Country lawyer started as sawyer

Logs brought Tim Pemberton to Alpine County and law practice kept him here. Pemberton was born in Whittier, Calif. He moved to South Lake Tahoe to cut firewood, which allowed him to put himself through University of Nevada, Reno.

His first experience in Alpine County was also with lumber. The BLM had cut trees near Airport Road and left them. Pemberton got permission to use them for lumber: he brought his portable sawmill to Alpine County and he has been here ever since.

He ran the sawmill with five employees.

They milled and sold miles of cedar fencing, made shake shingles, and took thousands of Christmas trees to Southern California when the mills couldn't operate. Pemberton also built a log home for himself during that time.

His legal career came about because of back problems and severe allergies to cedar dust, which made the sawmill business impossible.

Pemberton graduated from Lincoln Law School in Sacramento in 1981.

For the past 27 years, he has been a country lawyer in Markleeville.

"The lucky thing about being a country lawyer is that you are almost always riding the right horse," he said.

Nearly half of his clients are fighting for fair payment in cases where a governmental agency has condemned his/her land for infrastructure or other development. Many other of his cases involve fraud, especially in the building trades.

"The building boom from 2002 to 2006 and the easy loan situation attracted underqualified contractors to our area," Pemberton said.

Pemberton's background in lumber and building allow him to tackle difficult and involved construction cases.

Some cases reach the federal court, since the issues between California and Nevada residents must be resolved in those courts.

Other cases grow complicated when experts from cities advise landowners about development, not considering the local rural culture.

Pemberton believes that every community needs a "thoughtful general plan."

"When a community grows to a certain size, with the arrival of a large number of new people in a short amount of time, the newcomers usually are not absorbed into the local culture. Instead, they change it. Newcomers to rural areas typically bring a desire for nearby conveniences, such as hospitals and large department stores."

Pemberton believed that the distance between Markleeville and major conveniences will keep the county's population from exploding like El Dorado County's population is right now.

However, Pemberton believes that Alpine will have important land use issues in the future because ranchlands of today may not be sustainable in the next generations.


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