Judge Judy Sues National Enquirer Owner For Defamation Over Phony Menendez Brothers Article

Judge Judy wants inquiring minds to know that a recent National Enquirer article claiming she is seeking a new trial for the long-convicted Menendez brothers is “unequivocally false.”

So false in fact, that longtime small screen magistrate is taking the Enquirer and InTouch Weekly owner Accelerate360 to court for defamation. The lawsuit that the never litigation shy Judy Justice host and her lawyer Eric M George filed today in state court in Florida seeks unspecified “general and special damages,” and a jury trial.

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Just because the damages aren’t specific, don’t think Judy Sheindlin is looking for pennies on the dollar.

“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,” Judge Judy told Deadline this AM of the InTouch and Nation Enquirer articles of last month claiming she believed  Lyle and Erik Menéndez had not received fair justice in their 1996 second trial for the murder of their parents in 1989.  “When you’ve done it multiple times, it’s unconscionable and will be expensive. It has to be expensive so that you will stop.”

The allegations by Roy Rosselló, a former member of boy band Menudo, in a recent Peacock Menendez + Menudo: Boys Betrayed docuseries that then RCA executive José Enrique Menéndez repeatedly raped him as a teen has put a new emphasis on the Menéndez brothers’ claims that the shotgun killing of their parents was to stop the ongoing sexual abuse in their Beverly Hills home and not to inherit millions. Netflix has announced they are working on a documentary about the incarcerated for life brothers, and of course Ryan Murphy is making the case the subject of the second installment of his hugely successful Monster franchise on the streamer with Monsters: The Lyle and Erik Menendez Story.

Credit: Ted Soqui/Sygma via Getty Images
Credit: Ted Soqui/Sygma via Getty Images

Based in part on Rosselló’s statements and newly discovered family correspondence, lawyers for Lyle and Erik Menéndez filed a habeas petition in LA Superior Court earlier this month hoping to overturn the duo’s life sentences.

None of this seems to have anything to do with Judge Judy – despite what InTouch and the National Enquirer have printed.

“The article was unequivocally false,” proclaims the 20-page filing Monday by attorney George for Sheindlin. Identifying the embryotic source of the InTouch and Enquirer pieces as a Fox Nation documentary, today’s filing in the Sunshine State paints a picture that makes the A360 Media publications look dumb as well as deliberately defaming Judge Judy.

“It entirely misquoted its source material, which identified the speaker of the challenged statements by name—an individual identified onscreen in the docuseries as ‘Judi Zamos,’ and as an ‘Alternate Juror, First Trial,’” this morning’s filing says of the InTouch article. “Judge Sheindlin has never gone by the name Judi Zamos, nor was she an alternate juror in the Menendez trial.”

“After Plaintiff publicly indicated that she would seek to right the wrong done to

her reputation, Defendants removed the April 10 article from the online edition of InTouch Weekly,” the document goes on to damningly state. “As of the date of this filing, however, the article continues to appear in internet search engine results and in other accounts controlled by Defendants, including the News Break account run by Defendants. Worse yet, as discussed below, Defendants subsequently chose to proceed with the publication of the defamatory piece, as a front-page story no less, in their April 22 National Enquirer print edition.”

Now, as former CEO David Pecker made crystal clear in his recent testimony in Donald Trump’s so-called hush money trial, it’s not like the now Dan Dolan-run Enquirer hasn’t played fast and loose with the truth for a good headline before.

Actually, it isn’t even the first time Judge Judy and the tabloid have gotten into a dust-up.

Back in 2017 the Enquirer published a retraction of previously pieces stating that Sheindlin was suffering  “from ‘brain disease,’ was ‘fighting’ both Alzheimer’s and depression, and is ‘hiding a heartbreaking medical crisis.’” Also portraying syndication superstar Sheindlin as unfaithful in her marriage and more, the Enquirer went on to say: “None of these statements are true, and we unequivocally retract them.”

Now, Sheindlin, who saw a third season of of Judy Justice on Amazon  Freevee debuted earlier this year and is heading to synodcation this fall, has rarely come up short in any of her off-screen legal tussles – just ask some ex-producers and packaging agents. Also, due to letters sent in the past few weeks, Accelerate360/A360 Media knew this lawsuit was coming and had an opportunity to take it all down online and offer a retraction – so this isn’t going to be friendly.

That rancor will be even more pointed in the stark manner in which Sheindlin lays out how such potential defamation has hurt her, her media empire and her bank accounts.

“By tarnishing Plaintiff’s reputation as a fair-minded and good judge of character and facts, Defendants’ lies have injured Plaintiff by deterring viewers from watching her shows,” today’s filing bluntly says.

“These lies have injured and, as they continue to circulate, continue to and will injure, Plaintiff by discouraging parties from bringing their disputes before her because of the injury to Plaintiff’s reputation as a fair-minded and good judge of character and facts,” it adds. “These lies have injured and, as they continue to circulate, continue to and will injure, Plaintiff by injuring her reputation in legal circles, reducing her opportunities to pursue new contacts and businesses because of the injury to Plaintiff’s reputation as a fair-minded and good judge of character and facts.”

Remember in America: money talks and you know what walks.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Dylan Howard was the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer when the article about Ms. Sheindlin and the Menendez brothers was published. Mr. Howard no longer runs the Enquirer, and has not worked at the publication since 2019. We regret the error and have corrected it.

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