Joseph Wapner, Jewish-American Judge Who Starred on 'People’s Court,' Dies at 97

Wapner was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for his service during World War II before he went on to star in one of first reality TV shows.

FILE - In this Thursday, Nov. 12, 2009, file photo, Judge Joseph Wapner is honored with star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles. Wapner, who presided over "The People's Court" with steady force during the heyday of the reality courtroom show, has died. Wapner died at home in his sleep Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, according to his son, David Wapner.
Damian Dovarganes/AP

Joseph Wapner, the retired judge who starred in the first television reality show, has died.

Wapner died on Sunday at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 97.

Wapner was the star of “The People’s Court,” which premiered in September 1981. He heard thousands of cases during his 12 years on the show, according to the entertainment website TMZ.

Before appearing as a judge on television, Wapner served as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

Wapner’s father was an immigrant to the United States from Romania who became an attorney, and his mother an immigrant from Russia. He was born and grew up in Los Angeles.

Wapner is a graduate of the University of Southern California and the USC Law School.

He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star while serving in the South Pacific in Cebu during World War II.

He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1959 and two years later to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he served for 18 years before retiring in 1979. He also served as president of the California Judges Association.

Wapner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009. He wrote a popular memoir titled “A View from the Bench.”

Wapner’s son, Fred, followed in his father’s footsteps to become an attorney and then a judge. His son David Miron-Wapner also became an attorney. He was predeceased by his daughter Sarah, who died in 2005.  He was married to his wife, Mickey, for 70 years