In the story, Judge J. J. Ford's full name is Judge Josie-Jo Ford. As the story begins, she is forty-two years old. She was educated at Columbia University and received her law degree from Harvard University. Before serving as a family court and state supreme court judge, Judge J.J. Ford was an assistant district attorney.
During her childhood, Judge J.J. Ford's mother worked as a servant in the Westing household, while her father worked there as a gardener on his days off from the railroad. According to Judge Ford, she did not see much of Mrs. Westing during her younger years, and she was never allowed to play with Violet Westing. She does remember playing chess with Sam Westing; he usually beat her at the game.
When she was twelve years old, the judge was sent to boarding school; accordingly, it would be many years before she would set foot in the Westing household again. Judge Ford maintains that Sam Westing paid for her education and probably arranged for her to have her first job as well. As such, she feels that she owes a huge debt to her benefactor. By the end of the book, we learn that Judge Ford eventually serves as a judge on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals and is later appointed to the United States Supreme Court.