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

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Joseph Wapner on The People’s Court. Photo: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Joseph Wapner, known as the inaugural judge on TV’s The People’s Court, died Sunday at the age of 97. According to TMZ, Wapner was hospitalized last week after experiencing difficulty breathing, dying in hospice care on Sunday morning. Wapner starred on The People’s Court from 1981 to 1993, deciding small-claims cases on the syndicated reality show, one of the very first of its kind. Wapner, who moved to TV after a 20-year tenure as a judge for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, was beloved for his no-nonsense and passionate judicial style. Wapner is survived by his wife of 70 years, Mickey, and their three children.

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