HERE COMES THE JUDGE

ROBERT RIN­DER

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - BY SI­MON ROUND

THOSE WHO have yet to watch ITV’s Judge Rin­der may won­der why a show which is ba­si­cally a re­con­struc­tion of the work of the small claims court has quickly gen­er­ated one of the big­gest day­time tele­vi­sion au­di­ences. The an­swer is al­most cer­tainly the judge him­self. In his day-to-day life, Robert Rin­der is not ac­tu­ally a judge but a fairly stel­lar crim­i­nal bar­ris­ter whose prac­tice fo­cuses mainly on in­ter­na­tional fraud, money laun­der­ing and other forms of fi­nan­cial crime. But in his par­al­lel ex­is­tence on day­time TV, Rin­der is the Si­mon Cow­ell of the bench, com­ment­ing in a cut­ting, witty and de­cid­edly camp man­ner over civil dis­putes in­volv­ing gar­den­ing, busi­ness loans and fam­ily mem­bers row­ing over money in a Bri­tish ver­sion of the hit Amer­i­can show, Judge Judy.

Lit­i­gants have agreed to have their cases ruled upon on TV rather than in a court of law and while the le­gal pro­cesses and rul­ings are con­sis­tent with the small claims court, Rin­der does have a lit­tle more li­cence to be opin­ion­ated. He has al­ready called one claimant “stupid” and told an­other that “if you had been at the Last Sup­per, you would have asked for ketchup”. It is fair to say that his views are on the blunt side of forth­right.

Yet Rin­der says that un­til a few months ago, he had no as­pi­ra­tions to be on TV. “I used to write scripts and I at­tempted to sell one of them. I ended up talk­ing to the head of ITV Day­time, He­len Warner,” he ex­plains. “She said she was not sure about the pro­gramme I sug­gested but asked if I had con­sid­ered do­ing this kind of show.”

Rin­der thought it would be worth giv­ing it a go. And the pro­gramme — now fin­ish­ing its sec­ond week — at­tracts an au­di­ence of 1.1 mil­lion-plus, con­sid­er­ably more than the chan­nel’s break­fast show.

Al­though Judge Rin­der is in­tended as en­ter­tain­ment, Rin­der would not have ac­cepted the brief if the show did not con­vey the cor­rect val­ues. “Of course there is an en­ter­tain­ing side to it but I wouldn’t have gone any­where near it if I didn’t feel it had in­tegrity. I have the gen­uine and au­then­tic free­dom to rule on cases that have le­gal im­pli­ca­tions in them as well as lessons we can all learn from.”

Ed­u­cated at Manch­ester Univer­sity and with cham­bers in cen­tral Lon­don, Rin­der may be new to TV but has also fea­tured in Hello! mag­a­zine. His civil mar­riage to fel­low bar­ris­ter Seth Cum­mings was of­fi­ci­ated by his friend, the ac­tor Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch. He is not keen to talk about his pri­vate life and does not want his crim­i­nal prac­tice to be af­fected by his TV work, al­though he does not think it will be. “Ev­ery­body at my cham­bers has been very sup­port­ive. If I had been at a cham­bers where peo­ple were less self-con­fi­dent, it might have been more of an is­sue.”

He adds that his TV per­sona, while per­haps not di­rectly trans­fer­able to a crim­i­nal court set­ting, is not in­vented. “I speak to my clients in a very frank way,” he says. “When you are con­fronting a case in which your liberty may be at stake, one has to be se­ri­ous and deal with the law prop­erly. But on the other hand, one needs to be re­laxed and hon­est and some­times to do that you have to be en­ter­tain­ing as well.” He takes of­fence at ac­cu­sa­tions from tweet­ers that the pro­grammes are scripted. “Ab­so­lutely noth­ing is scripted, al­though we can’t show all the cases in their en­tirety be­cause some of them go on for a con­sid­er­able time.”

I tell Rin­der that from my view­ing, his com­ments cer­tainly come across as spon­ta­neous. “I hope you are say­ing that in a gen­er­ous way,” he replies.

He adds that while he does not es­pe­cially like the word, “per­for­mance”,

Robert Rin­der: “There has to be a sen­si­ble le­gal core, even if you ap­pear silly or the­atri­cal”. Judge Judy

there is an el­e­ment of drama in court. “Any­one who stands in front of a jury would be per­form­ing in some kind of way. How­ever, I would say that peo­ple would run away from the show pretty fast if it were purely flim-flam. There has to be a sen­si­ble le­gal core, even if you ap­pear to be silly or the­atri­cal. Fun­da­men­tally peo­ple need to know that you un­der­stand the law and are ap­ply­ing it fairly and even-hand­edly.”

It seems an odd ques­tion to be ask­ing some­one who is per­form­ing the du­ties of a judge but does he feel he is some­times a lit­tle over-judg­men­tal with those who stand be­fore him? “I’ve en­coun­tered behaviour that could be de­scribed as mo­ronic,” he replies. “But we have all done stupid things. We’ve lent money to friends or bought some­thing in cir­cum­stances we might not be sure about. And a lot of us have prob­a­bly hired some­one to do a job with­out get­ting a ref­er­ence. I’m just point­ing this out and hope­fully it’s help­ful and in­struc­tive.”

Al­though, on the sur­face, most of the dis­putes seem to be over money, Rin­der makes the point that if you delve deeper, many of the cases on which he rules are about much more. “You ask any lawyer and you will dis­cover that the bot­tom line in many cases, from the most ba­sic to the most com­plex com­mer­cial dis­putes, comes down to per­sonal feel­ings. Th­ese cases are in­ex­tri­ca­bly bound up with peo­ple feel­ing hurt or be­trayed in some way — they feel hard done by. Well, the lawyer’s job is to say, ‘I know you think you’ve been wronged but this is what the law says’. And that’s the ed­u­ca­tional value of this process. It’s cer­tainly not a dull se­ries of lec­tures but there are se­ri­ous le­gal prin­ci­ples here.”

Rin­der — a reg­u­lar JC reader — says that while his show has ob­vi­ous sim­i­lar­i­ties with that of Ju­dith Sheindlin, aka Judge Judy, there are dif­fer­ences. “I think she is ab­so­lutely bril­liant. I have watched one or two of her cases and she never gets it wrong. Our show is a bit longer and we al­low the sto­ries to come out more.

“We are equally funny,” he adds, “but I would say she prob­a­bly has a bet­ter com­mand of Yid­dish”.

Judge Rin­der is on ITV1 at 2pm on week­days

PHOTO: ITV

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