'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.

PHOTOS: A look at the famous stars who've passed on in 2017

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Celebrities who died in 2017
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Celebrities who died in 2017

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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Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner died in his home at the Playboy Mansion of natural causes on September 27. He was 91 years old.

(Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Playboy)

Singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park committed suicide in July, he was 41 years old.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/WireImage)

David Cassidy died on November 21 after having been placed in a medically-induced coma. The '70s heartthrob and "Partridge Family" star was 67.

(Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

Comedian Jerry Lewis died on August 20. He was 91 years old.

(Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images)

Tom Petty, the famed and beloved rocker behind hits like “American Girl” and “Free Fallin,” died in October following a cardiac arrest. He was 66.

(Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)

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)

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

(REUTERS)

John Heard, known for his role as the father in the Home Alone films, died on July 21. Some reports say he was 71-years-old, however, others have his age listed as 72.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Sam Shepard, the Pulitzer-winning playwright and Oscar-nominated actor peacefully passed away at his home in Kentucky in July after a long battle with Lou Gehrig's disease. He was 73.


(REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

"Touched By an Angel" star Della Reese died at the age of 86 peacefully at her home on November 19.

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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.

(Reuters)

Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell died unexpectedly at 52 after he was found in a Detroit hotel room.

(Reuters)

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

(Reuters)

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.

(Reuters)

Bill Paxton died unexpectedly at age 61 on February 25. 

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AC/DC guitarist and co-founded Malcolm Young died in November at the age of 64 after a three-year battle with dementia.

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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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John Hurt, star of "The Elephant Man," died at 77. 

REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett 

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

(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Actor Miguel Ferrer died from throat cancer at 61.

(Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Dick Gautier, known for is role in the Broadway musical 'Bye Bye Birdie' died at 85.

(Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)

Frank Deford, giant of sports journalism, died at 78.

(Photo by Marc Bryan-Brown/WireImage)

Rock 'n' roll legend Chuck Berry, who is known for hits like ''Sweet Little Sixteen" and "Roll Over Beethoven," died at 90 years old.

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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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Frank Pellegrino Sr. (R) died at age 72 following a battle with lung cancer. He was known for his role on "The Sopranos." 

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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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Monty Hall, one of the most popular game show hosts in American television died in September at age 96.

(Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

Anne Jeffreys, star of ‘General Hospital’ and Broadway’s ‘Kiss Me Kate,’ died in September at 94.

(Photo by Rodrigo Vaz/FilmMagic)

Barry Dennen, member of the original cast of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” died in September at age 79.

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Famed soul singer Charles Bradley died in September at the age of 68.

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Harry Dean Stanton, the actor known for his roles in "Twin Peaks," "Big Love," "Pretty in Pink" and "Repo Man" died of natural causes in Los Angeles. He was 91.

(Photo by Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

Frank Vincent, who had a key role on "The Sopranos" and appeared in a number of Martin Scorsese films, died at age 78.

(Photo by Gustavo Caballero/Getty Images)

Nelsan Ellis, who starred in the HBO series True Blood, died on July 8 from alcohol withdrawal after years of struggling with substance abuse. He was 39 years old.

(Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Blake Heron, the child actor who starred in 1996's "Shiloh," died at age 35.

(Photo by Utopia Pictures/Getty Images)

Comedian Shelley Berman, who was famous as a "sit-down" comedian and later as Larry David's dad on "Curb Your Enthusiasm," died at the age of 92.

(Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Dick Gregory, the trailblazing comic and civil rights activist whose unique brand of comedy combined cutting wit and contemporary headlines, died in August at the age of 84.

(Photo by Jim Spellman/WireImage)

Martin Landau, the all-purpose actor known for his Oscar-winning performance in Ed Wood, died in July. He was 89.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Gary DeCarlo, the lead singer of Steam, died in June at the age of 75.

(Photo by Bobby Bank/Getty Images)

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.

(HENRIK MONTGOMERY/AFP/Getty Images)

Prodigy, who made up one half of Mobb Deep, died in June. He was 42.

(Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)

Comedian Ralphie May was found dead in his Las Vegas home in early October. He died of cardiac arrest at the age of 45.

(Photo by Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images for Pollstar)

"Benson" actor Robert Guillaume died on October 24 at the age of 89 following a long battle with breast cancer.

(Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)

Legendary New Orleans musician Fats Domino died of natural causes at the age of 89 at the end of October.

(Photo by James Crump/WireImage)

Former "Veronica Mars" actor Brad Bufanda died of a suspected suicide at the age of 34 at the beginning of November.

(Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Rising rapper Lil Peep was found dead in his tour bus on November 15 in Arizona. He was 21. Officials are still determining his cause of death, which is suspected to be an accidental overdose.

(Photo by Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Wendy Pepper, who was a fan-favorite on "Project Runway," died peacefully surrounded by family at the age of 53 in mid-November. No cause of death was given.

(Photo by Jonathan Grassi /Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)

Jim Nabors, widely adored for playing Gomer Pyle on "The Andy Griffith Show," passed away in November 2017 at age 87.

(Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)
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