The Sheitel & The Court TV Fiasco: A Different Look


[By Rabbi Yair Hoffman For Five Towns Jewish Times]

Many people are already familiar with the case of a recent appearance of a religious Jewish couple, “Heidi and Mendi,” on “The People’s Court.”  The case involved a “Georgie” wig that was erroneously washed by workers in a landromat.  The People’s Court, although appearing to be a courtroom, is, in fact, an arbitration venue that litigants sign up to adjudicate their cases.

The show promotes itself as follows:

The verdict is in…Judge Marilyn Milian brings back her sassy style of justice for her seventh season of “The People’s Court.” Judge Marilyn Milian, the first Latina Judge to host a nationally syndicated television court show is proud of her Cuban heritage and often uses phrases from her grandmother when addressing litigants. Milian admonishes a litigant who is trying to lie in her courtroom, “No sabes ni adobar la mentira…You don’t even know how to season the lie to make it palatable.” The highly successful court series takes viewers inside a television courtroom where Milian dispenses her own unique brand of justice daily.

At the end of the “Case of the Wig”, in a surprise turn of events, Judge Marilyn Milian accused the couple of fraudulently misrepresenting the cost and origin of the ruined wig.  The show made its rounds via a clip of the high drama exchange on Youtube.

Although not affecting the ultimate disposition of the case anymore, Georgie later came forward and confirmed that this couple had indeed purchased both the ruined wig as well as the replacement wig from her.  An email from the rival Georgie International also confirmed that the judge in the case had, in fact, contacted their company and not the Georgie Wig Company.

Unless five people are lying in unison with each other, the judge had spoken to two different people and had conflated both responses of her “out-of-court research” into one when she laid forth her accusations of lying against the hapless couple.

What follows is a discussion of procedural issues from both a halachic and historical perspective.

France and the United States are very different countries.  The judicial system in the United States is an adversarial system – the role of the judge is that of an impartial referee between the two sides.  In a civil case, the judge referees between the two litigants; in a criminal case, the judge referees between the the prosecution and the defense.  But our judges do not engage in investigation.

In France, on the other hand, the court system is an inquisitorial system.  There the court is actively involved in investigating facts of the case.  What the judge did in the now infamous sheitel case was engage in the investigation of the facts, in the short twenty-five minute interval that she took while the filming was taking place.

In the judge’s “investigation,” she spoke to witnesses and arrived at a conclusion without a] identifying who these witnesses were and b] giving the opportunity for cross-examination. The fact that representatives from both Georgie companies are stating that the judge had contacted the wrong company for identifying the origin of the wig is irrelevant to our discussion here – what is now being discussed is the underlying procedural issue.

In both halacha and, lehavdil, secular legal systems the right to ask, question, and cross-examine witnesses is one of the safe guards that ensures integrity, accuracy and justice.   Cross-examination is the best and most indispensable way known to the law for discovery of truth [see Davis v. Arkansas Best Freight System, Inc., 239 Ark. 632, 634-635 (Ark. 1965).]

This is a right also found in the confrontation clause of the sixth amendment to the United States Constitution.

The judge, in this case, also made an accusation and did not even allow “Heidi and Mendi” to respond – much less cross-examine.  The judge’s actions here undermine the very concept of justice enshrined in thousands of years of secular legal codes.  In secular law, it first appeared in the Roman legal system, travelled to and codified in Justinian law of the Byzantine Empire, made it into English Common Law then British law. Ultimately, it became the law of the United States of America.

Lehavdil, the Shulchan Aruch had codified this halacha that dates back in Jewish law to thousands of years before the Romans developed it.  The Choshain Mishpat section of the code of Jewish Law (28:15) states as follows:  “We do not accept testimony from witnesses outside of the presence of the litigant.” The SMa (1555-1614), Rav Yehoshua Volk HaKohen Katz, one of the most famous commentaries on the Shulchan Aruch cites the Talmud (Bava Kamma 112a and 112b) that traces the origins of this concept back to the Bible itself.  The verse in Exodus (21:29) states, “But if the ox had gored previously or the day before and the owner had been warned..” is expounded to mean that the owner of the ox must be present at testimony to this point.

