Is Night Court a real thing? The surprising truth

night court

Following years of appeals from fans, Night Court has returned to NBC. The 2023 series is a revival of the Emmy Award-winning original, which ran from 1984 to 1992. Fans hope that the revived series will live up to the original. 

Audiences who watched the show decades ago will have to adapt to several changes. The most notable alteration is the judge’s identity: the late Harold T. Stone has been replaced by his daughter, the jean-clad Abby Stone, played by Big Bang Theory star Melissa Rauch. 

Night court is real – it hears civil and criminal cases at night 

Night court is a real thing. In New York, the night court in Manhattan hears both criminal and civil cases. 

Reinhold Weege, the original show’s creator, reportedly consulted several New York night court judges when modeling the series and its characters. Weege also attended night court sessions, saying he was ‘just moved by the craziness of New York Manhattan night court’.

Night court isn’t limited to New York – several other jurisdictions nationwide have versions of night court. The aim of the night court is to accommodate people who don’t have the resources or time to attend court during the day. 

It also allows courts with huge workloads to clear cases faster. “Usually there’s not much different about night court except for the time of the day,” defense attorney Arash Hashemi told A&E True Crime. “The procedures and everything else [are] still the same.”

The Manhattan Night Court holds court sessions up to 1 a.m. The outlet reports that criminal night sessions ‘are exclusively used for preliminary court proceedings’. Allison Mahoney, a former assistant prosecutor, said:

“Arraignments at night are the same as arraignments during the day. A defendant is brought in and advised of the charges against them. Then an application is made for bail or remand or [they are] released on their own recognizance. The judge decides what to do.”

Night court in New York also handles civil hearings from 6 p.m. to midnight. Night court operations in different jurisdictions may differ, but night court is just like a regular court. The only difference is that the sessions happen at night. Hashemi said:

“You wouldn’t prepare for [night court hearings] differently procedurally, you would just prepare for them logistically. How are you going to get to court? How long would it take you if it was at night versus the day? Procedurally nothing changes, everything stays the same.”

Night court is a popular tourist attraction in New York, especially among foreigners. “It’s very interesting to hear real cases,” Jenny Baumann, a German tourist, told The New York Post.