Retiring Platte County Judges Lee Hull and Abe Shafer have seen, done it all in their combined 85 years of legal service
“Judge Hull and Judge Shafer are examples of how distinguished and respected lawyers and judges should be. When they enter the courtroom, there’s no question they know more about the law than anybody in the room. The two of them will be greatly missed by those of us who have learned from them, who have worked with them and who have been mentored by them.”
Local attorney and former Platte County Prosecutor
Last Friday at the Platte County Administration Building, Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt hosted a ceremony honoring Hull with a Platte City Community Spirit Award, which noted Hull’s decades of public service to the Platte City community.
In the days prior to the event, it was rumored that Hull was not overly thrilled with the idea of the ceremony and did not want to call too much attention to himself.
But, as evidenced by an overflow crowd which filled the Platte County Commission meeting room, there was no stemming the tide of well-wishers eager to show their respect and appreciation for the longtime judge.
Offutt summed it up best when he said, “This event was kind of slow getting off the ground, but once the fuse on the rocket was lit, wow, it really took off.”
Anyway, a veritable who’s who of the Platte City legal community waited in line to greet Hull and after remarks from Offutt, Platte County Bar Association President Jared Welch and Platte County Presiding Commissioner Jason Brown, the crowd heard from the man they came to see – Hull himself.
Of course, it came as no surprise to anyone when Hull needed just a few seconds to get the crowd eating from the palm of his hand with a speech filled with anecdotes and self-deprecating humor.
First, Hull commented on a story from his high school days that Offutt used to introduce him concerning Hull impersonating former then-Weston Superintendent Rudy Eskridge by calling local television/radio stations to say that school had been called off due to inclement weather.
“I never intended to be a lawyer and I certainly did not start out thinking I was going to do this as long as I did,” Hull said. “And, if I had not been given a break for pulling that stunt, my career would have ended before it ever got started and with me making an appearance in juvenile court.”
Hull went on to give credit to his co-workers, his family and friends and the communities of Weston and Platte City for making him realize how lucky he was.
“I can’t believe I have been here this long – I’ve never got more than seven miles away from home,” he said.
This is how most who know him outside of the courtroom will remember Owens Lee Hull Jr. – a warm, entertaining and well-spoken man who lit up any room he ever walked into.
If Hull is the rock star, Shafer is …… well, a rock. Of strength, integrity and all the qualities one would expect of a judge, of course, but exemplified with Shafer.
Shafer declined to speak at Hull’s ceremony last week, no doubt because he did not want to take the spotlight from his friend. But Shafer was front and center alongside Hull before the event and afterwards, too, when speaking with those who came to wish not only Hull – but Shafer, too – well.
And, make no mistake about it – while Shafer’s words most times come bereft of the flair that accompanies Hull’s, the man can tell a story with the best of them. This was evident when the two judges were asked about a memorable case that stuck out over the years.
Shafer said while there were many that stood apart from the norm, one when he was Platte County Prosecutor in the early 1970s was particularly memorable – the story of Larry Cashman.
Shafer said he was prosecuting Cashman for stabbing his wife and another man. Shafer said one day he was at the Platte County Jail when Cashman yelled out, “Hey Judge Shafer!”
“So, I walked over to him and asked him what he wanted,” Shafer said. “Well, he showed me a small medicine bottle that was labeled ABE SHAFER. Inside it was a cockroach and Larry said he was going to quit watering it.”
Shafer said he saw Cashman in court later and received some startling news.
“Larry looked at me and said, ‘you died last night, Judge’,” Shafer said. “He was referring to the cockroach, of course, but that was still kind of unsettling.”