HOLLYWOOD—Nationally syndicated justice Judge Joe Brown reversed Judge Glenda Hatchett's ruling in the TV-court case Amanda Robinson v. Maria Bristow Monday, stating that the lower-rated judge flagrantly disregarded pertinent testimony.
In proceedings that originally aired April 12 at 1 p.m. EST, Hatchett ordered Bristow to pay Robinson $2,000 in damages for faulty services provided at the Headliners Hair Salon in Compton. The defendant appealed the decision, claiming that Hatchett made a rash judgment in order to break for a commercial.
Judge Joe Brown presides over one of the nation's Syndicated-Television Courts of Appeals. These appellate courts stand between less-watched Cable-Television District Courts, such as Hatchett's, the Divorce Court, and Judge Larry Joe's Texas Justice courtroom, and higher-Nielsen-rated courts. The nation's highest courts, such as Judge Judith Sheindlin's family court, will only hear cases that appellate TV judges have determined raise questions of importance to a network audience.
In the 22-minute retrial, Brown openly criticized Hatchett's courtroom methodology.
"It is my feeling that Judge Hatchett failed to adequately explore the facts in the case of Hair Dye Gone Awry," Brown said from his studio chambers. "I do not always agree with Hatchett's common-sense approach to the law. She is a well-respected TV-court judge, but she always seems to side with the nicer person. That's not how our televised legal system is supposed to work."
According to official court records, plaintiff Robinson paid defendant Bristow, Headliners owner and lead stylist, $75 to dye her hair chestnut brown on Jan. 15. Three days after the salon visit, Robinson began to experience excessive hair loss. She complained to Bristow, who offered a refund and a complimentary hairweave. Robinson refused both, deeming them insufficient compensation for her suffering.
Upon review of a videotape of the original trial, Brown called Hatchett's demand that the defendant pay $2,000 and write a letter of apology to the plaintiff "excessive sentencing."
"Hatchett made a serious abuse of discretion by refusing to hear Bristow's testimony after the defendant spoke out of turn a fifth time," Brown said. "In addition, Hatchett made it clear that the defendant's casual dress figured into her decision."
According to Brown, Bristow satisfactorily showed that, while Robinson's "dye job went awry," she had performed thousands of previous hair-dyeing procedures without incident. Robinson, however, never conclusively proved her hair loss was caused by the dye job.
"Besides, a customer must accept a certain degree of risk when entering a beauty shop," Brown added. "This fact cannot be ignored simply because the defendant wore a low-cut tank top and flip-flops to her trial. I believe Hatchett was relying too heavily on her vast experience in doling out tough love to directionless teens."
Brown ordered Robinson to return all monies paid and destroy the written apology before the watchful eyes of a court deputy.
"Our courtrooms may be 3,000 miles apart, but we both preside over the same daytime-TV jurisdiction," Brown said. "When I see that someone has not received due process, I have to speak out. With all due respect to Judge Hatchett, it's Joe Time!"
Legal expert Vincent Apries said he was surprised by Brown's overturning of a case that he called "cut and dried."
"I couldn't believe that Judge Joe Brown wielded his no-nonsense gavel to overrule Hatchett," said Apries, a member of the cable-access television program The Yale Law Review Round Table. "More and more, producers are disregarding rules established in the first session of the People's Court. When litigants agree to stand before a TV-court justice, they sign forms saying they will accept the judge's decision as final."
Media expert Tony Griss said the justices' ideologies affect how they approach the case.
"Judge Hatchett is in New York, and her motto is 'Justice for a new generation,'" said Griss, editor of the Entertainment Weekly "Legal Roundup." "Judge Joe Brown, however, comes from the mean streets of L.A., and stands by his motto of 'Taking care of your own business.'"
Bristow said she was "overjoyed" when Brown overturned Hatchett's ruling.
"Maybe I got a little mouthy when I appeared before Judge Hatchett, but that was only because I was frustrated," Bristow said. "I knew I didn't get a fair trial on UPN. I was prepared to take this case all the way to Judge Judy if I had to."
Robinson, however, maintains that Bristow is responsible for her hair loss.
"That bitch is just lying," Robinson said. "She fucked up my hair and then tries to give me some wack-ass weave, as if that's gonna make up for it. That's just bullshit. Judge Joe Brown can suck it."