BROOKSVILLE — Judge L.R. Huffstetler, who served a colorful 15-year term as a circuit judge in Hernando County, died Friday morning at Oak Hill Hospital at age 70.
Huffstetler was known for his keen sense of humor, for outfitting his bailiffs and clerks in bright colors that matched his robes, for living on a sailboat in Hernando Beach, and for handling as much legal work as possible behind closed doors.
"Once we got in the courtroom, we'd go through the docket like greased lightning,'' said former Hernando County Judge Peyton Hyslop, who was an assistant county attorney when Huffstetler retired in late 1988 after a string of controversies.
He hired his wife-to-be in 1986 just days before he married her. In 1978, he sued the St. Petersburg Times for a story he said falsely implied that he was involved in drug smuggling. He won at trial, but lost on appeal.
He also installed an airport-style security system that led critics to dub the courthouse "Fort Huffstetler," which became the name of the gun shop he opened on Jefferson Street.
"Regardless of the circumstances, he never lost his sense of humor, and never got loud or lost his temper,'' said Brooksville lawyer, Jimmy Brown.
Huffstetler believed in limited government and often sided with ordinary residents, said Pat Brewer, owner of Brewer & Sons Funeral Home.
"He was a people's judge,'' said Brewer, who said he had not completed the arrangements for Huffstetler's funeral.