The People’s Court Judge Wapner Dies at 97

Before reality TV was truly reality TV and before Jerry Springer was really Jerry Springer, and before all the judge shows on TV were really judge shows on TV there was The People’s Court.  From 1981-1993 a familiar face presided over the court room from which that show was based: Judge Wapner.   Joseph Wapner died at the age of 97 today.   According the Associated Press, Wapner’s son David said his father was suffering from breathing problems and was admitted to a hospital last week. He returned home Friday with hospice care.

Warner was a retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge when The People’s Court debuted in September 1981. It ran for 12 seasons and sparked a slew of other court shows in syndication. It still airs today, with Judge Marilyn Milian sitting on the bench.  Wapner was a real life judge in Los Angeles from 1961-1979.

To give you a sense of just how popular a judge he was, a 1989 poll conducted by the Washington Post showed that while only 9 percent of people could name the chief justice of the U.S., 54 percent knew that Wapner was the guy on The People’s Court.  In his time on The People’s Court, Wapner received four Emmy nominations and he also earned a star on the Hollywood walk of fame.   From 1998-2000, Wapner presided over another TV show, Animal Court.

He will be missed.

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