There’s a new TV judge in town bringing a special kind of justice to the daytime courtroom landscape. This courtroom drama, however, has a unique twist. All the litigants are family members with legal disputes against each other.
Relative Justice with Judge Rhonda Wills debuted earlier this month on Monday (September 13). Judge Rhonda uses her years of legal expertise to unpack (sometimes emotional) family drama to resolve conflicts and bring about resolution while also healing hurt feelings and mending broken relationships.
Rhonda Wills, a University of Texas School of Law alumna, launched the Houston-based Wills Law Firm nearly two decades ago. Wills told BET.com her law practice focuses on “representing everyday Americans who are harmed by corporations.”
Many of her cases involve catastrophic personal injury, employment litigation, sexual assault and harassment, as well as racial, gender and LGBTQ+ discrimination.
Wills has made frequent appearances on radio and TV, including The Tom Joyner Morning Show, CNN and Inside Edition, sharing her thoughts on the legalities of various high-profile cases.
Now, Wills talks about what it’s like making the big leap onto center stage and into the national spotlight with her own TV show.
BET.com: Congratulations! How does it feel to have your own TV program?
Judge Rhonda: I’m super excited. This is something that I’ve spent a lot of time working on, and it was such a labor of love. And I’m so excited that it’s finally coming to TV, and we’ll be able to share it with America.
BET.com: What prompted you to create a judge show that centers on family disputes?
Judge Rhonda: The amazing thing about Relative Justice is that it’s unlike any other court TV show, in that we only have litigants who are family members. They’re related by blood, marriage, or children. So, when you take a normal dispute and you add the layer of it being a family member, it really opens up an entirely different dynamic.
On Relative Justice, I try to combine the two things that I love most and that have been most pivotal in my life. The first, obviously, is the law, which I spent my life, my career practicing and so I combined my love of the law with family.
BET.com: What do you hope your viewers will take away after watching Relative Justice?
Judge Rhonda: You have to watch Relative Justice every day because the cases are going to be different. Some cases are so funny that I am laughing so hard that I can barely get my ruling out. And there are other cases where it is so emotional and deep. It is so raw that I’m almost crying. Then there are other cases where the family members have done something so toxic, so awful, so terrible that I literally have to break them and go in on them and tell them how they need to do better, not just in terms of following the law, but also in how they treat their own family.
I also frequently call experts. One who comes to mind is a Black, Harvard educated dermatologist who testified in a case involving a Black woman whose cousin had been doing her hair forever. One day, her cousin after doing her hair, the cousin caused her to have a huge bald spot on the top of her head and so, she sued her.
There are other experts that I have on, where we delve into a lot of deep family trauma. There are a lot of cases where family counseling is needed, and they’re referred to a therapist. Oftentimes, especially in the Black community, we stigmatize getting counseling and therapy. But to heal our families, we often need it.
BET.com: I noticed that you often add life lessons before ruling on a case. Where do you get those pearls of wisdom from?
Judge Rhonda: I get those pearls of wisdom from life, having a big family, from my friends and from my own clients. I have four children and I am one of five children. My grandmother had 10 children, and I have more than 54 cousins.
Virtually every single scenario that comes before me on Relative Justice, I can absolutely identify with what’s going on. It’s very familiar to me if I have something that’s happened to me or members of my huge family, or with my friends or clients.
BET.com: What inspired you to become a lawyer?
Judge Rhonda: I’ve always known that I wanted to be a lawyer, even as a little girl. I’ve always looked at injustice in the world as something that I wanted to change. And so the only way that I could figure out to bring about any change was to become a lawyer.
Even as a little girl, growing up in a little farming community (Winona, Texas) in East Texas, I knew that I wanted to be a lawyer. And so I just methodically went through everything I needed to do to get there.
I was the first person in my family to get a college degree. I am the only person in my family with a law degree, but I always knew that I could do it.
BET.com: I get the sense that your road to success was paved with challenges.
Judge Rhonda: I have a very loving family. And you know, there’s a saying that it takes a village. In my village was my big family. It was my mother and my grandmother, primarily. My grandfather, my aunts, my uncles…they were my village. They raised me and encouraged me. Even though I grew up very poor, with a level of poverty most people in this country probably wouldn’t even understand, we were always encouraged, first of all, to pursue an education.
My grandmother always told me that I would encounter other people who might be wealthier and smarter than me and have more resources. But one thing I can always control is how hard I work. That’s how I encourage other young women and girls, especially as Black women and Black girls. You can do anything you want. It doesn’t matter where you come from, all you have to do is put in the work because that’s the one thing you control. Never, ever let anyone outwork you. That’s been my motto.