Alpine County’s lumberjack lawyer
R-C Alpine Bureau
The fire was completely out of control and rescue workers had blocked the highway going through Woodfords Canyon. In characteristic style, lawyer Tim Pemberton left his vehicle and headed out cross-country over the steep terrain to get back to check his neighborhood and home. He had been at court in Jackson, and was wearing a suit, tie, and slick dress shoes, but he fought through the thick smoke and dangerous conditions. It is that kind of pluck and determination that has defined his life. His intensity has earned him the nickname of “The Bulldog.” Once he commits to something he doesn’t let go, and has no problem fighting for what he thinks is right.
His grandfather had been a miner in Goldfield, before he moved to Southern California where Tim, and then his brother, later were born. Growing up, Tim would clear and cut trees by hand, helping the family construction and development business. Every year they would all come up over Monitor Pass to go fishing and then camp in Tahoe. It was logical for Tim to move there when he was ready to leave LA.
He worked cutting firewood out in the forest for years, nurturing a true and lasting affection for the real wilderness. Living in Tahoe itself eventually became too noisy and busy for him. As might be expected, he found his way to Alpine County. He set up his own portable sawmill out at Indian Creek, and made “cowboy lumber” to use for corrals and fences.
It was hard physical work that he did, and he knew his body was not going to be able to keep that up forever. Tim had already attended Cal-State Fullerton and he continued his studies at University of Nevada, Reno, deciding to become a lawyer. He had a sharp, analytical mind, along with a passion for fair-mindedness, honesty, and moral standards. He commuted 3 days a week and graduated from Lincoln Law School in Sacramento in 1981.
First Tim set up an office at South Lake, but did not like the sort of cases he was getting. He started specializing in land and real estate transactions, and ended up working full-time for a concrete plant owned by the Phillipe family. They became close friends over many years, and Tim learned a lot in that position. He is grateful to them for giving him a real start in practicing law. This is when he built his log cabin office/home in Woodfords. In true lumberjack style, Tim fell every tree, stripped the bark, and notched every log by hand, exhibiting that strong Alpine ethic of self-reliance.
Tim is first and foremost a real outdoorsman, and it is important to him to be out in the open country where he can truly appreciate God’s handiwork. Though divorced, he and his wife Edie Paulson are both strong hikers, and spent many years exploring the trails and passageways in the Sierras. They maintain a close friendship, talking to each other every day. Edie was Tim’s secretary, and a warm and loving addition to the community when she lived here. I certainly miss the gingerbread houses she would bake every Christmas.
Along with the Reno firm of Bradley, Drendel and Jeanny, Tim was instrumental in bringing a successful lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for the mishandling of the Acorn Fire. Twenty six people lost their homes, and 6,000 acres were burned as a result of the devastating 1987 inferno. It was important to Tim to see that justice was served, something he feels has been more and more difficult to achieve in other areas as time passes.
Elected to the position of district attorney in 1995, Tim tried his best to make a difference in county government for the two years he was in office. He still had maintained his private practice, and has always worked at an intense pace, normally 6 to 7 days a week. Over the years, he also ran his own vineyard in Jackson, and then his own coffee plantation in Kona, Hawaii, relishing finding his own special places on the Big Island. He is packed with energy,finding it difficult to even consider retiring. Tim has so many long term clients who have become close friends, and he knows their entire families and history. He has been able to help them in challenging times, and it is hard to give that up.
As he wraps up his litigation and courtroom cases that still are open, you will find Alpine’s lumberjack lawyer out in the wild woods of Alpine or the deserts and back by-ways of Arizona more and more. It is yet another new chapter for Tim, one that he will live with the same passion and commitment that comes naturally to him.