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Stateside Podcast: Judge Mathis reflects on TV career, Detroit roots

Judge Gregory Mathis stands in a black judge's robe with his arms crossed. He's wearing black framed glasses.
Courtesy of Judge Greg Mathis
Judge Gregory Mathis recently announced that he will be ending his long-running daytime TV court show after more than two decades.

If you've stayed home sick in the past 20 years, you've probably come across Judge Greg Mathis on your television screen. He's been hosting his eponymous daytime TV court show, Judge Mathis, for more than two decades. The only other television court personality to top that record is Judge Judy.

But long before he found himself on the small screen, Mathis was a judge here in his home state of Michigan. He was elected to the state's 36th District Court in 1995.

Born in Detroit, Mathis grew up in an area he described as being deeply impacted by addiction and with substandard educational opportunities. Mathis said he himself was in and out of jail as a teenager, before being tried as an adult for carrying a gun.

“The good news is the judge gave me a second chance after a few months in jail,” Mathis said. “And I came out and overcame those obstacles."

After his release, Mathis got his GED, enrolled at Eastern University Michigan, and later attended the University of Detroit Mercy’s law school. He said his time in jail led to him being more compassionate to the people standing before him in his courtroom.

Mathisknew he wanted to fight against the injustice and racism that shaped his childhood, and he said he found he needed to fight for “reform within the system.”

“That’s what I’ve always done, is fight alongside civil rights leaders and political leaders who were seeking to reform injustice, and against racism, and for empowerment of underrepresented communities,” Mathis said.

As for why his show has lasted so long, Mathis thinks it’s because of his relatability. He understands the life experiences of his viewers because he had many of the same experiences. He said trying to give people an avenue to express their realities is what gives him the most fulfillment.

“I know that reality because that was me and my mother when I was troubled, but I’m also talking to millions of other single mothers with troubled kids,” he said.

Fans of Mathis’ show will be happy to hear that a new iteration of the show will be coming in fall 2023, after former Detroit resident Byron Allen’s Allen Media Group picked up the show. The new show will be called Mathis Court with Judge Mathis.

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Music in this episode byBlue Dot Sessions.

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Mercedes Mejia is a producer and director of <i>Stateside</i>.
Dan Netter joined the Stateside team as an intern in May 2022 and is a senior at Michigan State University studying Journalism and Social Relations & Policy.