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

Joseph Wapner, the retired judge, who was famous for his role on "The People's Court" has died at the age of 97.

Wapner changed the television game in 1981 when he debuted as the presiding judge on "The People's Court," which allowed TV-watchers inside the courtroom. Wapner had a 12-year run on the show and was beloved for his impassioned speeches, quick opinions and the way he captured the audience.

The show is still on the air today with Judge Marilyn Milian sitting on the judge's bench.

PHOTOS: A look at Joseph Wapner

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Joseph Wapner through the years
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Joseph Wapner through the years
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 12: Judge Joseph A. Wapner is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 12, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 12: Mickey Wapner congratulates her husband Judge Joseph A. Wapner who is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 12, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 12: Harvey Levin (L) and Judge Marilyn Milian (R) pose with Judge Joseph Albert Wapner as he receives a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame on November 12, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kristian Dowling/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - NOVEMBER 12: Judge Joseph A. Wapner attends his - 90th Birthday celebration and honoring him with a Star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame held on November 12, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 3 -- Pictured: (l-r) Phil Hartman as Joseph Wapner, Andy Murphy as Bailiff, Rosanna Arquette as Vonda Braithwaite, Jan Hooks as Mrs. Braithwaite, Jon Lovitz as Mephistopheles during 'The People's Court' skit on November 8, 1986 -- Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
American judge and TV personality Joseph Wapner on his TV Show 'The People's Court', circa 1985. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 3 -- Pictured: (l-r) Phil Hartman as Joseph Wapner, Andy Murphy as Bailiff, Rosanna Arquette as Vonda Braithwaite, Jon Lovitz as Mephistopheles during 'The People's Court' skit on November 8, 1986 -- Photo by: Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank
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Wapner's personality was also documented in pop culture history with shows like "Saturday Night Live" creating funny sketches about him and Dustin Hoffman's "3 minutes to Wapner"expression in "Rain Man."

Prior to joining television, Wapner served as an L.A. County Superior Court judge for 20 years. He was a respected member of the Los Angeles legal community and was married fro his wife, Mickey for 70 years and had 3 children.

According to TMZ, Wapner was hospitalized last week with breathing problems and his condition worsened, to the point he was taken to his home Friday under hospice care. He died Sunday morning.

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Celebrities who died in 2017
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Celebrities who died in 2017

Michael Nyqvist, who starred in the Swedish film version of “The Girl With Dragon Tattoo,” died after a battle with lung cancer. He was 56.

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NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 06: Actor Adam West attends the Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders Press Room at New York Comic-Con - Day 1 at Jacob Javits Center on October 6, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images)

Roger Smith, who starred in the series "77 Sunset Strip" and was married to actress Ann-Margret, died Sunday in Sherman Oaks. He was 84.

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Gregg Allman, best known for performing in The Allman Brothers Band, passed away at 69.

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Erin Moran, who is known for her role in TV sitcom "Happy Days," died at the age of 56 after a secret battle with cancer.

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Comedian Don Rickles died at the age of 90 from kidney failure.

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Comedian Charlie Murphy died at 57 from complications stemming from a battle with leukemia.

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Roger Moore, a former James Bond star, died after a short battle with cancer at 89.

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Jonathan Demme, the director known for his work on thriller "Silence of the Lambs," died at 73 from esophageal cancer and complications from heart disease.

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Roger Ailes, who was at FOX News for two decades before being ousted last year for alleged sexual harassment, died at 77 after suffering a fall at his home.

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Bill Paxton died unexpectedly at age 61 on February 25. 

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Soul singer Cuba Gooding Sr., who is also Cuba Gooding Jr.'s father, died at 72.

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Neil Fingleton, "Britain's tallest man" and "Games of Thrones" star died at 36 from heart failure.

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"Battlestar Galactica" star Richard Hatch died at 71. 

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Legendary actress Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80.

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Butch Trucks, founding member of The Allman Brothers Band, died at 69.

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Television personality Christopher 'Big Black' Boykin, known for his MTV show "Rob & Big," died at the age of 45.

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Dina Merrill, the actress known for movies like "Butterfield 8" and "Operation Petticoat," died at 93.

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Former pop singer Tommy Page was found dead at 46 in New York City.

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"Doll Squad" star Francine York passed away at 80 after a battle with cancer.

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Joni Sledge, the "We Are Family" singer, was found dead in her Phoenix home. She was 60.

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Jazz legend Al Jarreau died at the age of 76.

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Actor Robert Michael Morris died at age 77. His death was confirmed by friend Lisa Kudrow.

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