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

  • by: Alan Duke
'People's Court' Judge Joseph Wapner dead at 97

Judge Joseph Wapner, whose "People's Court" show ushered in a genre of reality TV shows based on real court cases, died in Los Angeles Sunday. Wapner was 97.

Wapner served as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge for 20 years before presiding over the "People's Court" for 12 years, starting in 1981.

Wapner suffered from Alzheimer's Syndrome in his last years.

Judge Wapner's name became iconic in pop culture partly because of Dustin Hoffman's character Raymond Babbitt in the 1988 movie "Rain Man." Raymond, who had savant syndrome counted down the minutes until "People's Court" would air. with the line "Three minutes to Wapner."

Hoffman, who won the best actor Oscar for the role, later told Brad Herman, , who served as Wapner's asset manager for 30 years, that he "put Wapner on the map." When Herman related that to Wapner, the judge replied "You tell Dustin Hoffman I put him on the map."

"What a sweet wonderful man," said Herman,. "He had such an amazing sense of humor."

Wapner Brad.jpg

This image may be the last photo taken of Wapner. It shows Herman with the judge and his wife, Mickey, at a birthday party for a mutual friend at Duke's restaurant on Malibu in January 2017.


  Alan Duke

Editor-in-Chief Alan Duke co-founded Lead Stories after ending a 26-year career with CNN, where he mainly covered entertainment, current affairs and politics. Duke closely covered domestic terrorism cases for CNN, including the Oklahoma City federal building bombing, the UNABOMBER and search for Southeast bomber Eric Robert Rudolph. CNN moved Duke to Los Angeles in 2009 to cover the entertainment beat. Duke also co-hosted a daily podcast with former HLN host Nancy Grace, "Crime Stories with Nancy Grace" and hosted the podcast series "Stan Lee's World: His Real Life Battle with Heroes & Villains." You'll also see Duke in many news documentaries, including on the Reelz channel, CNN and HLN.

Read more about or contact Alan Duke

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