Somewhere on the TV schedule, nestled between The Love Connection and The Dukes of Hazzard, is The People's Court, presided over by handsome and avuncular Judge Joseph A. Wapner (retired). It's a mock court, of course. Cases are plucked from those filed in southern California small claims court and the litigants are paid to appear and abide by Judge Wapner's decision. ""Edifying entertainment,"" is what lawyer Levin calls it and. small claims as little theater aside, he's right. Drawing on a multitude of rulings by the good judge to illustrate a variety of legal points, he uses the venerable case method with clarity and some panache. Covered in this slim first volume of Ppls Ct Repts are the principles of dealing with nasty neighbors or their vicious pets, shady merchants or shoddy merchandise, mean landlords or sloppy tenants, vindictive former lovers or strangers who may harass the average reader or entertain county courthouse trial buffs. We learn, for example, that dogs need leashes; cats don't. Children can be sued. You may cut the branches on your neighbor's tree back to your property line. This TV Blackstone won't transform a reader into Clarence Darrow, but there is plenty of down-to-earth advice along with the photos of the Judge and the tortfeasors. The best part of the book is the last: straightforward instruction on the pros and cons of bringing suit in small claims court, how to prepare for trial, how to behave in court, how to enforce a judgment, and how to be a loan arranger. A guidebook, combining the glitter of the Law with the majesty of showbiz, it turns out to be a better than usual TV tie-in.