requesting that Bad Judge immediately be pulled from NBC’s primetime lineup.

From her letter:

Over the past 35 years, the mission of Miami-Dade FAWL has been to promote the advancement of women in the legal profession; unfortunately, Bad Judge is a step in the wrong direction. The show depicts a female judge as unethical, lazy, crude, hyper-sexualized, and unfit to hold such an esteemed position of power.

After citing numerous examples of outrageous and morally offensive behavior from the first few episodes, Baker makes her larger point:

Our organization understands that Bad Judge may be intended to be hyperbole, but we nonetheless find it damaging to women in the legal profession. The show is not only offensive to the many women judges who serve with the highest levels of integrity but also dangerous to the extent those who hold preconceived notions about women judges will find their sexist beliefs reaffirmed.

To those who might be inclined to shrug this off as much ado about nothing, it’s important to remember that the show comes at a time when female judges are still far from equal in ranks to their male colleagues. In the United States, there have been four female justices on the Supreme Court. Less then 35 percent of the active judges sitting on the 13 federal courts of appeal are women, and 32 percent of the active U.S. district court judges are women.

In New Jersey, female judges are growing in number, but are still in the minority of those who sit on the bench. With New Jersey judges of either gender in short supply, do we really want to have the depiction out there that female judges are somehow inherently irresponsible and not suited to their job? The show appears to be a case of bad judgment as well as bad timing.

Whether or not NBC decides to take action on her letter, however, it looks like Baker and the FAWL probably have nothing to worry about concerning the future of Bad Judge. The show has received negative reviews (from TV reviewers, not legal types) and poor ratings. It will probably be yanked from the air before long.

In the meantime, want to watch a TV show that does depict a strong female judge?

Check your listings for Judge Judy.