The requirement is considered to be biblical when it comes to capital cases, but Rabbinic in origin when it comes to monetary cases.

What is the reason for the rule that the testimony must be before the litigant?  The Ramah (CM 110:9) clearly indicates that there is a concern for error. Interestingly enough, the same type of error that it is alleged by both Georgie companies has occurred here.

The rule goes so far that if the litigant is a minor and is thus incapable of determining errors on the part of the witness or witnesses, it is considered as if the testimony was not made before the litigant and is considered invalid according to jewish law (CM 28:19).

There are, of course, mitigating circumstances that will allow such testimony to be taken when there are no other choices (See Simanim 28 and 110).  The reason for this allowance is that since the requirement is Rabbinic in origin, there are certain times when exceptions were made on account of hardships.  This case, however, would not be one of them.

Perhaps the error here lies in the very advertisement that appears on the show’s very own literature.

“Judge Milian explains America’s fascination with the court show genre: ‘We are a fast food nation, people love to see resolution, they want to watch someone who has done wrong confronted and see justice prevail…all in an hour.’ ”

On the other hand, according to Rashi (Dvarim 1:16), the Torah warns judges, “Havei masunim badin – be very careful and deliberate in your judgment.”  One hour just doesn’t seem to cut it.  People’s Court may be a court of arbitration – but it is far from justice.


The author can be reached at [email protected]

(YWN Desk – NYC)


  1. Ive read many articles and posts regarding this story. Im confused on one major point. From what I recall (please clarify if I’m wrong) the Judge said this wig had a Revlon label in it. Since when is a wig with a Revlon label, a custom wig made by Georgie?

  2. What bothered me more about the case was that the frum couple went to a tv show courtroom. The goyim don’t love us and I believe going there only gave them bait to prove it. The less we are out in the open, the better it is for us!

    I think all frum people should stay away from these courts and stick to private courtrooms if needed, and certainly better a bais din (although understandably this time it was against a goy so they had no choice)

  3. #1 ofcourse — The TV judgette said she doesn’t know what brand it is (and suggested for all she knew it could be a Revlon); she did not say it was a Revlon. View the video carefully.

  4. I am so sick of all these applogists coming forward and trying every possible spin under the sun. The bottom line is, this was Yad Hashem sending a clear message to this couple that they had no business to go on this show in the first place. They should have gone to smalls claims court and filed suit like a mentch. How about this individual coming forward and ststing that they made a huge mistake and lets just move on?

  5. One small thing that’s been bothering me was how the judge took a jab at the whole concept of tzinus and sheitels in general. At one point the judge asks Heidi how long she’s been wearing wigs. Heidi explains that she started wearing them when she got married because Orthodox Judaism requires that women cover their hair after marriage. The judge then says, “I was just wondering if this was not in your life plan and he was just so irresistible…” Everyone has a little bit of a laugh.

    It was pretty clear to me that the judge just assumes that the woman really doesn’t want to cover her hair and was forced by her man to do so. The comment was quite an insensitive and intolerant one, especially coming from a judge who prides herself on being an ethnic minority and has on several occasions let participants in her ‘courtroom’ have it when they said something culturally or racially insensitive. To suggest that the only reason a frum woman would want to cover her hair was because her husband is subjugating her to his will is quite offensive to me.

  6. I was wrong in post #1. The judge mentioned the name Revlon, and I took that to mean that the judge read the name Revlon off the specific label. She did not.

    Being that the judge didnt make a proper identification of this wig, and she is the most at fault, whats happenning here is worse than disgusting. Not only is the couple being second guessed, but so is Georgie. This is not excusable.

  7. Rabbi Hoffman should acquaint himself with Article 75 of the CPLR which is New York’s arbitration law. In New York an arbitrator is allowed to conduct an independant investigation. An arbitrator merely has to apply equity as s/he deems fit. Barring evidence or collusion or corruption an arbitrator’s award is not to disturbed unless it defies all logic. That’s the law

  8. I saw the video.

    1)Besides the obvious and disturbing issue of appearing on national television with such a complaint and the reflection it’s made on us all, I find it hard to imagine that they asked a Rov and that this was the only way to resolve this. What happened to b’hatznea leches? What happened to ARKO”OS? Oy.

