Joseph A. Wapner

TV Court Judge


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his nearly two-hour Archive interview, Judge Joseph A. Wapner (1919-2017) discusses his twelve-year tenure as the presiding judge on the landmark syndicated series The People's Court. He talks about the start of the series, some memorable cases, and reaction to the show's success. He offers his opinion of the role of a judge and the part that The People's Court had in educating the public about the law. Wapner also talks about his career as a lawyer and later as a judge for the Los Angeles Municipal and Superior Court. He describes his later courtroom series Animal Court (for the Animal Planet cable network) as well as other television appearances he has made through the years (including a memorable case he judged between David Letterman and Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson). Gary Rutkowski conducted the interview in Century City, CA on July 11, 2005.

"When 'The People's Court' came along, I had an opportunity to really teach people about law. It was very important to me."

People Talking About ...
Highlights
Joseph Wapner on Ralph Edwards and Stu Billett approaching him about doing a television show (The People's Court)
Joseph Wapner on what makes a good judge
Joseph Wapner on what people learned from The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on his feelings on cameras in courtrooms
Joseph Wapner on The People's Court being featured in the film "Rain Man"
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his childhood and early influences; on growing up during the Great Depression; on attending USC law school
On serving in World War II; on practicing law with his father and then starting his own practice; on becoming a judge
On hearing small claims, arraignments, and traffic court; on serving in the Superior court; on jurors and memorable cases
On what makes a good judge; on private judging and retiring from Superior court
On Ralph Edwards and Stu Billett approaching him about doing a television show (The People's Court); on shooting the pilot for the show

Chapter 2

On the ethical and legal considerations behind the The People's Court; on how the show was filmed and the appeal of being on the program
On memorable cases on The People's Court; on delivering his decisions
On his process for making his decisions on The People's Court; on awarding money; on cases involving pets or bad services
On a typical work week on The People's Court; on camera placement
On spontaneous moments on The People's Court; on becoming famous from being on the program

Chapter 3

On the set of The People's Court; on the main function of a judge; on children appearing on the program
On the legacy of The People's Court; on producers not telling him that he would not be returning to the program
On his feelings on cameras in courtrooms; on presiding over Animal Planet; on meeting O.J. Simpson
On trying a case between David Letterman on Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
On other television appearances; on returning for the 3000th episode of The People's Court; on his proudest achievement; on his early thoughts on television and never thinking he'd be on it

Chapter 4

On timing on The People's Court; on his demeanor on the program
On The People's Court being featured in the film "Rain Man"
On advice to aspiring TV judges; on how he'd like to be remembered
Shows

Beverly Hillbillies, The

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Joseph Wapner on appearing on Beverly Hillbillies

Judge Wapner's Animal Court

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Joseph Wapner on cases with pets on The People's Court and being the judge on Animal Court
Joseph Wapner on presiding over Animal Court
Joseph Wapner on the types of animals on Animal Court
Joseph Wapner on the audience of Animal Court

Malcolm & Eddie

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Joseph Wapner on appearing on Malcolm & Eddie

Muppet Show, The

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Joseph Wapner on appearing on The Muppet Show

People's Court, The

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Joseph Wapner on Ralph Edwards and Stu Billett approaching him about doing a television show (The People's Court)
Joseph Wapner on the networks wanting an actor to play the judge on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on shooting the pilot for The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on the ethical and legal considerations behind the The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on how The People's Court was originally described to him and how the show was filmed
Joseph Wapner on the appeal of being on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on memorable cases on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on not being concerned with the music and drama of The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on delivering his decisions on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on his process for making his decisions on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on awarding money on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on cases with pets on The People's Court and being the judge on Animal Court
Joseph Wapner on bad services that were judged on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on a typical work week on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on shooting The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on spontaneous moments on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on the studio audience on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on wanting to educate people on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on cases involving contracts on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on what people say to him when they recognize him from The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on becoming famous from being on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on his persona and the popularity of The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on the main function of a judge and of The People's Court: to get at the truth
Joseph Wapner on the set of The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on staying impartial on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on suing based on principle on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on his experiences with children on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on the legacy of The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on what people learned from The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on why The People's Court ended and how the producers never told him he would no longer preside over the program
Joseph Wapner on the international reach of The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on Ed Koch taking over The People's Court and television judges after him
Joseph Wapner on returning for the 3000th episode of The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on the catchphrase on The People's Court - "Don't take the law into your own hands"
Joseph Wapner on timing and editing on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on interacting with litigants on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on the reactions of lawyers and judges on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on his demeanor on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on The People's Court being featured in the film "Rain Man"

Saturday Night Live

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Joseph Wapner on being asked to host Saturday Night Live

Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, The

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Joseph Wapner on trying a case between David Letterman on Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
Topics

Advice

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Joseph Wapner on advice to aspiring TV judges

Characters & Catchphrases

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Joseph Wapner on the catchphrase on The People's Court - "Don't take the law into your own hands"

Fame and Celebrity

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Joseph Wapner on becoming famous from being on The People's Court

Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Joseph Wapner on learning of President Roosevelt's death during World War II

Historic Events and Social Change

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Joseph Wapner on learning of President Roosevelt's death during World War II

Pop Culture

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Joseph Wapner on the catchphrase on The People's Court - "Don't take the law into your own hands"

Television Industry

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Joseph Wapner on becoming famous from being on The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on advice to aspiring TV judges

Television and the Presidency

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Joseph Wapner on learning of President Roosevelt's death during World War II

War

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Joseph Wapner on learning of President Roosevelt's death during World War II

World War II

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Joseph Wapner on learning of President Roosevelt's death during World War II
Professions

Hosts

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Joseph Wapner on advice to aspiring TV judges

Television Judge

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Joseph Wapner on advice to aspiring TV judges
Genres

Reality TV

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Joseph Wapner on Ralph Edwards and Stu Billett approaching him about doing a television show (The People's Court); on shooting the pilot for the show
Joseph Wapner on shooting The People's Court and becoming recognizable to the public
Joseph Wapner on the set of The People's Court; on the main function of a judge; on the legacy of the program
Joseph Wapner on the timing on The People's Court; on the program being featured in the film "Rain Man"

Service Shows

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Joseph Wapner on the future of courtroom TV
People

Stu Billett

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Joseph Wapner on Ralph Edwards and Stu Billett approaching him about doing a television show (The People's Court)

Ralph Edwards

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Joseph Wapner on Ralph Edwards and Stu Billett approaching him about doing a television show (The People's Court)

Dustin Hoffman

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Joseph Wapner on The People's Court being featured in the film "Rain Man"

David Letterman

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Joseph Wapner on trying a case between David Letterman on Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson

Harvey Levin

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Joseph Wapner on Harvey Levin's involvement with The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on returning for the 3000th episode of The People's Court

Doug Llewelyn

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Joseph Wapner on the interviews with Doug Llewelyn at the end of The People's Court
Joseph Wapner on how Doug Llewelyn got involved with the The People's Court

O. J. Simpson

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Joseph Wapner on his run-in with O.J. Simpson

Andrew Solt

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Joseph Wapner on presiding over Animal Court

Lana Turner

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Joseph Wapner on meeting Lana Turner when they were in high school

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