Chief traffic magistrate Brenda DiIoia is the latest law figure in Broward County to join the reality TV circuit. Her show, Speeders Fight Back, airs Thursdays at 8:30 pm ET on truTV. Magistrate DiIoia tells the Juice that she is paid a small consultant's fee (she declines to say exactly how much) for her participation in the show. "It's kind of like fun money," she says. "Everybody thinks, oh, now you're going to be like Judge Larry with these million-dollar contracts. It's nothing like that." When the crew is filming, DiIoia says her 8-hour workday becomes a 12-hour day because some exchanges in the courtroom require do-overs for sound quality and other production glitches. Even so, she doesn't think the show interferes with the county case load. Broward County processes 60,000 tickets a month, making it Florida's second-busiest traffic court jurisdiction after Miami-Dade. Read on for a Q+A with DiIoia, including how she feels about those defendants (like the woman pictured in the video below) who call her the B-word on camera after she rules against them.
How and why did you get involved with the show? My former receptionist liked Speeders. He sent an e-mail to Court TV, now truTV, and said they should see what happens after they get a ticket, in traffic court. I was excited that it's Court TV because they have a very good reputation for showing real trials. It's not scripted. I think it's important for people to see that they can represent themselves in court.
Did you ever imagine yourself being a TV personality? Not at all. Season One was a learning experience for all of us. The production company did a good job of staying out of the way inside the courtroom, so it wasn't disruptive at all. Afterward we do the interview part, with my comments about the case, and that feels like being on TV.
How are people reacting to the show? I'm getting some people who recognize me when I'm out, so I feel compelled to wear make-up even when I'm just going to Wal-Mart. I get comments from people all over the world on my Facebook page, with people telling me how they would have argued the case differently -- which is great. There's also a viewing group for the show at Century Village [retirement community].
What about your peers in the legal community? The greater percentage is supportive, positive. But there's always a little negativity in anything. There are some people that wish it was them. Or that think it should be a judge not a magistrate doing it. But I think that's a little misguided because the show is not about me. It's about the defendants. I'm in there because obviously I have to be.
Technically, are you a public employee? I am not. Magistrates are independent contractors. And of course we're not under the same canons as the judges are. In other words, a Judge Alex or Judge Judy or any of them have to give up their judgeships in order to be on TV because they cannot have outside income. Magistrates are part-time employees, so we can have other jobs.
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But you are up for a county judgeship, right? How exciting is that? I think this is my twelfth time applying. I've always wanted to be a judge, so obviously if the governor were to choose me, then I would be very happy to take that position and do what I love to do. The TV show is a wonderful thing, but it was a blessing that it came when it did and who knows how long it lasts and what will happen.
How does it feel to watch the defendants' reactions after the trials? I don't know anything about the case until the person walks in, and I don't know anything about the case after they leave. So it's been really fun to watch the shows because I get to see what they did beforehand and what they say after. Some of them are surprising. Like the girl we had last week, she was sooo polite and so quiet in court. Her demeanor was very calm. And she went outside and did this double-bird, and foul-mouthed me. I was shocked!
Yeah, tossing around the B-word is so unnecessary. Do the insults weigh on you? I don't get it. I'm not mean to them. I don't insult them. I just brush it off. That's the downside to this job, people blame you for things that they do. But if everybody walked out singing their song and thinking everything was wonderful, I wouldn't be doing my job.
What's one of the wildest excuses you've ever heard in the courtroom? I had a guy that came in for driving with no headlights. The guy stands up and says in his defense: "Well, you know, when you're waiting in line to buy crack-cocaine, if you put your headlights on it draws attention to you." I said, "Your defense is that you were committing a felony?! And you thought you should take this to trial?" You just never know what you're gonna see or what you're gonna hear.