Judge Judy is involved in a new lawsuit – and this time, she’s the plaintiff.
Calling it the first complaint she has filed on her own behalf in her 50-year legal career, TV judge Judith Sheindlin said a Connecticut-based law firm used clips of her show in local television ads and Internet videos without her permission. Sheindlin alleged misappropriation of her likeness and violation of her right of publicity under state law, as well as a federal Lanham Act claim for false endorsement.
The ads aired on local television stations in Connecticut and Massachusetts during the broadcast of the “Judge Judy” show and alternated images of Defendant John Haymond, a lawyer, and his daughters with clips from the show, “edited to imply that Sheindlin actually is interacting with Mr. Haymond and his daughters, though in reality she has never met him,” according to the complaint.
Sheindlin contacted Haymond and his firm in April 2013 to demand that they stop using the unauthorized advertisements. The defendants removed the ads from the firm’s Web site and YouTube channel but the television commercials continued as recently as March 6, 2014 the suit claims.
Haymond’s actions are “particularly egregious” in light of his obligations under the Connecticut Rules of Professional Conduct, Sheindlin’s complaint added. Rules 7.1 and 7.2 provide that lawyers “shall not make a false or misleading communication,” putting Haymond potentially on the hook for ethical violations.
In addition to injunctive relief, Sheindlin seeks disgorgement as well as actual and punitive damages. In a statement she said any monies recovered in the suit would be donated to a charity that provides college scholarships to women.
To read the complaint in Sheindlin v. The Haymond Law Firm, click here.
Why it matters: The claims of false endorsement and violation of publicity rights are typical, but the parties in the case make it unusual. Sheindlin noted in her complaint that the use of her image was particularly galling as she “has refrained from engaging in the commercial endorsement of the products or services of others” during her career.