They work where no commercial breaks take a pause from drama or tedium. If people are acting in front of them, they must see through the act. Real life and death unfolds daily. Laws and a functioning of society rest upon their shoulders. Circuit court judges have a complicated, difficult job. Defendants and plaintiffs generally create their own future with choices made before they enter a courtroom. The laws are like gravity, always in force. Yet there are at times circumstances where an outcome of a civil lawsuit or a criminal trial is uncertain. A judge must decide. I suspect now and then they experience painfully intense minutes, days and sleepless nights when a final decision is made. Judges witness a steady parade of humanity in conflict. We have been blessed in Platte County with good people sitting on the legal benches to make those decisions during the past few decades. I add my congratulations and thanks to Circuit Judge Abe Shafer and Presiding Circuit Judge Lee Hull. They are retiring from Platte County’s Sixth Circuit Court bench after hitting the state’s mandatory retirement age for judges at 70. They’ve both been excellent judges. It would be my hope that many of you reading these words never saw them presiding over a courtroom. Unless you’re getting married, a joyous proceeding in a courtroom is rather rare. Sometimes there can be a little humor. But such moments are fleeting little breaks in serious business. A journalism career sent me into courtrooms. Often it would be to report on deadline about a legal proceeding in a specific case, but court dockets are usually full with proceedings from many cases. So as a reporter waits, they witness a judge, prosecutors and lawyers handling all manner of legal cases. Now and then, while waiting for a session to begin, I would drift into another courtroom and listen to whatever case was being tried. That’s something many people don’t realize: you can go to court and watch cases get heard or continued. It’s far more interesting than the television in some ways, although the numbing, minute details of a mundane case can make you glad that you’re only witnessing and don’t have to be part of the proceedings. I’ve always admired judges for their ability to hear all arguments, review all evidence and make decisions in civil cases. In the coffee shop, you can listen to a couple of people argue about health insurance or whether to fire rockets into Syria and you can let your mind drift to the Chiefs or the weather whenever you feel like it. A judge hearing a complicated civil case must focus and listen to testimony and lawyers’ arguments for days. Plus, they often have a thick pile of additional information entered as evidence to review. What some people spend years studying and specializing in a judge gets weeks or months — sometimes a year or more — to figure out and decide upon, knowing that one side or another may appeal to a higher court and processes will begin again. Most of us would find it even harder, though, to handle people flowing through court for criminal violations ranging from bad checks to murder. Actually, those two areas might be easier than cases that fall in between the extremes. Bad behavior gets mighty tiresome and judges must review steady doses. Evidence presented in the worst cases can be emotionally wrenching. What you see in judges like Hull and Shafer is a steady legal hand along with patience and compassion from the bench. Prosecutors and attorneys also play a major role in what happens with defendants, but the judge is the decider. Often in cases, you will see the judge give a person a consequence but one that comes with a second chance. There are parts of the legal system designed to get a violator on a good track in life. Good judges don’t want people to fail in life and be in prison. Our retiring judges have not hesitated to remove violent and unrepentant criminals from society. Yet, there is also uplift occurring for many who moved through the system in cases far below the headlines. I recently heard an economics report that foreign investors like commercial properties in the United States in part because we’re a law-based society. Judges like Shafer and Hull have helped keep Platte County courtrooms reliable and steady. Major cases of statewide interest have been assigned to them from other circuits, showing the respect they’ve earned from other judges. I hope they realize our gratitude. My congratulations also to James W. Van Amburg, who the governor appointed to fill Shafer’s position. Visitors to Applefest in Weston watching Van Amburg doing volunteer chores in work gloves and clothes likely didn’t realize he is a circuit court judge. We’re very fortunate to have capable but unpretentious judges who care about our community appointed to the Platte County bench. Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area with his family, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.