Jerry Pearlman obituary

Other lives: Honorary solicitor for the Ramblers’ Association for more than 30 years

My campaigning colleague Jerry Pearlman, who has died aged 84, left his legal mark on landscapes and paths from Yorkshire to Devon through his role as honorary solicitor for the Ramblers’ Association (now the Ramblers) for more than 30 years.

A leader in the campaign for the right to roam, Jerry drafted the bill that formed the basis for the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In the appeal court in 2002 he helped me in the campaign to reopen the heavily blocked path across land belonging to the businessman Nicholas van Hoogstraten in East Sussex.

Jerry encouraged ramblers to use the law to achieve their aims and took on countless legal cases, culminating in a landmark judgment in the House of Lords, Godmanchester and Drain in 2007, which held that if a landowner was challenging people’s claim of a route as a public highway, he or she must do so publicly.

He was a powerful advocate for national parks, and especially his beloved Yorkshire Dales, where he owned a cottage. For 18 years he served as a secretary of state appointee on the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, his rotund and ebullient figure a familiar sight at meetings.

He was born in Redcar in the then North Riding of Yorkshire, the only child of Sam, who managed a furniture shop, and Sylvia (nee Taylor), who owned a sweet shop. Jerry spent his childhood in Keighley and Bishop Auckland. In his teens he walked the Pennines and it was around this time that he decided to become a lawyer; he graduated in law from London University and, for 60 years, was in general practice as a solicitor in Leeds. He dealt with all the usual types of case but his great joy was using his legal expertise to save public paths, commons and national parks.

To his surprise, in 1961, shortly after qualifying, he resolved an international boundary dispute in Bunyoro-Kitara in Uganda. Known as an environmental lawyer, he often acted for eccentric campaigners who had hit on an important legal point. He remembered them in later life when he adopted a new career as a cruise-ship lecturer: one of his talks was entitledSome Environmental Legal Nutcases. He also wrote two books, Tales from an Environmental and Tribal Lawyer (2016) and The Death of the Common Attorney (2017).

Jerry met Bernice Olsburgh, an epidemiologist, on a Jewish Society ramble to Ingleton in North Yorkshire in 1957 and they married in 1961. She survives him, along with their two daughters, Kate and Debbie, and three grandchildren, Mark, Alex and Jacob.

Kate Ashbrook

The GuardianTramp

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