Judith Sheindlin

The meanest grandmother you never had, Judge Judy has earned hundreds of millions of dollars dispensing fake courtroom advice on her syndicated TV show.

Sheindlin spent more than a decade on the bench before she became known to the world as "Judge Judy." The daughter of a dentist, Sheindlin attended American University and earned a law degree at New York Law School, later signing on as a family court prosecutor. Her brassy persona soon attracted the attention of higher-ups, and in 1982 Ed Koch appointed her to the bench where she developed a reputation for her no-nonsense attitude and stinging courtroom one-liners. A 60 Minutes profile in the mid-1990s caught the attention of television execs, and she stepped down as a judge in 1996 to pursue a TV career. Although she wasn't the first judge to go from a real courtroom to one constructed on a TV soundstage, Sheindlin's shtick breathed new life into the format in the 1990s, has since inspired a spate of knockoffs, and became one of the highest rated shows on daytime television (her ratings occasionally even surpassed Oprah when the two shows were scheduled head-to-head). [Image via Getty]