April 17, 2016 — Thomas J. Stipanowich reflected on the prospect of a Sarah Palin reality court show in a recent Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs article, “Law Degree Not Required: Reality Court Show With Sarah Palin.” The article considers Palin’s qualifications in appearing as a television judge in a reality court show in which she will arbitrate small claims disputes. Stipanowich is Pepperdine Law professor and Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution co-director.
From Bloomberg BNA:
Although Palin does not have any legal training, she could still act as an arbitrator, according to Thomas Stipanowich, a professor of law at Pepperdine University and director of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.
The litigants would need to sign a contract allowing Palin to rule on their complaints in a binding arbitration process, and would give up their right to challenge her findings, Stipanowich said.
Her show would be the latest in a line of television-styled judge shows, and follows former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who presided over The People’s Court for two years in the late 1990s.
Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Pop Culture at Syracuse University, said Palin would be one of the few television judges without a prior judgeship or legal experience. For example, Judge Judy is a former Manhattan family court judge and Greg Mathis of Judge Mathis served as a Michigan Superior Court Judge.
Koch was never a judge but worked as an attorney before entering New York City politics. Palin’s lack of judicial experience may make it difficult to use the ‘judge’ moniker in the title of her show.
“To call someone a judge, when they are not and never have been, is wrong,” Susan Franck, a professor of law at Washington and Lee University School of Law, said via email. “It is fair to call her an arbitrator because she is arbitrating. But it misrepresents her mandate and experience to call her Judge Palin.”
While Stipanowich said he thinks Palin lacks the judicial temperament and skills required to manage and conduct a fair hearing, Thompson said it may be a good fit given her personality and values.