World's Greatest Judge is the fifth episode of the first season of For the People.

Short SummaryEdit

Judge Byrne finds himself at a crossroads in his career when he presides over a case that requires a disproportionate mandatory minimum sentence. Allison represents a charming defendant in a fraud case while on duty for the first time, and Leonard struggles to decide whether or not to bring charges against a political figure.

Full SummaryEdit

Nicholas enters at a grim-looking apartment building. A woman cautiously opens the door. He asks if he can come in.

Nicholas is woken up by his alarm at 6:15. He gets out of bed.

Fully dressed, he enters the kitchen and finds a note informing him that D. went on a run. There's a lunch packed for the "world's greatest judge."

Nicholas arrives at the courthouse.

In his chamber, he reads the paper with a cup of coffee. Something he reads upsets him.

Allison provides Sandra with coffee. Sandra's working at the conference table because there's "stuff" in her office. Allison sees it's just a big mess in there and suggests she just clean up. It's Allison's first day on duty. Jay comes up. Allison asks what to do now. Sandra tells her about her meeting with Tina on her first day on duty and advises her to check her e-mail. Allison does so and finds that she has a fraud case. It's not against Kate, so she should be fine. Jay leaves for a meeting. Sandra asks what kind of fraud.

It's wine fraud. The prosecutor informs the judge that Toby Mahler is a wine forger. He filled bottles of rare, expensive vintage wines with cheap, fake wine. The indictment states he made millions, but those were frozen by the government. That is why he needs a federal public defender. The judge is willing to release Toby pending trial if he refrains from the manufacture, sale, and consumption of wine. Allison asks Toby to come by her office to discuss things. He considers it a date.

On the elevator, Roger shows Leonard that Phil Stoller, a Bronx rep, made the front page with his exposed affair. Roger went to the guy's marriage and he knew the marriage wouldn't make it, but he didn't think it would take him out, too.

They discuss it further in Douglas's office. The woman Phil had an affair with was married to a printer and two days after that man found out about the affair, Stoller paid half a million dollars from his federal campaign funds to the man's printing business. If they can prove it was hush money, they have a case for misappropriation of campaign funds. Roger is conflicted out because he went to the wedding. So, this is Leonard's case. Leonard was chosen because he got Roger's attention. If he nails this case, he'll have Douglas's too.

Seth finds Kate working in his office. She's getting ahead of him coming to her office. He has a big drug case. The man was paid to deliver a package. He jumped a turnstyle and was stopped by some cops, who found the package was 57 grams of meth. Kate says anything about 50 grams is a mandatory sentence to 10 years in prison. The only big thing about the case is the sentence.

Jay is talking to Rodrigo Puente, the man from Seth's case. He was asked by an acquaintance if he wanted to make some money. He had done it before. But he's a father now, so he was just trying to provide. He didn't know what was in the backpack and he didn't ask. Jay will do anything to find a way out of this.

Tina enters Nicholas's office. He tells her that he read that Julien Barley got stomped to death in prison. He didn't belong there. Tina says a lot of people don't. As he puts on his robe, Nicholas tells her the story. Julien lived next to a stash house and went over there to play video games with his friends. The cops raided the house and found 12 kilos of cocaines. Julien was sentenced to 10 years. Tina says that is why she doesn't read the paper. She asks why he's making her wait. He takes a bottle of hot sauce from his drawer and hands it to her. She reminds him it's just another day.

Nicholas takes his place in the courtroom. Seth informs him that Rodrigo is charged with the possession of a controlled substance with an intent to distribute. Rodrigo understands the charges. He wasn't selling. Upon hearing that Rodrigo was a courier, Nicholas asks how much meth. Seth replies 57 grams. Nicholas knows this is a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. He asks about the criminal record, but it's just two misdemeanors. He served no jail time for those. However, it's still two criminal history points under the statute, which means he's ineligible for the safety valve. Seth wants to propose a trial date, but Nicholas cuts him off. He doesn't like this case. If Rodrigo is convicted, Nicholas is obligated to impose 10 years in federal prison with no chance of parole on someone with essentially no criminal history for carrying a package of meth the size of a phone. That mandatory sentence is the same as the one for sex trafficking a child. He won't sentence Rodrigo to 10 years in prison, not today.

