Study Guide

A View from the Bench

by Joseph A. Wapner

A View from the Bench Essay - Critical Essays

A View from the Bench

Joseph A. Wapner is probably one of the most popular, trusted judges in the United States; his work as a small-claims arbiter on the syndicated television show “The People’s Court” almost certainly makes him one of the most recognized. On television, Wapner seems a down-to-earth, humane man full of common sense. In print, he turns out to be much the same. This book allows his admirers a look at the past and the personal side of a man about whom they are undoubtedly curious. A VIEW FROM THE BENCH consists largely of stories from Wapner’s twenty-year service on California municipal and superior courts. Those who expect behind-the-scenes tales from “The People’s Court” should be forewarned-- there is almost no reference to it. Instead, the judge depicts what he believes were the most personally enlightening cases of his career, all of them illustrating points he considers important regarding the law and the American legal system.

Wapner bewails the loss of community feeling in modern society, but he reaffirms a deep belief in the American system of law. He believes, however, that the courts should be a last resort, not the first place to go when one has a dispute with a neighbor. The book clearly shows that Wapner loves to settle conflicts; for civil cases, he advocates almost anything other than going to court. When one does, though, Wapner would be the judge to have. Wapner also briefly relates his background and lovingly tells of his family and friends. In this readable book, he appears as an intelligent, likable man who has some valuable things to say about the American judicial system.