Law in Popular Culture

Judge Rules 'People’s Court' Testimony Isn’t the Real Thing


A woman’s statements made on The People’s Court can’t be used against her in a real legal proceeding, a Brooklyn judge has ruled.

Judge Francois Rivera tossed findings by a hearing officer who had relied on the woman’s “testimony” from the TV program. The hearing officer found that the woman, Ellen Kahn, had not lived with her mother before her death, and did not have rights to her mother’s subsidized apartment, the New York Law Journal reports.

Statements by people who appear on the show “are not testimony. They are neither sworn nor reliable,” Rivera wrote in the decision (PDF posted by the New York Law Journal, sub. req.)

“The statements made on the show have no more probative force than the words of an actor reading from a script in a play,” Rivera wrote. “The only difference between the two is that the participants of the show may freely ad-lib their lines.”

On The People’s Court, Kahn had sued her mother’s home health care aide for repayment of a loan. Kahn told the TV judge that she visited the apartment on weekends.

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