'People's Court' Judge Joseph Wapner Dead at 97

Joseph Wapner, the judge who rose to fame on TV's "The People's Court," has died. He was 97. "The People's Court," which debuted in 1981, was TV's initial reality courtroom series. Wapner presided more than the court for 12 seasons for the duration...

'People's Court' Judge Joseph Wapner Dead at 97

Joseph Wapner, the judge who rose to fame on TV's "The People's Court," has died. He was 97.

"The People's Court," which debuted in 1981, was TV's initial reality courtroom series. Wapner presided more than the court for 12 seasons for the duration of the show's initially run in syndication, which ended in 1993. The series inspired lots of other shows, such as "Judge Judy" and "Hot Bench."

Wapner later appeared on "Judge Wapner's Animal Court," which ran for two seasons.

The jurist served as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for 18 years ahead of retiring in 1979.

Judge Wapner became a pop culture figure, most memorably in the 1988 film "Rain Man," in which Dustin Hoffman's character, an autistic man, has a continuous need to have to stick to his routines, which consist of watching The People's Court." Anytime it appears that he will miss the show, he repeats the time remaining till the show airs -- for instance, "1 minute to Wapner" -- again and once again. Wapner also occasionally appeared on Television shows as himself.

In November 2009, Wapner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. A day later, in honor of his 90th birthday, he returned to "The People's Court" in a one-time-only appearance as a guest judge.

In a 2005 interview with the Archive of American Tv, Wapner said he'd like to be "remembered as a judge who acted as a judge ought to … I want to be remembered in a kindly way, in a good way, an individual who had an influence on the law, the way persons act, the way persons should act."

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