FROM THE RED RIVER VALLEY TO THE IRON RANGE
Fergus Falls-based attorney and former state bar president
Dick Pemberton of Pemberton Law has tried dozens upon
dozens of cases in every corner of the state
INTERVIEW BY ROSS PFUND
Q: How did you get your start?
A: If you go way back to my beginnings
as a lawyer, I’ve been admitted to the
Minnesota Bar since 1957 and the federal
bar for just about that long, for goodness’
sake. My first association as a lawyer was
with the Felhaber Law Firm. Felhaber was
very much of an employer-oriented, labor
management specialty law firm.
I had worked for a summer as an intern
while in law school for the National Labor
Relations Board and developed a good
relationship with the chairman of the NLRB
for the fifth region of that time, who was
a good friend of Dick Felhaber, and who
suggested to Dick that he might consider
giving me a chance. So that was my first
association, and that was labor work.
Then I spent three years in the Army
teaching international law at the University
of Virginia to military lawyers.
Q: You joined the Army after you had
started your legal career?
A: Correct. I reported for active duty in
January of 1958. I spent most of my three
years on active duty and five more years
of active reserve at the Judge Advocate
General’s School based on the grounds of
the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
I didn’t feel like I was in a bunker with my
rifle aimed at the enemy, particularly, in
the defense of my country, but it was a
If you’ve ever been in Albemarle County,
Virginia, of which Charlottesville is the
county seat, it is one of the most beautiful
places in the world, I think. I decided that
I couldn’t go back to such a metropolis as
Minneapolis-St. Paul when I got out. I had
been raised in a small town in southern
Q: I understand you go out of town for
work on a regular basis.
A: Always have. I’ve done more trial work in
places other than Fergus Falls by far than I
have in Fergus Falls over the last half-century.
Q: Where have you been?
A: Well, we have to go back in time. A lot of
my jury trial work was done many years ago
when there were many more jury trials on the
civil side than there are now. I tried cases in
a large number of the county courthouses
going across the Canadian border: in Hallock,
Roseau, Baudette, International Falls and so
forth. And then down along the Dakotas line,
clear down to certainly Ortonville, and then
over to the Twin Cities and going north.
I tried cases in federal court in Duluth
and all over the place and everything in
between. But that has changed radically
in recent years. There is a fraction of the
number of jury cases tried now as compared
to when I was doing my most heavy load.
Q: Do you think that’s a good thing?
A: No. I really don’t. I think that if a person
is in the right and sincerely believes that
they are in the right, I think that a jury of
one’s peers provides the best justice—
assuming that the case is advocated
properly, intelligently and ethically on each
side. I think that justice comes out of the
blending of equal opposing force.
My practice over the years has been
balanced. At times, I was actively
representing the defense, particularly in
earlier years. In later years, I’ve often been
representing plaintiffs. My practice for the
last number of years has been quite heavily
focused on alternative dispute resolution,
both mediation and arbitration.