*It was five years ago that Fox Television made the sudden announcement that its beloved Judge Mablean Ephriam of “Divorce Court” had “decided to step down after seven years” – a statement that the daytime TV fixture immediately denied in a retaliatory press conference.

“The truth is that Fox and I were unable to reach an agreement, after several months of negotiations. I was willing to stay. Fox was unwilling to pay,” she told reporters at the time.

Ephriam, 62, went on to explain that Fox offered her “substantially less than all of the other court show judges,” and although she lowered her offer in an effort to reach a settlement, Fox remained firm in its low-ball, take-or-leave it offer, “which contained a very small increase from its initial position, coupled with some other unreasonable demands” – among them, a provision that she not change her hairstyle, “to avoid time consuming issues,” the network stated in the proposed contract.

Needless to say, Ephriam was offended, and her time with “Divorce Court” ended abruptly.

Cut to July 2011. EURweb’s Lee Bailey ran into Her Honor at the JazzFest West event over the weekend and discovered she is “ready, willing and able” to negotiate with Fox to replace her replacement, Judge Lynn Toler.

“People are calling me and sending me emails asking how can they get me back on ‘Divorce Court’ and get rid of the other lady,” she said. “And I say I don’t know, but you should start a campaign and see what happens. The ratings are down right now, and I’m ready to come back if Fox is ready to have me back.”

Ephriam said she’s sure that this time, she and Fox can come to terms on a contract that pleases both parties. In the meantime, she’s been keeping busy with public speaking engagements and working the Madea circuit, appearing as herself in three of Tyler Perry’s films.

Also, the Hazlehurst, Mississippi native spent much of her time since “Divorce Court” caring for her ailing mother, who passed away last year.

“I think things happen for a reason, and right in February of 06 when I went off the show, she went completely down,” Ephriam said. “I had to be there to take care of her and I’m thankful for that opportunity to have been able to take care of her. But I’m ready now.

“I have no obligations, all my children are adults, the grandchildren are in school or about to graduate from school, I’m a single woman – so I have nothing holding me back. I’m ready to roll.”

All she needs now is the petition.

Below, memories…