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Jerry Springer goes fatherly route as TV judge

Orlando Sentinel — By Hal Boedeker Orlando Sentinel

Sept. 10-- As star of "Judge Jerry," Jerry Springer says his style will be fatherly, fair and different from TV's most famous judge.

"The challenge of being a judge is you want to do what is fair, and you also have to apply the law of that particular state," said Springer, who lives in Sarasota, Fla. "Somehow you have to mix the two. You take Judge Judy, who is the best there is. She's a disciplinarian. This is the law, boom, that's it. With me, I guess I'll probably approach it more like I would talk to my own daughter or my own grandson when I'm disciplining them."

The nationally syndicated "Judge Jerry" debuted Monday.

Springer notes what a change of pace "Judge Jerry" is from the outrageous talk show he hosted for 27 years. "I'm 75 years old-this is the first time in my life when you will see Jerry Springer and honorable in the same sentence," he said.

The talk show, which ended last year, was "just crazy to begin with," he said. "On a court show, the decisions I make have legal validity. It isn't just giving an opinion."

Springer adds that he'll "joke around a little bit just because I can't help it," but "Judge Jerry" has a seriousness that a regular talk show doesn't.

"At the end of the day, the decision I make, that's it," he said. "So I'm really affecting these peoples' lives. Therefore I want to, and have to, treat them with respect and the decision with respect."

What sold him on the new show? "I have expenses," he said. As the talk show was ending, NBCUniversal asked him about doing a court show because he's a lawyer.

"I thought about it for a few seconds, and said, well, of course," Springer said. "That would be great. It's the first grown-up job I've had in 30 years."

Springer says he brings his life experience to the role and cites his jobs as city councilman, Cincinnati mayor, news anchor and host of "a crazy talk show."

"I have spent literally 50 years, every day of my life, dealing just with regular people and whatever issues they're facing," he said. "To bring that to a courtroom, all of a sudden you're bringing your life experience, not just of what the law is, but of what these people's lives are really like."

Springer said he was struck by the conflict in the small claims cases. "It's disturbed these people enough that they've bothered to go to court in the town they live in and file a lawsuit," he said. "These people are not bringing lawsuits so they can get on television. They have no idea they'll be on television."

The show calls them later to see if they'll go on. Even with the new format, Springer says daytime is a natural environment for him.

"It's been my home for 27 years," he said. "People that watch talk shows are the same people who watch court shows."

The talk show fans looked forward to his editorials. Now he's making courtroom decisions.

"Obviously, my decision is based on how I view this," he said. "I guess you could say a judge's decision is always an editorial. But I have to apply the law to whatever my decision is."

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