Joseph Wapner Dies: 'People's Court' Judge Was 97

Wapner leaves behind two other children and a wife, Mickey, whom he married in 1946 at the age of 27. He died on Sunday morning. During the last week, his condition worsened and was taken to his Los Angeles home on Friday under hospice care.

Wapner's father was an immigrant to the United States from Romania who became an attorney, and his mother an immigrant from Russian Federation.

Wapner hosted The People's Court for 12 years, leaving the show in 1993 when it went on a four year hiatus.

Born November 15, 1919, in Los Angeles, Wapner graduated from USC and the USC Law School. According to the show's intro, the plaintiffs and defendants agreed to drop their claims and appear on the show and enter into a binding arbitration. Before his daytime TV debut, he served on the bench of the Los Angeles Superior Court judge for 20 years. On that show, his folksy, no-nonsense demeanor-certainly informed by his decades of real-world experience-helped make the show into a massive hit, not only creating the whole courtroom-based reality show genre but jumpstarting reality TV in general. It was the first reality show of its' kind and spurred dozens more court shows over the years.

"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.

  • Santos West