‘Judge Judy’ Sues Parent of Tabloid for Defamation

The story claimed the popular TV jurist was trying to help Lyle and Erik Menendez get a retrial of their convictions for murdering their parents in 1989.
‘Judge Judy’ Sues Parent of Tabloid for Defamation
"Judge Judy" Sheindlin arrives at the 46th annual Daytime Emmy Awards in Pasadena, Calif., on May 5, 2019. (Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)
Jana J. Pruet

“Judge Judy” Sheindlin has filed a lawsuit against the parent company of the National Enquirer and InTouch Weekly for a story alleging she was trying to help the Menendez brothers get a new trial decades after they were convicted of murdering their parents.

On April 10, InTouch Weekly published the story on its website with the headline “Inside Judge Judy’s Quest to Save the Menendez Brothers Nearly 35 Years After Their Parents’ Murder,” according to the lawsuit filed in circuit court in Collier County, Florida.

Later, a version of the story was published in the National Enquirer, a sister publication to InTouch Weekly. Both of the publications are owned by Accelerate360 Media. The 1989 Menendez murders in Beverly Hills, California, became tabloid fodder as the brothers’ trials unfolded over cable TV.

Lyle, Menendez, 56, and Erik Menendez, 53, are serving life sentences without the possibility of parole for the murders of their parents, José and Kitty Menedez.

Ms. Sheindlin said she had made no comments about the Menendez case.

According to her lawsuit, Ms. Sheindlin speculates that statements made by Judi Ramos in a Fox Nation docuseries were misattributed to the popular television judge.

Ms. Ramos is identified as an alternate juror in the Menedez brothers’ first trial, which ended in a mistrial after two juries, one for each brother, could not reach a unanimous decision.

Accelerate360, which attempted to sell the National Enquirer but failed, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The story with the alleged comments appears to have been removed from both publications’ websites.

The 81-year-old judge did not specify the amount of damages requested, but she made it clear it would be significant.

“When you fabricate stories about me in order to make money for yourselves with no regard for the truth or the reputation I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating, it’s going to cost you,” she said in a statement.

“When you’ve done it multiple times, it’s unconscionable and will be expensive. It has to be expensive so that you will stop.”

Not the First Time

Ms. Sheindlin, who hosted the syndicated show “Judge Judy” from 1996 through 2021 and now hosts “Judy Justice,” has had issues with the National Enquirer in the past.

In 2017, the newspaper apologized and retracted stories that falsely claimed she was “hiding a heartbreaking medical crisis.” The stories said she was suffering from “brain disease” and was “fighting Alzheimer’s disease and depression.”

“We also published articles which stated that Judge Judy cheated on her husband and that her daughter Nicole Sheindlin faced jail time for refusing to serve on a jury,” the National Enquirer wrote in an apology published on its website. “None of these statements are true, and we unequivocally retract them.

The Menendez brothers, who were convicted of first-degree murder in 1996, are hoping for a new trial. Last year, lawyers for the brothers filed a petition with the court, citing new evidence and seeking a retrial.

Lyle and Erik Menendez have admitted to killing their wealthy parents. But they are hoping to be retried using evidence that supports their claims of a lifetime of emotional and sexual abuse at the hands of their parents.

Their Cuban-born father came to the United States as a teen during the 1950s and later earned an accounting degree from Queen’s College, according to Biography.

He became a successful entertainment executive in the 1980s, signing pop bands, including Duran Duran and The Eurythmics, before taking a job in the movie business.

Prosecutors said the duo killed their parents for their money.

However, the brothers have long claimed that the abuse they suffered left them fearful and led them to shoot their parents at point-blank range while the parents watched TV in their Beverly Hills home on Aug. 20, 1989.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jana J. Pruet is an award-winning investigative journalist. She covers news in Texas with a focus on politics, energy, and crime. She has reported for many media outlets over the years, including Reuters, The Dallas Morning News, and TheBlaze, among others. She has a journalism degree from Southern Methodist University. Send your story ideas to: [email protected]
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