    2) And I think this is the biggest problem they made for themselves and why they opened themselves to such an accusation: THEY CAME WITHOUT A SHRED OF EVIDENCE!
    They compounded the aveira by not assuring they at least looked prepared. And since they did not, it leaves a questionable and unsettling taste with me that it’s possibly true. Because if you are yosher, you will do everything possible to make sure you are respectful and prepared. Even if they lost, they would’ve lost on the merits.

    Here, because they came unprepared they lost on innuendo because they could not prove anything to their benefit.

    Sad on many levels. Dos iz golus b’chol ha’protim!

    #6- Du zogst der emes!

  9. amen! did these people ask a shaila whether it is appropriate to go on public display? what about kul kevuda bas melech pnima?Secondly, What gives people the right to act on their own when their actions will very possibly(as indeed turned out to be the case)impact how orthodox jews are viewed.

  10. ” How about this individual coming forward and ststing that they made a huge mistake and lets just move on?”
    How about all the people who rushed to judge without knowing the details coming forwards and stating that THEY made a huge mistake?

  11. The People’s Court is a TV show. It is entertainment. It is meant to attract viewers and ratings. The Judge is not, and does not claim to be dispensing justice according to the Constitution, the Law of France or Jewish Halacha. Anyone going on this program knows that they are subject to the Judge’s sense of justice. If they go on the show they do so at there own risk.

  12. Thank you Rabbi Hoffman
    Unfortunately there are rabbonim and even botei dinim that will except testimony not in front of the litigant and even cases where they are actively involved in the investigations as well instead of hearing evidence with a clear mind set rachmono letzlan

  13. well written, except that it should be mentioned that the judge acts more like a comedian and looking for the spotlight than a professional judge.

  14. Let’s stop the articles about the shaitel before Hashem gives us bigger tzoros to write about. Please…enough already, let’s give it a rest.

  15. to # 14 lets reiterate – the onus is not on those who judged the couple the onus is on the couple who made a spectacle of themselves and made a chillul hashem not to mention all the loshon hora that they provoked. so please dont get so frum about how we are suppossed to react look at how they unfortunately “acted”

  16. I think Mendi’s reasoning was as follows:

    A) He felt bad asking the Latino owners of the Laundro Matt for $3,000. Even though he felt it was rightfully owed to him.

    B) Out of the goodness of his heart, he took this to People’s Court, where I believe (someone please confirm) that for taking the case to them – they pay the reward to the claiming party (instead of the guilty party needing to pay.)

    So Mendi felt that it was better to get the money from the People court then these poor Laundromatt owners…

    Nevertheless, this was a ridiculously bad judgment call. My heart goes out to Mendi and Heidi….and Kol Hakavod to Heidi for going along with your husbands terrific ideas!!! Aren’t men great???

