Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Services to Be Held Tomorrow for Judge Harry Shafer, Dead at 92
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Services will be held tomorrow at noon in Long Beach for retired Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Harry T. Shafer, who died Saturday night at age 92.
Shafer, who fought a long battle with cancer, was part of the legal community in the county for more than 50 years. An attorney and legal educator as well as a bench officer, he retired from the Superior Court in 1982 but remained active until recently as an arbitrator, mediator, private judge and expert witness.
A native of New Haven, Conn., he graduated from Yale University in 1933 and earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1937. After serving in Europe during World War II, he and his wife Ruth—who was married to him for 65 years and survives him—moved from New York City to Los Angeles County in 1949.
He practiced law until his 1965 appointment to the Compton Muncipal Court by then-Gov. Pat Brown, for whom he had campaigned. In 1976, then-Gov. Jerry Brown elevated him to the Superior Court, where he heard a number of high-profile family law matters.
As a judge, Shafer did not shy away from controversy. He once gave a newspaper interview in which he said that judges were “overpaid and underworked” and should not complain about their pay and benefits.
He also raised eyebrows when he signed the nominating petition of a prosecutor challenging one of his judicial colleagues in 1974; when he endorsed then-Superior Court Judge Vaino Spencer—now presiding justice of Div. One of the Court of Appeal—against an election challenger, despite a since-repealed ethics rule prohibiting such endorsements; and when he ruled in favor of television coverage of court proceedings, two years before the state court rule was amended to allow it.
But his most enduring contribution to the profession may stem from his role as one of the three founders of what became Pepperdine University Law School.
Shafer and the others—Vincent Dalsimer, a justice of the Court of Appeal, and Edward DiLoreto, a businessman—were close friends who had owned and operated Orange University College of Law.
That school “was going downhill,” Shafer once told the MetNews in an interview, when the three “arranged to take it over and paid the bills.”
With Shafer—who had been an adjunct professor—serving as president, the three owned the school until 1969, when they donated it to Pepperdine. The school remained in Santa Ana until 1978, when it was moved to the university’s Malibu campus with the approval of the three donors.
The choice of Pepperdine, a Christian school known for its conservative political bent, was a natural for DiLoreto, whose views were “way out to the right, even somewhat reactionary,” Shafer said. It was less than a perfect choice for Shafer, who was Jewish and “a strong liberal” and Dalsimer, who was active in Democratic politics before the late Gov. Pat Brown appointed him to the bench, Shafer recalled.
“But we had an agreement that minority rules,” Shafer quipped, “and that way it didn’t affect our friendship.”
Pepperdine Dean Emeritus Ron Phillips fondly recalled the “minority rules” rule yesterday, and said that Shafer remained a strong booster of the school, noting that he and his wife have made many gifts, including the endowment of a fund to assist graduates who go into public service in paying student loans.
Shafer was a “very, very dear friend,” Phillips said, who was tremendously enthusiastic about the hiring of Phillips’ successor, Kenneth Starr. Phillips said he was sad the two never had a chance to meet.
David Shafer, one of the judge’s three children, said his father was an unabashed liberal who “was passionately dedicated to the struggle for civil rights, the fight against racism and anti-semitism, and the plight of society’s underclass”—he was awarded a life membership in the NAACP—but whose friendships spanned the political spectrum.
Besides his wife and David Shafer, the judge is survived by son Roger Shafer—a Huntington Park attorney and former Southeast District Bar Association president, as was his father—daughter Jeri Shafer, and eight grandchildren, one of whom recently graduated from Pepperdine Law School.
Tomorrow’s services will be held at noon at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Long Beach, in the Cathedral Chapel. The address is 1500 East San Antonio Drive, Long Beach.
The family requested that any memorial donations be made to one of the following: Jewish Federation of Long Beach c/o JCC, 3801 East Willow Street, Long Beach, CA 90815; American Cancer Society, Long Beach Harbor SE Unit, 936 Pine Ave., Long Beach, CA 90801; and Las Floristas Children’s Charities, c/o Brenda Flores, 3215 Hermanos Street, Pasadena, CA 91107.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company