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The Huseby Journal

Joseph Wapner, who launched court TV phenomenon, dies

Judge Joseph A. Wapner of "The People's Court"

Many of us have served the legal profession in many different ways, but few have had the broad impact of a judge we pay tribute to today: the late Judge Joseph A. Wapner.

The star of the innovative television show “The People’s Court” died this week at age 97. (The New York Times)

There was almost nothing negative written about him in the dozens of stories reviewed for this post. In fact, he’s given credit for all kinds of impacts on the court system including improving the public’s image of judges.

During his run, the show was also credited with increasing the number of small claims cases. Whether that’s a good thing or not might depend on your perspective. With the advent of "Judge Judy," "Judge Mathis," and other similarly formatted TV, there's now a Emmy courtroom category.

The World War II veteran was called “stern” and disciplined,” but there was something about his (TV) courtroom demeanor that appealed to the public.

And his evenhanded hearings of cases in which mere pocket change was at stake let millions of viewers know that no matter how seemingly insignificant their legal disputes, they, too, were entitled to their day in court.

He had a distinguished legal career that preceded his television fame, dating back to his appointment to a judgeship in Los Angeles municipal court in 1959. That was followed by his election as presiding judge of Los Angeles' Superior Court system.

Want to know more? Here are 14 facts about Wapner and “The People’s Court.” (Mental Floss)

Tell us in the comments section: What are your memories of Judge Wapner?


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Cindy Sebo, a freelance reporter from Bowie, Maryland, who works with us at Huseby, spends her out-of-work time pretending to be a court reporter.

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Read more about Sebo’s experiences, plus those of another reporter acting the part on ABC’s “Nashville.” (JCR)

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