The People's Court Judge Joseph Wapner Dead at 97


In 1993, the show's producers announced that Wapner would not be returning and The People's Court went on hiatus for four years. On the program, Wapner became a valuable source of education on the legal process through a non-traditional medium.

After his run on The People's Court ended, Judge Wapner wrote two books and made a few guest appearances. His condition worsened and he returned home Friday under hospice care, dying Sunday morning.

Wapner was the star of "The People's Court", which premiered in September 1981. Judge Marilyn Milian took over the series in 2001 and has been hosting ever since. He was recommended for The People's Court by another superior court judge, Christian Markey, who had been approached by producer Ralph Edwards.

Wapner, born in 1919, was a graduate of USC and USC Law School, going on to serve more than 20 years as a judge.

The show became a touchpoint for pop culture. He was technically America's first reality television star. Former lawyer and mayor of New York, Ed Koch, replaced Wapner for two seasons and was later succeeded by Judge Jerry Sheindlin (Judge Judy Sheindlin's husband).

Judge Wapner leaves behind his wife, Mickey, of 70 years, and three children.