Seth informs Roger that Nicholas is unhappy with the charges. Roger says he's not happy with the law, but that's not on them. Seth will tell him their position stands. Roger asks who the judge is.

Jill tells Jay that it sounds unlike Byrne. Judges sometimes express their displeasure, but she's never heard something this direct. Jay, Jill, and Sandra then see Allison with her duty case. Sandra hates how hot he is.

Leonard tells Kate that he has a sensitive case that might put him on Delap's radar. She keeps working but assures him she's fine. He invites Kate to a donor lunch with his mother, but she declines.

Toby thanks Allison for having him over. She reminds him these are serious charges. He brought her a bottle of excellent wine as a gift. He admits it's a fake, but she'll never be able to taste the difference. Most people can't. She thinks she can. Toby says people trust labels for the product quality. It's the same with universities. Toby loves wine. He dropped out of community college and worked for a year to pay his first trip to France. The moment he tasted his first Burgundy, he knew that he would dedicate his life to wine. He started collecting until one day, he bought a fake bottle. It broke his heart and started noticing that people around him only cared about the money and status rather than the wine. If he hadn't slipped up and made typos on the labels, nobody would have noticed. He then sees her watch and tells her it's a fake. It was a gift from parents.

Leonard is interviewing Sarah in a hotel room. She and Phil were going to leave their spouses, but that was 4 years ago. Now she has no home to go back to. The tabloids are chasing her. Leonard checks the dates, but the payment is too circumstantial. She disagrees. Sarah's husband told her he was going to make Phil pay. Phil also told her he was going to, but she has no written communication about this. However, she tells Leonard he has her.

Back in the courtroom, Seth tells Nicholas that the government's position hasn't changed. Nicholas wants to see Roger. Seth clarifies he has spoke to Roger and he's here to represent the government. Nicholas asks him to approach. Nicholas reminds him about Seth's misbehavior in the Locarno case.

Roger is meeting with Nicholas. Roger says he didn't write the law and Rodrigo had more than 50 grams. Roger doesn't like this kind of talk without others present. Nicholas is trying to do the right thing. Roger recalls Nicholas used to tell him he didn't care about his beliefs, he just had to win the case. That was back when Nicholas had his job and he was Seth. Nicholas told him that emotions had no place in their job. Drugs have victims and they cared about those victims. Nicholas refuses to let this go. Roger says Rodrigo won't be the only person suffering, then.

Melora is speeching at the donor lunch. She happily introduces Leonard to the guests.

Privately, Melora checks if Leonard talked to the most important guests. He did. She knows he's working on the Stoller case. She doesn't want to talk about the case, but she thinks this case isn't good for him if he doesn't win. She would never interfere in a federal investigation, but she needs him to be careful. He appreciates her concern, but he's got this.

Nicholas is meeting with Jill. He wants to know if there's anything Rodrigo can trade, but he has nothing. Jill knows how this works. Nicholas states Rodrigo doesn't deserve this. Jill says that goes for most of their clients. Nicholas says today is different. Jill says he's the only thing that's different today. She wasn't optimistic when he moved to the bench. However, his compassion and mercy has surprised her. He has his blind spots and this was one of them. She thinks whatever's happening to him is a good thing.

Allison and Sandra are researching Allison's watch. She checks the serial number. It's a fake. They have more fake wine. Allison really can't tell the difference with the real wine. Sandra hates that she got a hot client. Allison says it's a hard case. Nothing about the charges is in question. She thinks she has to get rid of the watch. Sandra questions why. Allison thinks quality and authenticity are important. What's on the inside counts. Sandra says Toby believes that. Allison says he didn't always believe it. She realizes that's the key to her defense.

