With a more contemporary spin, Shreveport native Faith Jenkins hopes to attract younger viewers to her new courtroom-set reality series, “Judge Faith.”
Debuting Monday, the New York lawyer and legal analyst will hear cases culled from small claims courts across the country. Prior to appearing on the show, each pair of litigants agrees to abide by Jenkins’ decision in their matter.
“You can expect to see a lot of the traditional court cases, landlord tenant cases ... and a lot of cases that evolve from disputes where people met on social media, on Instagram, or Twitter, or Facebook, cases with college kids, because we really do want to appeal to a more contemporary audience in viewership without alienating the true court watchers,” Jenkins said, referring to TV court series’ typically older fan base.
The 37-year-old Jenkins is no stranger to the small screen. The Miss Louisiana 2000, first runner-up to Miss America in 2001 and Southern University Law Center graduate (first in her class) offers her legal opinions frequently on the cable news networks Fox News, CNN and MSNBC.
“Last summer I was on all three networks during the George Zimmerman trial,” Jenkins said, adding that she’s also recently given on-air analysis in the Oscar Pistorius (Pretoria, South Africa) and Mike Brown (Ferguson, Missouri) cases.
Hank Cohen (Trifecta Entertaiment) sought out Jenkins for the show’s judge’s bench after seeing one of her analyst segments.
“We tape one week (in Los Angeles) and then the next week we’re basically finding new cases for the next week,” Jenkins said.
“Sometimes they (the ‘Judge Faith’ staff) will send me cases and have me look at it to see if it’s something that I think we should do, but for the most part they get the cases right and left and send them to me, and they try to do that the week before we start taping. Right now I have about 10 cases going into next week’s tape cycle, and I’ll be receiving them everyday going forward so I can review them.”
With a commitment of 150 episodes for the season, Jenkins said close to half of the season’s episodes have been shot. With typically two cases per half-hour episode, Jenkins said she hears eight to 10 cases per day.
“A lot of people, this is the first time they’ve filed a lawsuit, they’re not very litigious, and it’s small claims court so sometimes you’ll get cases where people are suing for $200, so the big issue for them is not about the money, it’s the principle, and so for a lot of people it’s their one day in court,” Jenkins said.
“I want to give them the opportunity to speak, and I really want to hear what they have to say. So, I hear both sides of the story, and I am also tough and no nonsense (like TV’s ‘Judge Judy’ Sheindlin) because people have to respect the order and the decorum of being in court and having the show litigate it,” she said. “But at the same time, I have to be me. People recognize when you’re not being authentic.”
Presiding over TV court includes ordering people out of the courtroom, having to ask people to leave, and at times, raising her voice, she said.
“The one adjustment, in dealing with real people is, you never know what they’re going to say. There’s always an element of surprise. This show is not scripted at all.”