Published: Mon, February 27, 2017
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Son says Joseph Wapner, unlikely TV star, dead at 97

Son says Joseph Wapner, unlikely TV star, dead at 97

Judge Joseph Wapner died Sunday after a week of health problems in which he was initially hospitalized for respiratory issues, then returned home under hospice care.

After The People's Court was canceled in 1993 due to low ratings, it aired in syndication until it was revived for a second incarnation in September 1997.

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

Before Wapner became a household name through the TV series, he served as L.A. County Superior Court judge for 20 years. He reviewed thousands of court cases during his career.

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After his run on The People's Court ended, Judge Wapner wrote two books and made a few guest appearances.

"The People's Court" is now in its 32nd overall season.

"When The People's Court came along, I had an opportunity to really teach people about law", he said in a 2005 interview with the Archive of American Television. 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).

A third child, Sarah, passed away in 2015, the same year that one considerate YouTuber compiled a best-of clip during Wapner's heyday, embedded below.

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