Order in the court!

Petri Adonis Byrd

Photo By Larry Dalton

Best known as the bailiff on Judge Judy, Petri Adonis Byrd is a local Northern California resident. He spends most of his time in Elk Grove with his wife and four children, aged 6-17 (two boys and two girls—the perfect mix, he points out), but for 10 days out of the month, Bailiff Byrd is filming down in L.A.

How many shows do you tape per week?We do a week’s worth of shows in a day. Actually, we do it by cases, so we do approximately 10 to 12 cases per day, and those 10 to 12 cases come out to the equivalent of five or six shows.

So, what’s it like working for Judge Judy?Never a dull moment. It’s kinda like walking the tightrope with her. Mind you, I’m standing up there the entire time the case is going on. As I’m standing there, I’m listening to these people. I’m listening to the lies; I’m listening to the hurt feelings and emotions and everything, but I don’t get to say anything. She gets to vent whatever she feels, and I just gotta stand there and grin and bear it. It’s always a surprise with her, because I’m always astounded by her insight, her integrity, her intuition—all those “ins"—and they come into play, and I’m always astounded by what she’s able to decipher from people’s demeanor, their movement, something in the back of her head that tells her this is not right, and a large percentage of the time she’s right. And those times when she’s wrong, I just don’t say anything.

How do you hold your composure when she says something like, “I’m the boss, applesauce"?Through the magic of television, through the magic of editing, I don’t have to always hold my composure. Sometimes I’m on the floor with everyone else. The funny thing is when she said that—it’s funny you pick that one—my grandma used to always say that. I hadn’t heard that in, I don’t know, in maybe 30, 35 years.

She doesn’t have some book of sayings?If she’s got them, she’s got them at home. But, no, the funny thing is you can tell from her delivery it’s just, you know … But see, I have my book of Judyisms because I just listen to her. One of my favorites is when she says, “Measure 10 times, cut once.” I love that; I love that because it’s the simplest advice you can get. And she always gives that to the young lady who is standing there who knew the guy for only a few weeks and then gives him $3,000, $4,000. You gotta look, you gotta check this guy out; you gotta give him the once over 10 times. But once you make that plunge, you’re in there for good, so I like that one. Of course, the classic, “Do you see stupid written here?” So when I listen to her, I’m always just sitting there going, “Man this woman is crazy.” She’s so much fun to work with.

What’s the silliest case you have ever heard?It’s been four years, we’re starting our fifth season; we’ve done well over 1,200 cases. I think one of the silliest cases is the woman who decided to sue her ex-supervisor because she didn’t buy her brunch. Apparently, she thought you kinda rub elbows and suck up to the supervisor, so you take the supervisor out to lunch. Well, the supervisor, in turn—because that was a nice gesture—decides to take her out to lunch. Well, when the woman saw that it wasn’t getting her any further position in the job, she started to feel like all these lunches were to no avail, so she started to come on a little strong, and the supervisor backed up and said, “It’s been nice, but you’re getting a little too demanding, I think we should maybe just stop hanging out together.” So, the woman comes in and sues because she says it was her boss’ turn to buy lunch. The judge is looking at me, and I’m looking at her like, I didn’t ask for this case.

Did she lose?Oh, she lost majorly. Not only did she lose, she got reamed. She’s saying, “But I bought her lunch,” and the judge is saying, “So what? Big deal, she’s not your wench; she doesn’t want to be your friend. What do you want?” The case was dismissed. There are silly cases, but mostly its just looking at the reason why people do bring these cases [before the court]. And I really believe I’m more understanding than most people. I’m a little more liberal about things than the average person on the street, or Judge Judy herself; I’m definitely more liberal than she is in understanding why these people do the things they do. I’ve been counseling long enough to know that people get their feelings hurt, and when they do, they feel powerless. And when you feel powerless, it just bugs you.

Are you recognized a lot now?Everywhere. I just met a guy downstairs who said, "You’re somebody. You’re a football player, right?" And I knew he was going to keep going, so I said "Judge Judy." The guy is stoked, "You live here? Why here?" [Byrd sarcastically] "They have nice houses, and the people won’t set fire to my lawn. I like the place, why do you live here?" Yesterday, I was in International House of Pancakes, and I’m having a little breakfast meeting with a friend of mine. This woman looks over her shoulder and goes "Is it you? Are you Byrd on Judge Judy?" I tell her yes, and she’s almost orgasmic. She says, "I used to live here, but now I live in Louisiana. I have a 17-year-old daughter named Ashley, and she has Down’s syndrome. Every day at 4 p.m., no matter what she’s doing, no matter where she is, she says, ‘Time for Judge Judy and Byrd, all rise, all rise.' And when the Olympics were on, she was ticked off because they pre-empted Judge Judy. You know what, the Make a Wish Foundation asked what she [Ashley] would want and her wish was that she would go to L.A. to see Judge Judy and to see Byrd." I told her, "Give me your information, I’m going to call you; I’m going to set it up with our production company, and we’re going to make her wish come true." And so that is worth the price of admission alone. Every time I think it’s annoying to have this fame, something like that happens, and you think "Now I understand what it’s about."