There goes the judge: Robert Tamietti steps down from Truckee’s seat on Superior Court bench
Special to The Union
TRUCKEE — In a 2003 Sierra Sun article on his initial appointment, Robert Tamietti said he decided to study law once he realized “there’s more to life than being a ski bum.”
But the judge still hits the slopes regularly, and he’s spent the last 17 of 30 years in Truckee as a public servant. He recently announced his retirement from the Nevada County Superior Court bench.
Tamietti said he found the challenges rewarding and the community supportive — in a personal and professional way.
The judge remembers his 6-year-old son coming to work with him and hiding under his bench to send forms through a chute to court clerks. The decision to raise his son in Truckee, even when Tamietti was commuting to Nevada City, was a conscious one.
“The support we’ve seen in banners downtown that celebrate this year’s graduates are emblematic of what goes on in the community,” Tamietti said.
Tamietti timed his departure so his replacement would be governor-appointed rather than publicly elected, he said.
“Because Truckee’s a resort town we’re an attractive target to someone who thinks they’re gonna retire up here and be a judge,” Tamietti said. “Or, someone with money shows up and thinks they can buy a seat.”
Tamietti said his job has been hard work, making him somewhat a jack of all trades and master of none.
“The beauty of this assignment is also the burden of this assignment,” Tamietti said. “Our community is unique. It has unique challenges and provides unique services for unique problems.”
Professionally, he said he received a great deal of support for and positive feedback on the alcohol treatment court he started with former Truckee Police Chief Adam McGill. Tamietti said the court takes high blood alcohol and multiple DUI offenders and helps them get sober and safe, working in collaboration through a program with the Truckee Police Department, the District Attorney’s Office and Granite Wellness to eventually earn back their driver’s licenses.
“You don’t always run into a judge who is as concerned with rehabilitation as they are with punishment,” Public Defender John T. Ward said. “Bob has always been foremost concerned with rehabilitation for folks with substance abuse problems in the context of the court.”
Tamietti recalled once attending a Truckee High School football game where a woman he did not recognize approached him and thanked him for having her husband participate in the program.
“I just love this community,” Tamietti said. “I’ve been welcome here, I’ve made a few good friends. This town has been good to me, I’ll be forever grateful for that.”
GOOD HUMOR GOES LONG WAY
Tamietti said although his replacement will be dealing with new challenges, such as COVID-19, they will find support in a smart and dedicated team.
“The good news is that they get the greatest staff,” Tamietti said. “The people who work here work hard — for not enough money, not enough recognition.”
Over the years, Tamietti has expressed his appreciation for his staff by being compassionate, cracking jokes and bringing snacks, said Amber Wiberg, Truckee court services supervisor.
“He’s extremely sympathetic to snow and weather and wants staff to be safe during wintertime,” Wiberg said.
Wiberg said she and her coworkers sometimes have to keep themselves from laughing when Tamietti uses metaphors to explain himself and offer reprieves in a grave setting.
“He says stuff like: ‘That’s a bit like arranging patio furniture on the Titanic’ or ‘Well, you can represent yourself, but it’s a bit like being your own dentist,’” Wiberg said.
Wiberg said good humor goes a long way in a setting that sometimes has no winners.
“We have work here that is extremely serious and sensitive,” Wiberg said. “Whether it’s a child custody order or someone who is sent to prison, the seriousness of it all can affect the staff.”
Wiberg said the daily dose of Tamietti’s wit helps boost staff morale and alleviates any discomfort as court employees and patrons reckon with their respective realities.
“You have to be able to laugh at the follies of the system, and the follies of the people that practice in the system — lawyers, attorneys, defendants, witnesses,” said defense attorney Ward. “That’s what all the lawyers’ jokes are about. I think it’s important to maintain your sanity.
‘GREAT DEAL OF EMPATHY’
Tamietti’s wit will be missed as will his dedication to the judicial profession, Ward said.
“He’s probably one of the brightest judges I’ve practiced in front of,” he said. “He’s hardworking, he really researches his cases well.”
Ward said Tamietti is decisive in his rulings and maintains a professional but charismatic courtroom demeanor. Those who have encountered Tamietti at work, Ward said, have witnessed him connect with people on every level of the socioeconomic spectrum and in varied legal standings.
“I’ve done a lot of juvenile work with him in the Truckee court and he has a great deal of empathy,” Ward said.
Ward said although adolescents charged may have committed actions that brought them before the juvenile justice courts, they may not be at fault completely.
“There are kids who get the short end of the deal with parents,” Ward said. “I’ve seen him work out creative solutions to their problems that really don’t come within the purview of the court system.”
Tamietti’s wit will be missed, his good nature, good humor and good will, Wiberg said.
“He really tries to help people and not stick it to them,” Wiberg said.
Wiberg said whoever replaces Tamietti has some big shoes to fill.
Now, Tamietti’s once 6-year-old son is studying electrical engineering at the University of Nevada, Reno, and Truckee’s longtime public servant said he is retiring to Charleston, South Carolina.
There, Tamietti intends to play tennis and get back into surfing.
Rebecca O’Neil is a reporter for The Union, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in Grass Valley. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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