The First Judge Many Of You Ever Knew Has Died

The First Judge Many Of You Ever Knew Has Died

Judge WapnerBefore Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Hot Bench, Judge Mathis, Judge Alex, Judge Mills Lane… and definitely before High Court, there was The People’s Court and Judge Joseph Wapner.

The famed television judge passed away on Sunday at age 97.

Wapner provided America’s honest entry point to the law. No phony witness stand confessions, no fascinating murder plots, no sexy stars. Just a 350-lb. delivery man suing his equally robust ex-stripper of a landlord over a dog bite. And what’s crazy is the country ate it up. The more stupefyingly mundane the dispute, the more popular the show became. Wapner listened to these people outline their bitter disputes over the smallest possible stakes with measured patience and handed down Solomonic rulings $200 at a time.

And then we got to see the loser bitch about it to Doug Llewelyn which was just the best.

Who could forget when Hellroller sued Invasion of the Scream Queens?

But that’s the thing, Judge Wapner’s life before he became America’s judge was incredible. Did you know he dated Lana Turner? That he got a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star in World War II? About the only aspect of his pre-television life that people might have gleaned — if only from the show’s intro — is that he served as a California judge for 20 years and even with that, most wouldn’t realize that, of his election as presiding judge of the L.A. Superior Court system, he noted: “I was the only Jew who’d ever been elected.”

Judge Wapner was the most trusted jurist in America when his show was on top. He’s probably still more recognizable to most Americans than Sam Alito. Most people cite his popularity — and Judge Judy’s popularity today (which Judge Wapner did NOT appreciate) — as a bad thing, but more Americans are going to get bit by some awful dog or screwed out of a $50 loan than invoke the doctrine of laches to shorten a statute of limitations under the Copyright Act. Wapner brought the “real” law into living rooms and managed to earn America’s trust in small claims justice — without undue theatrics.

Raymond: One minute to Wapner.
Charlie: Yes, one minute to Wapner. I had you in there, Ray! You were in there! The defendant, the plaintiff, you had it all. They are in there making legal history. *Legal history!*

Actually… he kinda was.

HeadshotJoe Patrice is an editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news.


Published at Mon, 27 Feb 2017 03:13:31 +0000

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