'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

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LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13: Actor Dick Gautier participates in The Hollywood Show held at Westin LAX Hotel on July 13, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
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