Leonard's looking into Phil's campaign funds. He discovers a lot of contributions come from Vonner Capital.

Leonard is back at his mother's house. He brings up Vonner Capital, which is where Phil got the money to pay off Sarah's husband. The top three executives of that company are also huge donors of Melora's campaign. He thinks she was aware, which is why she wanted him off the case. She didn't want to be linked to tainted donors and be forced to return millions in contributions. Melora says if she were concerned about being tarnished, she would have asked him to drop the case instead of dropping off of it. Leonard says that would be obstruction and she knows it. She says her campaign does not depend on one donor. He says her career depends on her putting herself first, even ahead of her own son. He recalls the TV ads she had him participate in for her first campaign. She treats him like a prop. She says he begged to be in the ads. He says he was 10 and just wanted to be with his mother. Melora says this is both their careers, his even more than hers. He's going to higher than she ever will.

Jay is checking with Rodrigo if he knows anybody higher up in the drugs circuit. Rodrigo says he got the package from A.P., but he made less of this than Rodrigo did. Rodrigo doesn't know anybody else. It was just easy money. Rodrigo is scared about the 10 years. He says his son is 6 months old. He's just starting to pull himself up. He stands there proud and then falls onto the floor, which, like the sentence, seems to have come out of nowhere.

Seth is questioning Agent Manello from the DEA. Manello has worked there for nearly 12 years. Based on his experience, Seth wants to know if drug organizations ever use couriers who are unaware of what they are transporting. Manello has never seen that happen.

It's Jay's turn. He checks if Manello was the arresting agent in the case or if he has any prior history with Rodrigo. The answer to both questions is no. So, that means Manello has no personal knowledge about whether Rodrigo was aware of what he was carrying. Manello says that in his experience, drug couriers always are aware of what they're carrying until they are detained. Nicholas interrupts Jay and asks Manello if he ever orders take-out. He does. Nicholas asks if he sometimes collects the bag from the restaurant without checking what's inside. Manello says that could happen. Nicholas asks him to imagine the police stopping him on the street and finding cocaine in every carton in the bag. Manello would say he didn't know that was in there. Nicholas takes it that means Manello admits it's possible to carry something you don't know the contents of. Roger objects.

Back in Nicholas' chambers, Nicholas says he's entitled to ask questions. Roger says he's entitled to object. What Nicholas is doing is never going to work. Nicholas admits that. He's going to instruct the jury that if they find Rodrigo guilty, Rodrigo faces a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison. Roger says he can't inform the jury about the potential sentence. It's a violation of judicial conduct. He asks Jill to support him, but Jill puts the client first. Nicholas's mind is made up. He's not sentencing Rodrigo to 10 years in prison.

Jill asks Roger to forget about his past with Roger. They have their differences, but if Nicholas is willing to try something this extreme, she's thinking there might be something worth thinking about. Roger says there's nothing he can do. Jill asks him to drop the quantity of drugs from the indictment. Roger doesn't want to get Rodrigo out of the mandatory minimum. He wants to enforce the law.

Leonard is not sure whether to bring charges or not. He tells the story from different angles. Kate admits it's hard to decide. Leonard thinks this is a rare opportunity to make a personal impression on the United States Attorney. The chances of that happening again are slim to nonexistent. Kate says there's no right answer here. He just has to make a call.

Toby is back in Allison's office. She says he's helping to destroy the thing that he loves in the name of revenge. If there's rampant fraud in the industry, she wonders why he's making it worse instead of stopping it. This is his defense.

Toby and Allison are at the United States Attorney's office. Toby is tasting different glasses of wine. He passes with flying colors. Allison tells the AUSAs that they can continue this case against this small player with noble but misguided intentions, or they can retain the exclusive services of one the most distinguished palates in the world to help them in the detection and prosecution of systematic large-scale wine fraud, the kind of fraud they actually care about. As the AUSAs debate the matter, Toby tells Allison he wants to take her to France.

