Remembering George Pifer, Truckee’s ‘small town judge’ |

Remembering George Pifer, Truckee’s ‘small town judge’

Judge George Pifer

Friends and colleagues of George Pifer, a justice court judge in Truckee between 1972 and 1990, said he fit the profile for a small town judge perfectly, always trying to connect with those who came before him in court.

“He was very folksy. What you envision a small town judge to be,” said John Ward, a Tahoe City attorney who worked with Pifer as deputy district attorney for Nevada County in the early 1970s. “He took time to talk to people who came before him. Sometimes he would wander off on a story in the middle of a jury trial.”

Pifer first moved to Truckee to serve as deputy district attorney for Nevada County, where he eventually took over as justice court judge, serving 18 years on the bench before retiring in 1990. Pifer died Jan. 20 in Washington, where he lived after his retirement. He was 99.

Born Oct. 14, 1920, in Tacoma, Washington, Pifer was heavily influenced by the economic hard times of the Great Depression, according to Judge Andy Holmer, who took over for Pifer as justice court judge when he retired.

“It was not uncommon for him to give someone money for a bus ride,” said Holmer. “He was a generous guy and never forgot where he came from.”

Pifer joined the National Guard in 1940 and went on active duty in 1942. He then served as an intelligence officer in World War II and was honorably discharged as a major in 1955. He went on to obtain a bachelor’s degree in accounting from St. Martin’s College and eventually his doctor of jurisprudence from Santa Clara University.

During the time he was on the bench in Truckee around 2,000 people lived in the area, with most of the crime connected to Truckee’s close proximity to Interstate 80, Holmer said.

“Truckee had some colorful town characters at the time,” said Holmer. “I think George almost enjoyed talking to these guys who came to court for one thing or another.”

After retiring from the bench, Pifer spent three years filling in for justice court judges who were on vacation or recused themselves from a case.

“I remember that it was a very pleasant experience dealing with him as a judge,” said Ward. “He was very polite and very kind.”

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or

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