Former Delaware County Common Pleas Judge Henry E. Shaw Jr. passed away over the weekend, but his legacy and influence lives on in Delaware County courtrooms, according to the judges who preside over them.
Shaw served as the county’s prosecutor from 1970 until 1976 when he became a Delaware County Common Pleas judge. He served in that capacity for 27 years until he retired in 2003. He was the longest serving general division common pleas judge in the county’s history. Shaw’s obituary said he passed away peacefully on Oct. 16. He was 84.
Delaware County Common Pleas Judge James P. Schuck said Tuesday that Shaw was “a great judge and an even better man.”
“No elected official who has served this county over the last half century better personified Delaware County than Judge Shaw,” Schuck said. “He was one of a kind. In his courtroom — and yes, it was his — he was a fierce defender of the law and expected preparedness and respect. Outside of the courtroom, he was warm and kind. Our county is indebted to him for his years of tremendous service. My condolences go out to Sharon, Jenny, Mark, and their entire family.”
Delaware Municipal Court Judge Kyle Rohrer said Tuesday that he did not practice in front of Judge Shaw outside of some hearings where Shaw served a visiting judge after his retirement but said he knew him personally through the bar association.
“I always enjoyed talking with him particularly about the Civil War,” Rohrer said. “A terrific husband, father, and jurist who leaves a wonderful legacy to the citizens of Delaware County.”
Delaware County Common Pleas Judge David M. Gormley, who served as an assistant county prosecutor and tried cases before Shaw from 1993 to 1997, said Monday Shaw was a knowledgeable and fair judge.
“Judge Shaw was a hard-working and honest judge who was always prepared in the courtroom,” Gormley said. “Like any good judge, he knew how to balance firmness with empathy, and he knew everything there was to know about Ohio law and about court rules. The experience of handling cases in his courtroom was at times terrifying for a young lawyer or for anyone who was unprepared, but I always knew that he would apply the law correctly and fairly in every case.”
Gormley was elected to a seat on the court of common pleas in 2014 and presided over cases in Shaw’s former courtroom until the new Delaware County Courthouse opened in 2017.
“I still hear his steady voice echoing in my head at times when I am doing the job that he did so well for so many years,” Gormley said. “I am grateful to have known him, and I will always admire his devotion to the rule of law and to public service.”
Delaware County Domestic Relations Judge Randall D. Fuller practiced law in Shaw’s courtroom as a private attorney and said Shaw had “a great influence” on him that now impacts him as a domestic relations judge.
“Judge Shaw held high expectations for attorneys practicing in his court,” Fuller said Monday. “You were always to be professional and prepared for his hearings. Part of that expectation included arriving 15 minutes early, which was considered on time in Judge Shaw’s view. These standards set by Judge Shaw are the same as I have for attorneys practicing before me. Above all, Judge Shaw was fair and honest, and he cared about the people and attorneys that came before him.”
Delaware Municipal Court Judge Marianne Hemmeter, who served as an assistant county prosecutor from 1999 to 2011 and tried cases before Shaw, said Monday that Shaw was “one of a kind.”
“In the courtroom, Judge Shaw was a commanding presence,” Hemmeter said. “He always wore a three-piece suit and his robe. He demanded that attorneys in his courtroom were punctual and precise in their arguments; his attention to detail was unmatched. His jury instructions and written entries were immaculate. You simply did not step foot into Judge Shaw’s courtroom without being thoroughly prepared for your case.”
Hemmeter said Shaw “did not suffer fools gladly” and said he could “sniff out a specious argument as good as his beloved dogs,” which Hemmeter noted sometimes made appearances in the courtroom.
“But, as demanding as Judge Shaw was, he was equally quick to show humor and perspective,” Hemmeter said. “I cannot tell you how many times Judge Shaw would break into a huge grin and candidly tell the litigants ‘to get down to brass tacks’ and use common sense! Judge Shaw, quite frankly, made me a better lawyer and a better person.”
Delaware County Juvenile and Probate Judge David Hejmanowski appeared before Shaw as an assistant prosecutor for Delaware County and described Shaw as “a mentor to a generation of Delaware County lawyers” and “simply a one-of-a-kind individual.”
“A brilliant jurist, he maintained a firm control of his courtroom, but also a deep and abiding sense of fealty to the law and the practice of law,” Hejmanowski said. “He insisted that lawyers treat one another, and the process, with respect. I began hearing cases as a magistrate in the Juvenile Court the month after he retired and have always strived, almost certainly unsuccessfully, to follow the high example that he set. His influence, humor, knowledge of local history, and most importantly, his advice and guidance, will be deeply missed.”
In June 2021, the Delaware County Board of Commissioners renamed its meeting room in the Historic Courthouse, Shaw’s former courtroom, in his honor. At that ceremony, Shaw thanked the commissioners and the individuals who gathered to surprise him with the dedication before reminiscing about the courtroom.
“It was fun working here,” Shaw said at the ceremony. “(I have) nothing but good memories. … From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank every last one of you for being here this morning for extending me the friendship, courtesy, and fun over the years. It’s been a pleasure to serve you, and frankly, I wish I was here.”
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.