LOS ANGELES (CN) - The successor to the talent agency that created "Judge Judy" sued CBS and others Monday, claiming the acerbic jurist's $45 million salary has eaten up its share of the show's profits.
Filed Monday in superior court, the complaint is the Top Download today for Courthouse News.
Claiming "Judge Judy" has earned more than $1.7 billion over 19 seasons, plaintiff Rebel Entertainment Partners says defendants CBS and Big Ticket Television fabricated the show's finances to make it appear in the red in order to dodge their profit-sharing obligations.
According to the complaint, CBS stopped honoring its contract with Rebel shortly after it gave the show's star, retired Manhattan family court judge Judy Sheindlin, an upfront salary of $45 million in 2009. The hefty raise was a guise intended to "wipe out" Rebel's net profits, the company claims.
"Sheindlin's astronomical salary can only be considered 'reasonable' if someone else - namely Rebel - is paying for it," the 9-page complaint states.
Sheindlin is not a party to the complaint.
Along with Sheindlin's ballooned salary, Rebel says CBS created a spin-off show called "Hot Bench" without discussing a packaging fee.
The company claims Sheindlin pitched "Hot Bench" to CBS, which has the same producers as "Judge Judy," and that "Hot Bench" was the working title of "Judge Judy" when it was pitched two decades ago.
Rebel Entertainment is the successor to the original talent agency that helped Sheindlin, misspelled as "Scheindlin" throughout the complaint, score a deal for "Judge Judy" in 1995. According to the complaint, the agency whisked her from a family court in Manhattan and helped her become the star of the number one court television show.
By 2013, Rebel claims Sheindlin's $47 million salary is higher than Jon Stewart, Matt Lauer and Jay Leno's annual pay and that it came at the direct expense of its 5 percent profit compensation.
While the complaint claims Sheindlin's salary is "grossly inconsistent" with other non-scripted television stars, Forbes lists Ellen DeGeneres at $75 million and Dr. Phil McGraw at $70 million annually.
"According to defendants, in the six-month accounting period prior to Sheindlin's pay raise, the show reported net profits of $3,572,195," the complaint states. "In the six-month accounting period after Sheindlin's pay raise, however, defendants reported net profits of negative $3,195,217."
Rebel Entertainment is suing CBS Studios, CBS Corp. and Big Ticket Television in Los Angeles Superior Court for breach of contract, implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and accounting.
The company is represented by Bryan Freedman and Jordan Susman of the firm Freedman Taitelman in Los Angeles.