America's Favorite TV Judge: Joseph Wapner Passes Away at 97

Joseph Wapner, who rose to fame as the judge on TV's The People's Court, has passed away at the age of 97. 

Wapner served as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for 18 years before retiring in 1979. Two years, later in 1981, at the age of 60, Wapner began a 'new' job and career presiding over TV's first reality courtroom series, "The People's Court." Wapner enjoyed his new role which would last for 12 seasons during the show's first run in syndication, which ended in 1993. It inspired many other shows, such as Judge Judy and Hot Bench.  He later appeared on Judge Wapner's Animal Court, which ran for two seasons.

Wapner became a pop culture figure, most memorably in the 1988 film Rain Man, in which Dustin Hoffman's character, an autistic man, has a constant need to stick to his routines, which include watching The People's Court.  Check out the movie clip and various highlights below. 

In November of 2009, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  A day later, in honor of his 90th birthday, Wapner returned to The People's Court in a one-time-only appearance as a guest judge.

In a 2005 interview with the Archive of American Television, Wapner said he'd like to be "remembered as a judge who acted as a judge should … I want to be remembered in a kindly way, in a positive way, someone who had an influence on the law, the way people act, the way people should act."

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