Meet the Judge


The real-life story of Judge Mathis is heartwarming and inspirational. Greg Mathis was a gang member who dropped out of school, was in and out of jail and then overcame these adversities to become the youngest judge in the history of the state of Michigan.

The inspiration for his own TV court show, the Judge's personal story is also the subject of a book, "Inner City Miracle," released by Ballantine/One World Books in October 2002. Mathis, along with writer Blair Walker, co-wrote the autobiography to document his triumph over odds. The memoir takes a candid look at the Judge's rise to success from the projects of Detroit. Once a juvenile delinquent himself, the Judge provides readers with a more revealing look into his inspirational transformation and to his ongoing efforts to help others. "Inner City Miracle" was well received by book reviewers across the country. The success of the book earned Mathis the prestigious Blackboard Non-Fiction Book of the Year Award in May 2003.

Mathis has been called upon as a regular contributor to national television programs, including “Larry King Live,” “Politically Incorrect,” CNN's "Talk Back Live,” “Showbiz Tonight” and “Extra” to discuss his opinions on complex issues of the day, such as national security, unique sentencing, affirmative action and celebrity scandals. He also offers his take on high-profile legal cases.

Greg Mathis has become a household name with a broad and loyal following. He has enjoyed major media exposure, appearing on “The Ellen Degeneres Show,” “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Today,” ESPN’s “Quite Frankly”,” TNT's “Listen Up! Charles Barkley with Ernie Johnson” and “BET Tonight with Ed Gordon,” while being featured in People, Essence, Ebony, Jet magazines, and national and local press across the country. Judge Mathis even has his own bi-monthly column in Essence titled “Celebrity Courthouse,” which features his own common sense advice to troubled celebrities.

When he is not on the bench, Mathis makes it a point to give back to the community and to those in need of guidance. In May 2002, Mathis hosted his first Self-Empowerment Expo in Detroit, designed to encourage individuals to develop and achieve worthy goals, and prepare themselves for a more prosperous future. The Expo has since become an annual event in Detroit and has branched out to other cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta. Each Youth And Education Expo offers speakers, workshops and other resources that offer today’s youth a chance to better themselves.

Mathis continues to hit the streets in an effort to help others, joining the fight for various causes and drawing national attention and throngs of supporters. In March 2007, Mathis was honored with an “Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award” for his support of laborer’s rights. In September 2004, Mathis served as Honorary Chair of the National Council for Adoption’s “Kids At Heart Festival” and joined the celebration for National Adoption Month. An advocate for adult literacy as well, Mathis was named a spokesman for Literacy Volunteers of America in Detroit in May 2003. He continues to help raise awareness of the literacy problem and encourages those who need help.

Mathis’ life is an example for at-risk youth everywhere. He has dedicated himself to instilling young people with the motivation for success. In December 2004, Chicago’s Prevention Partnership honored Judge Mathis as the 2004 Prevention Person of the Year. Mathis was selected among nominees for his noteworthy contributions to the betterment of life for at-risk youth, particularly youth susceptible to drug addiction, alcoholism, unwanted pregnancy, crime and violence.

His accomplishments and contributions were also recognized in December 2004 when Mathis received an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Florida’s A&M University.  During his commencement address, Mathis encouraged graduates to take charge of their future and persevere on the path to success.

In October 2003, Mathis appeared in the stage play, “Tell It to the Judge,” an inspirational piece about a young man whose future is undetermined because of his criminal past.  The character played by Judge Mathis, based loosely on his life, sees his own negative past in the young man and decides to mentor him.  This role, which paralleled his own life-story, gave Mathis another opportunity to help change lives.

Greg Mathis grew up in the housing projects of Detroit, and as a teenager was well on his way to a life of crime.  But, as a promise to his dying mother, he vowed to change his ways.  At age 18, he turned his life around, earning his GED, continuing on to college and earning a jurist doctorate degree.  Despite tremendous obstacles and odds, Mathis became the youngest judge in Michigan’s history and was elected a Superior Court Judge for Michigan’s 36th District.

“It pains me to think of all the hurt that I caused my neighborhood, my community, my family,” said Mathis.  “That’s why I’ve made a lifetime commitment to redeeming myself and changing my life and helping to inspire other street youth to redeem themselves and change their lives. With “Judge Mathis,” I hope to reach even more people with my story and hopefully make an even bigger difference in the lives of others.”

Sensitive to social issues of the day, Mathis strives to involve himself with a political agenda and initiatives that fight to improve the system.  His life of public service began when he joined the staff of Detroit City Councilman Clyde Cleveland.  He then went on to work for legendary Detroit Mayor Coleman A. Young as Manager of Detroit Neighborhood City Halls.  He has served as a campaign coordinator for numerous successful political campaigns, including the 1989 re-election campaign of Young, and as a national assistant and Detroit campaign manager in Jesse Jackson’s historic Michigan presidential campaign victory in 1988.  His interest in social reform has served as a catalyst for his career on the bench.

In addition to public service, Mathis’ civil rights activism also began during his college years at Eastern Michigan University, leading groups like Free South Africa.  After graduating from college in 1983, Mathis continued his activism working on Jackson’s Operation P.U.S.H. and the Rainbow Coalition, where he led numerous protests and marches, and continues to be a member today.  In October 2000, Judge Mathis' efforts were recognized by the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition when they honored him with an Advocacy Award for his tireless civil rights work.

Judge Mathis is committed to helping troubled youth in and out of the courtroom.  In 1986, Mathis and his wife co-founded Young Adults Asserting Themselves (Y.A.A.T), a non-profit youth agency that serves thousands of young people.  The foundation counsels youth from the ages of 17-25 about career and job opportunities, provides job training, and offers school and job placement services.  The foundation has also opened five pre-schools in Detroit.  In his various fundraising efforts, Mathis has raised and donated over $2 million for a variety of civil rights, political, church and youth causes.

In 1997, Mathis’ life was the subject of a musical called “Inner City Miracle.” Based loosely on his life, it was written and directed by playwright Ron Milner.

Mathis is Chairman of the Rainbow/PUSH-Excel Board, a lifetime member of the NAACP and is a national board member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (S.C.L.C.).  Judge Mathis is married and a father of four children.