Judge Joseph Wapner, the original judge of first-run strip “The People’s Court,” died at age 97 on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles, California, according to his son, Los Angeles County Judge Fred Wapner. He died of natural causes.
The famed judge taped “The People’s Court” from 1981 to 1993, inspiring decades of similar courtroom shows, including “Judge Judy,” “Judge Joe Brown,” “Divorce Court” and the current edition with Judge Marilyn Milian.
Prior to “The People’s Court,” Wapner graduated with both his undergraduate degree in 1941 and his law degree in 1948 from the University of Southern California, and served in the US Army as a lieutenant. He was awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service in World War II.
“He is a man of the greatest honor and integrity that anybody has ever met, and he certainly passed that down to both of us,” said David Miron-Wapner, another of the late judge’s two sons. Andrew Guzman, dean of the USC Gould School of Law, said “‘People’s Court’ brought our system of justice into American homes and was truly revolutionary.”
Wapner is also survived by Mickey, his wife of 70 years, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.