Joseph Wapner - Biography
Joseph Albert Wapner (b. November 15, 1919) is a former American judge and TV personality of the real-life courtroom-style show The People's Court, which ran in syndication from 1981 to 1993 for 2,484 episodes.
On The People's Court, Wapner conducted a binding arbitration which was set up to resemble a small claims court by pitting parties, without lawyers, against each other. The legacy of the show's high popularity has led to myriad other similar syndicated shows such as Judge Judy and Judge Joe Brown among others. People's Court returned to the air in 1997 and still runs today.
Five years after The People's Court ended its original run, Wapner starred on cable channel Animal Planet's Judge Wapner's Animal Court, presiding over real cases involving or about animals. This lasted from 1998 to 2000. He also made an appearance in the pilot episode of Sliders, playing himself (as "Commissar Wapner") in a Parallel Earth in which the Soviet Union conquered the United States; Officer Rusty Burrell and Doug Llewelyn also appeared in the episode. Wapner returned to the People's Court bench for one case in November 2009 to mark his 90th birthday.
Judge Wapner attended Hollywood High School and dated actress Lana Turner once while in high school. Wapner is a graduate of the University of Southern California (1941) and the USC Law School (1948), serving in World War II in between. Wapner was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star while serving in the South Pacific in Cebu. He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant.
Appointed by Governor Pat Brown to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1959, Wapner served 2 years before being elevated to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he served for 18 years before retiring. While serving on the Superior Court bench, Wapner also served as Presiding Judge where he instituted many reforms.
Wapner has been active in Jewish causes, including sitting on the board of a Jewish school.
Wapner has also authored two books, "A View from the Bench" and "Judge Wapner's Guide to Small Claims Court."
On August 9, 2008, Wapner appeared as Judge in a Major League Baseball on Fox Pregame People's Court parody segment called "The Players Court".
On November 12, 2009, Wapner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; and on November 13, 2009, in honor of his 90th birthday on November 15, he acted as a guest judge presiding over a case on the current People's Court program.
Wapner lives in Los Angeles, California with his wife, Mickey. He enjoys playing doubles tennis and bridge.
Judge Wapner also served as the national spokesperson for Singer Asset Finance Company, L.L.C., a specialty finance company that purchases future guaranteed payments streams, including lottery, structured settlements and annuities, during 1999-2000, appearing in national television commercials and print ads.
Judge Wapner is also featured on the Judge Wapner Root Beer drink, featuring the slogan "I sentence you to drink my root beer."