Leonard enters Delap's office. He believes that Phil wrongly used campaign funds to pay off his mistress's husband, but he thinks he can't prove it. He wants to walk Delap through his rationale, but Delap says there's no case if there's no case. He then tells "Mr. Fox" he can leave. Leonard corrects him and leaves. Seth and Roger are waiting outside.

They just briefed Delap on Nicholas. Delap tells them to file an emergency Writ of Mandamus in the 2nd Circuit. That'll prevent Byrne from giving the jury instruction. If he ignores that, he's finished as a judge. Roger suggests they file a superseding indictment without the quantity of drugs, allowing Byrne to avoid the mandatory minimum. Delap says they don't do that. Roger thinks this is an exceptional circumstance since Rodrigo has no record of jail time. Delap says that's not exceptional, it's what the law contemplates. Delap asks if he's gone soft and orders him to file the Writ. Seth says they will.

Roger drops by Seth's office and tells him he shouldn't have done that. Seth says he only carried out an order. Roger thinks they have the ethical obligation to question an order they don't believe in. Seth recalls the last time he questioned one of Roger's orders. Roger says he may have been wrong back then, but Seth doesn't think so. He filed the Writ.

Leonard tells Kate he decided not to charge. She doesn't care. Leonard is worried his mother got in his head. Leonard wonders if Kate is jealous because he got the high-profile case. She's not. She tells him to find someone else to babysit his self-esteem. He says she's judgmental. She doesn't find that an insult. They an insult match. She wants him to leave. He wonders if the two of them would work. He turned her down when she asked him to get a drink because he worried about what would happen to them. She says it was just a drink. Before he leaves, she tells him she also would not have chosen not to bring charges.

Seth and Jay are sitting on a bench at the courthouse. They agree this is a weird situation. Jay imagines when Byrne started as a prosecutor, he felt righteous and wanted to put the bad guys in jail. He believes that must be intoxicating, in theory. But it never ends. There's always another bad guy and sometimes they are not that bad. That must break a person a bit, their idealism and belief in the law. Maybe it's hard to sustain. Then someone makes you a judge and then you have the power, but you don't get to decide all the time. He takes his speech a bit too far. Tina arrives with the Writ. Seth doesn't think Byrne lost his idealism or he wouldn't be doing this. Seth wakes up with that righteous feeling every day. So does Jay.

Tina informs Nicholas that the Second Circuit granted the Writ. He can't issue those instructions to the jury. He knows what it means. Nicholas says it's time for him to step down. This all has to end somewhere. Tina says Julien Barley is dead. It's a cold, sad fact, but a fact. She looked it up. Nicholas was the one who sentenced Julien. Nothing he's doing will bring Julien back. Tina tells Nicholas he is rare. He's good. He's better than most. He's fair. He's a black man. He keeps hot sauce in his drawer. He will do more staying on this bench than nailing himself to the cross. However, the choice is his. She just asks him to let her know if she has to get her own hot sauce.

Tina prepares the courtroom. She appears nervous.

Nicholas finishes writing a letter in his chamber.

The lawyers arrive in the courtroom. Jay watches Rodrigo's family in the audience.

Nicholas puts on his robe. He takes a moment before leaving his chamber.

Rodrigo is brought in. Moments later, Nicholas arrives and takes his place. He asks the defendant to rise. Nicholas tells Rodrigo he has been found guilty of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. It was a non-violent offense and he has been honest and has shown remorse. Nicholas thinks he's a decent man who found himself in a bad situation. Nicholas is not from New York, but he's a New Yorker. He came here on a Greyhound bus from Alabama in 1965. The city has changed substantially since then, including the fact that crime is at an all-time low in Manhattan. But no one is asking the question they should be asking: at what cost? Nicholas sees the cost from his bench. The cost runs deep. It shatters lives, rips families apart, and destroys futures. It's unrepentant. It's rightly a bitter pill to swallow, but Rodrigo is the cost. Julien Barley is the cost.