  17. Just to let you know- I have watched both videos, and seen plenty of comments on this already, and have even been called names on my responses. Also, yes, I have watched People’s court on TV before and am aware of how she acts on tv.
    This is what I believe- One thing she does not like at all, are lyers.
    True, I wonder why the judge decided to make a recess and then go investigate this on her own, and then when she told the couple she was devestaded, the woman looked at her, you mean I should have brought proof with me about my claims even calling it a thingamagig, she said no- that she made a phone call to Georgi’s company and that this sheitel was not even purchased from there and that possibly the one on your head is the one you paid $3000 for. The woman looked completely shocked!
    Yes, shocked. Even when she regained her composure, she didn’t tell the judge anything- she just like knew they were caught. Thats what bothers me the most.
    The guy outside gives them a chance to speak out against the judge ruling- and the man, and woman were too embarressed -in my opinion- to say a defense.
    That is the time they should have said, I hope we can get to the bottom of this, not that Georgi was out of town, etc.Why had the woman told the man afterwards- you were there, you saw what happened, the judge made her ruling.
    Is that not agreeing with the judge? In my books- that is called agreeing with the judge that she was lying. Had she not been lying she wouldn’t have been so chutzpadik to this guy who was giving a chance to claim their thoughts on what had happened. The husband had chutzpah and looked clueless to the judge when she asked him if they had proof about their claim of a total loss. The guy seemed like a smart “gemorah kup” – You want to bring in halocha references- how about the one in the gemorah where it says hamotzi m’chavero olov h’raiyeh…
    Hmmm- and he didn’t realize he should have brought proof with him that he went to the companies who told them it was a total loss…?
    Just because they look like a frum couple- and she spends $6000 (2 sheitels) to cover her hair to be “frum” doesn’t mean they won’t try to lie.
    –And to the person who is upset at the judge for taking pokes at her for not wanting to cover her hair until she got married. It was nothing like that. The halocha is not to spend $3000 on a stupid wig to cover your hair- there are many inexpensive ways to covering your hair.
    Nowhere in the halocha does it say to cover your hair with a $3000 synthetic human hair wig!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Puh-leese…. If the husband wants you to wear a wig- then the wife usually wears a wig. Simple as that. The woman may agree with her husband, but deffiantly has a choice as to cover her hair with a wig or a hat…
    Don’t give me that. And the one thing that bothers me the most is the couple’s (yes, both man & woman- Heidi & Mendy) with their absolute chutzpadik remarks to the judge and to the person outside the courtroom.
    Had they been more humble, and had some sort of proof with them, that they had indeed gone to 3 different places to see if it was a total loss, and had they given the judge the correct number of Georgi’s cell- who cares she was in France? The ways the court handles these things are not rellevent to the issue.
    She gave the couple plenty of time to state their claim and bring proof that this sheitel was a total loss.
    Please, watch both videos closely- the full version.
    If you want I’ll post a link to the full version video.
    As for the comments made by the people who stand outside on the street- they were clueless also- because they did not hear the part where they said the wig had been placed there accidently. And even so- the dry cleaners should have been smart enough NOT to put the $3000 wig of human hair inside a washer/dryer.
    I agree that was dumb on their part.
    But- just because the couple was chutzpadik- and acted clueless as to how to come prepared with documents stating your claim, and that she said it herself at the end, you were there- you heard the judge!
    Then all of you should realize they were caught red-handed! Simple as that! I don’t care if they were a FRUM couple- they did something wrong, they got caught, ON LIVE TELEVISION aired around the world… and agreed with the judge. you don’t just agree with something like that, if it’s not true! Common Sense, people.

  18. @ comment # 15- Well said. Kol Hakavod.
    Not only is it for entertainment – there is a disclaimer on in the beginning of the show, stating that both parties have agreed to drop their claims and to have it setteled in People’s Court and has been paid to have their case shown on air. As stated above- the one thing that bothered me, was their shock that they got caught-
    and how she admitted to the guy afterwards the judge was right. You don’t just let it go so easy ON TV that if something was done wrong, you just say – well, the judge ruled and thats that. This is your own reputation- and your community’s as well. They should be banned from their shul.

  19. I wish that Heidi and Mendi never went on national TV. It is such an embarrassment. Rabbi Hoffman and do not know why you wrote “A different Look… this “. The only look is what the Goyim see and remember!! It makes Jews look like we are liars and try to fool people. Very Sad!!!!

  20. On thing that doesn’t make sense to me. The case occurred, as I understand, around sukkos time, but didn’t air until recently. That means the litigants had 3 months time to clear up with the People’s Court people the truth in the facts of the case. If their argument was as airtight as it’s being portrayed to be above, then why couldn’t they clear this up beforehand – hire a lawyer if they needed to – to avoid the airing of such a chillul hashem?

  21. Cantoresq’s comment in #10 is right on the money.

    Rabbi Hoffman, stop playing investigative reporter. Better yet, stop playing lawyer!

    You say, “Cross-examination is. . .a right also found in the confrontation clause of the sixth amendment to the United States Constitution.”

    Had you actually bothered to read the Sixth Amendment, you would have seen the words at its beginning, “In all criminal prosecutions.” This wasn’t a criminal case.

    But even if it were, we spent six months on this complex subject in law school. It’s no wonder that you can’t even get the basics correct.

    Enough already. Please!