Wapner became synonymous with televised small court claims (in California courts) pitting parties, without lawyer, against each other and mediated by Wapner. The legacy of the show's high popularity are myriad similar syndicated shows and the cable channel Court TV.
After retiring from The People's Court, Wapner starred on cable channel Animal Planet's Judge Wapner's Animal Court, presiding over real cases involving or about animals.
Judge Wapner is a graduate of the University of Southern California (1941) and the USC Law School (1948), serving in WWII in between. Appointed by Governor Pat Brown to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1959, Wapner served 2 years before being elevated to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, where he served for 18 years before retiring. In 1981, he became the first (and most famous) judge on the long-running The People's Court.