The woman lets Nicholas into her apartment.

Nicholas's speech continues. They are cannibalizing a generation of New Yorkers, but it's happening all over the country. Low-leve, non-violent crimes that trigger disproportionate mandatory minimum sentences. Nicholas admits he's part of the problem. He failed Rodrigo, Julien Barley, and thousands of other underrepresented people. He has not done his duty as a New Yorker, as a black American, as a father, to protect people who look like him from laws that are not designed to rehabilitate, but to destroy. His hands are reluctantly and unwillingly tied. He has no choice but to sentence Rodrigo to 10 years in federal prison. He has no business asking anything of Rodrigo, but he will ask Rodrigo to take a long look at his family on his way out of the courtroom. He has to lock that picture in his head and not let go of it. That is hope when there is no hope left. And one more thing...

At the apartment, Nicholas sits down on the couch after having looked at the pictures of Julien Barley on the wall and the cabinet. He tells Julien's mother the same thing he told Rodrigo: he's so very sorry.


  • Jill Carlan
  • Roger Gunn
  • Allison Adams
  • Kate Littlejohn
  • Jay Simmons
  • Leonard Knox
  • Seth Oliver
  • Sandra Bell
  • Tina Krissman
  • Nicholas Byrne
  • Douglas Delap
  • Melora Knox
  • Sarah
  • Toby Mahler
  • Rodrigo Puente
  • Brian Manello
  • Henrietta Vaughn
  • Gail Broti
  • Theresa Wood
  • Yvette Barley

Main CastEdit

Guest StarsEdit


Legal CasesEdit

The People v Toby MahlerEdit

Toby was arrested on fraud charges for counterfeiting wine. He was released until his trial on the condition he not manufacture or sell wine. He said he'd started making the fake wine after being disappointed by buying one himself. Allison had him taste-test real and fake wines for the AUSA on the case and showed off his impressive palate. She had them agree to drop the charges in exchange for his services prosecuting larger operations.

The People v Phil StollerEdit

Phil Stoller was married and had an affair with a woman who was also married to a printer. They suspected he used campaign funds to pay off the printer not to reveal the affair. Leonard met with Sarah, the woman, and she said she wanted to leave her husband and marry Phil, but he begged her to wait until after the election. Then she was strung along until Phil and her husband settled on a price. She said her husband said he'd make Phil pay, but didn't have any proof. After considering the evidence, Leonard decided not to file charges.

The People v Rodrigo PuenteEdit

Rodrigo Puente was arrested and found to be carrying 57 grams of meth in a backpack, which he said he was carrying without knowledge of the contents. Because of the mandatory minimum of ten years, Byrne made it known that he didn't like the case and wouldn't sentence Puente to ten years in prison. The prosecution wouldn't reconsider the charges, so Byrne met with Roger about the situation. When Roger wouldn't budge, he went to Jill and told her Puente needed to give someone else up to the government so they'd go lighter on him, but Jill said he didn't have anyone to give up. Byrne wanted to instruct the jury about the mandatory minimum, but Seth filed a writ to prevent him from doing so. The jury then found him guilty and after giving a speech, saying that he didn't want to, he sentenced Rodrigo to the minimum ten years.


Song Performer Scene
"Better Man" Leon Bridges
  • Judge Byrne gets up and dressed.
  • He gets to work and reviews his paperwork and reads the paper.
"Please Me" Hyphen Hyphen
  • Tina gets the courtroom ready for the case.
  • The lawyers and Rodrigo come in.
  • Byrne zips up his robe and enters the court room.

Notes and TriviaEdit

For The People 1x05 Promo "World's Greatest Judge" (HD)

For The People 1x05 Promo "World's Greatest Judge" (HD)

  • This episode scored 2.67 million viewers.
  • The title of the episode is a reference to a packed lunch that "D" left Byrne after he/she went on a run. It said "For the World's Greatest Judge"


Episode StillsEdit


See AlsoEdit

A complete overview of this episode's crew can be found here.

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