Judge Joe Wapner passed away this Sunday morning after suffering respiratory difficulties. Wapner served on the bench as a judge in California before retirement. But instead of putting his feet up, Wapner auditioned for “The People’s Court” reality show that premiered in 1981. He continued to appear on the show, mediating real life small-claims cases. He heard cases involving property damage disputes, assaults, and broken contracts, among others.
Currently, “People’s Court” featured Marilyn Milian.
Wapner was a veteran of the Second World War, where he earned both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service. He earned his law degree at the University of Southern California School of Law. In 1959, Wapner took his seat on the Los Angeles Municipal court. Later, he served on the Superior Court, leaving the bench behind in 1979. “I had accomplished as much as I thought I could as a judge, and I thought it was time to move on and do some other things,” he told The Los Angeles Times in an interview.
He was 97 years old at the time of his death. He and his wife of 70 years, Micky, had three children together.
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