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The Judge is a syndicated television drama that ran from 1986 to 1993. The series chronicles the family court cases heard by Judge Robert J. Franklin, played by Bob Shield (who died in late 1996).

This was one of many shows that with dramatized court cases, based on real court cases. This show was one of several courtroom dramas that were popular at the time such as Divorce Court with real life Judge William Keene and Superior Court with Raymond St. Jacques. The show was produced and licensed by WBNS (Columbus, Ohio) and was distributed by Genesis Entertainment, now part of 20th Television.

Opening

After a preview of the day's episode, the show would begin at Judge Franklin's home with Franklin preparing for work (pictures in the background show his days in the military and as a young lawyer). After a kiss to his wife and a wave to a neighbor and kids playing nearby, Judge Franklin would head off to work in his car as we heard him say in the voiceover:

I'm Judge Robert J. Franklin. I chose the law as my way of serving my fellow citizens. As an elected judge in the family court, I pray each day that God will give me the wisdom to always temper justice with mercy.

Typical episode

The show dealt primarily with family-related issues, but in most episodes the case would take a serious or shocking turn. For example:

  • A teenager accused a high school teacher of getting her pregnant. But when Judge Franklin ordered her to take a paternity test to find out who the real father was, she initially refused to comply, but then admitted that it was her ex-boyfriend who was responsible. The charges against the teacher were dropped, and the girl was ordered to pay all the teacher's legal expenses.
  • Another girl with her mother and stepfather in court; during the hearing it was revealed that the girl was pregnant — by her stepfather.
  • An estranged father was suing to regain custody of his young daughter from her activist mother. After Judge Franklin talked to the girl in his chambers, it was revealed in court that the girl's mother (and a radical group she was involved in) were responsible for a deadly bombing at an abortion clinic.
  • A less-than-honest lawyer, in the hopes of swaying Judge Franklin to his side in a losing case, offers him a bribe in his chambers. Though Franklin neither accepts nor declines in chambers; he later, when rendering his decision in the case, exposes the lawyer's crooked offer on the bench and says he will submit a report to the Disciplinary Committee recommending disbarment for the lawyer.

Even on the bench, Judge Franklin's demeanor was normally avuncular, but he was never above rebuking anyone who stepped out of line. One episode dealt with a teenage boy suing for emancipation from his overbearing father, an Army colonel. When the colonel began overstepping his authority, Judge Franklin angrily reprimanded him saying, "Colonel, in this courtroom, I give the orders!!" One character who appeared frequently on the show, often as a source of comic relief, was Police Sergeant Terrance Fox (played by Brendan Burns). Fox was an honest police officer but his abrasive personality would often irritate Judge Franklin to no end. In one episode he told the officer that he would try the patience of a saint "and I am no saint!".

In "tempering justice with mercy", Judge Franklin's decisions were always fair-minded, and usually gave the guilty a chance to redeem themselves. In almost every episode, Franklin would end his dissertation by gently pleading with all involved to "Be good to each other" before adjourning the session.

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