She is an East Hampton and Sag Harbor-based lawyer used to grilling witnesses, both as a former prosecutor for the DA, and as a defense attorney. But on June 26, it was Melissa Aguanno of Edward Burke Jr. & Associates getting grilled. The griller was Marilyn Milian, the longtime presiding judge of “The People’s Court.”
Aguanno was testifying on the show on behalf of a client, Jay Morrison, whose ex-wife was suing him in small claims court. “He contacted me to tell me that ‘The People’s Court’ had contacted him, asking him to go on the show,” Aguanno explained last week. “They go through court filings in different jurisdictions to find what would be interesting for the show and that’s how they found him. He said, ‘I don’t want to go on there and look like an idiot.’”
Aguanno told her client that the only way he should go on the show was if he countersued his ex for the same amount, $5000. That was the amount Morrison had paid Aguanno in return for her services in Suffolk County Court in Central Islip, where she had defended him against a criminal charge last year of violating an order of protection brought by his ex, whom Aguanno called “Jessica.” That criminal charge had been dropped when Aguanno produced for the Suffolk County DA’s office a video of the incident, which showed there had not been any physical contact.
Even though the charge had been dropped, her client had spent a night in jail on a false charge, Aguanno said, a fact that didn’t sit well with her.
Jessica then sued Morrison for damage she said had been done to her property he was storing for her after they broke up, leading them to “The People’s Court.”
The show is shot in Stamford, CT. When she arrived on the set, the producers asked Aguanno if she was being paid by her client for her appearance. “I said no, it was the principal of the thing. She needed to be taught a lesson because she continues to do these things.”
A case tried in “The People’s Court” is a little different than your normal trial. It was a “weird” feeling being the one in the witness box, said Aguanno. “She does all the questioning,” Aguanno said about Judge Milian. “She is very animated. Much like myself. And loud,” Aguanno said, laughing.
In the end, Milian found for her client, awarding him the $5000, while giving Jessica a stern scolding. “She lied to the court, and I pointed it out,” Aguanno said about Morrison’s ex.
The episode will air this November. Meantime, it is back to work for Aguanno in courthouses across the East End, where, once again, she will be the one asking the questions.