We wish we could be there on Tuesday when 10-year-old Elijah Nessel of Leawood walks into Judge Judy’s courtroom to watch the show.
We really wish we could be there when they go to lunch together later, on her dime.
Elijah owes his dad, Jeff Nessel, extra hugs for this treat.
He and Elijah have watched Judy Sheindlin’s show – daytime TV’s No. 1 show with more than 10 million daily viewers – for a couple of years now.
“He just fell in love with her voice, the New York accent, throwing people out of the courtroom, the whole nine yards of it,” says Jeff, a financial adviser.
Soon Elijah, who goes to Leawood Elementary, was talking like Judge Judy.
“The education in this country is going into the toilet,” he likes to say in a New Yawk accent.
He even quotes Judge Judy at school. Hearing someone say “Umm” to the teacher, Elijah has been known to note: “Umm is not an answer.”
So when Jeff saw that the show was having a Facebook contest for fans, he entered for Elijah. (“Sarah isn’t the only writer,” laughs Jeff, whose wife is a former Kansas City Star columnist.)
Jeff’s essay began: “When my son Elijah was born 10 years ago, I like any father, thought about bonding with him while watching the Super Bowl or playing 18 holes on a sunny afternoon.
“When he was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, those hopes, as petty as they now seem, were forever dashed.
“However, a new bonding vehicle was created, watching Judge Judy together. With the help of a DVR, we watch together as Judge Judy dispenses justice, with Elijah commenting, ‘I don't like plaintiff! Will Judge Judy send the defendant out?’ and rewinding to watch again when the Judge opines ...
“I just love the fact that he can laugh and have so much happiness while watching the show. And I had to laugh when my wife brought home the wrong kind of milk and my son said, ‘Mom, you made a mistake! You got the wrong milk for me! I am plaintiff and you are defendant!’”
Jeff entered the contest and forgot about it until one day in March when he received a congratulatory email.
Thousands of people sent in videos and photos and essays, says show spokesman Gary Rosen. But Judge Judy was particularly struck by Jeff’s words. “It was quite a moving essay,” says Rosen.
Jeff didn’t tell Elijah that he’d won an all-expenses-paid trip to Los Angeles to see Judge Judy, and it’s a good thing. A show rep called back with bad news: Contest winners had to be at least 16.
Since Jeff had entered on Elijah’s behalf, they would have to forfeit.
Jeff accepted the news graciously, but asked if the show could send Elijah an autographed photo of Judge Judy to hang on his bedroom wall next to his “Monsters, Inc.” pictures.
The next day the rep called back. “The judge wants to meet Elijah,” he said.
Consulting with their lawyers, producers decided to declare Jeff the winner and allow him to take Sarah to the show taping as his personal guest.
And Elijah? He will be Judge Judy’s personal guest in the courtroom on Tuesday.
“It told me a lot about her and what kind of a person she is,” says Jeff. “I think that was really, really great.”
When Jeff finally told Elijah the good news, he just wanted to know one thing: “Is she going to pick us up at the airport?”