Published: Mon, February 27, 2017
Health Care | By Jeffery Armstrong

'People's Court' Judge Joseph Wapner dead at 97

'People's Court' Judge Joseph Wapner dead at 97

He was opinionated, passionate and irascible as he heard thousands of cases during his 12-year run.

His charisma became a focal point of pop culture, bringing him to "The Tonight Show" to settle a dispute between David Letterman and Johnny Carson.

Dustin Hoffman's "three minutes to Wapner" line in his turn as an autistic savant in "Rain Man" became a much parodied expression.

Joseph Wapner was the California-born son of immigrants - his mother as Russian and his father was from Romania.

Wapner was a municipal judge for two years before serving at the L.A. Superior Court from 1961 to 1979. He was taken to his home on Friday under hospice care and passed Sunday morning. No cause of death has been given, but TMZ says that he was hospitalized last week with "breathing problems" and his condition had worsened since then. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009 and returned to "The People's Court" that year to celebrate his 90th birthday. It still airs today, with Judge Marilyn Milian sitting on the judge's bench. It was canceled in 1993, but revived in 1997 with former lawyer and Mayor of New York Ed Koch as arbiter. Wapner was the original star of the show when it launched in 1981.

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