In this Friday, Oct. 13, 1989, file photo, retired Judge Joseph A. Wapner of TV's 'The People's Court' congratulates his son, Judge Frederick N. Wapner, right, as he was enrobed as a Municipal Court judge in Los Angeles. Wapner, who presided over "The People's Court" with steady force during the heyday of the reality courtroom show, has died. Wapner died at home in his sleep Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, according to his son, David Wapner. (AP Photo/Nick Ut, File)

Joseph Wapner, 'People's Court' judge, dead at 97

According to The Associated Press and TMZ, the fan favorite from “The People’s Court” died Sunday. He was 97 years old.

"The People's Court," which debuted in September 1981, helped open the doors for reality TV, including popular court shows.

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Wapner entertained audiences with his opinionated personality and heard thousands of cases during his 12-year run, which ended in 1993.

Before he was a TV judge, Wapner was a judge in Los Angeles' municipal and superior courts. 

He was reportedly hospitalized earlier last week for breathing problems, and his condition worsened. He returned to his Los Angeles home on Friday and was under hospice care until he passed away on Sunday.

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Wapner was married to his wife, Mickey, for 70 years and had three children.

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