Judge Wapner Dies; Iconic People’s Court Host Was 97

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More sad news today out of the television world.

A few hours after we learned that Bill Paxton died at the age of 61, due to complications after heart surgery, TMZ is reporting that Jospeh Wapner has also passed away.

The retired judge rose to surprise TV stardom as the host of The People's Court.

He was 97 years old.

Joseph Wapner

Long before Judge Judy and many others in this profession used the small screen to take their career to a new and famous level, Judge Wapner sat on the bench in September of 1981 at the front of The People Court.

In many ways, it was the first reality show of all-time.

And Wapner earned instant fandom as its clear-cut star.

Opinionated, intelligent, affable and humorous, Wapner led the series for 12 years and 2,484 total episodes.

He earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of his work in the entertainment space.

Judge Wapner

The program itself was parodied on Saturday Night Live.

In Rain Man, Dustin Hoffman was often quoted as his character of Raymond for saying there were only "three minutes to Wapner," an expression that took on a life of its own for years.

Prior to signing on as a television judge, Wapner served as an L.A. County Superior Court judge for over two decades.

According to TMZ insiders, he was hospitalized last week after suffering a few breathing problems.

The condition sadly grew worsen, prompting a transfer to his home in Los Angeles on Friday, February 24, at which time Wapner was placed hospice care.

He passed away on Sunday morning.


After The People's Court was canceled in 1993, it aired in syndication until it was revived for a second incarnation in September 1997.

For this version, former attorney and mayor of New York Ed Koch replaced Wapner for two seasons and was later succeeded by Judge Jerry Sheindlin and Florida State Circuit Court Judge Marilyn Milian, the latter of whom has since become the show's longest-reigning arbiter.

Wapner is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mickey Wapner, and their three children.

May he rest in peace.

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