Joseph Wapner, the former real-life judge who presided over "The People's Court" on reality television with a Solomonic presence that made him one of the best-known legal figures in the United States, died on Sunday at the age of 97, news reports said.
Wapner's son, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Fred Wapner, told CNN his father died at his home in Los Angeles of natural causes. A grandson, Gabriel Wapner, confirmed the death to the Washington Post, which said Wapner had suffered several strokes in recent years.
From 1981 through 1993, Wapner served as an arbitrator on "The People's Court," resolving disputes that were usually trivial, with both parties in the litigation agreeing to abide by his ruling.
Wapner handled two cases on each half-hour show, ruling with a commanding demeanor and basing decisions on his three decades as a lawyer and judge. He was stiff but sometimes showed a dry wit.
The show made Wapner an unlikely judicial superstar and pop culture touchstone and its catchphrase - "Don't take the law into your own hands: you take 'em to court, the People's Court" - worked its way into daily conversations.