Firm History

At more than 125 years, we are the oldest continuously practicing law firm in Tulare County

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Firm History

In the late 1800s, Eldridge C. Farnsworth, Sr., and Harry McClure, both Visalia residents, formed a law partnership known as Farnsworth & McClure, and started what is now the oldest law firm in Tulare County, Ruddell Bixler Mauritson Evans Fox & Buss, LLP. In 1919, James M. Burke joined the firm and it became known as Farnsworth, McClure & Burke. James M. Burke, a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of California, Boalt Hall, had a distinguished career as an attorney in Tulare County. He is responsible for the firm’s considerable involvement in water law matters and not only formed many irrigation districts and water companies in the Central Valley, but also is credited with significant participation in drafting the Central Valley Project Act which became the Central Valley Project, and most notably involved the construction of the Friant Kern Canal along the East side of the Central San Joaquin Valley.

The firm’s emphasis on water law matters continues to this day representation of the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District, Friant Water Authority, and numerous other districts and water companies in and around Tulare and Kings Counties. Through the efforts of the firm’s attorney, Erling H. Kloster, now deceased, the hydroelectric system at Kaweah Dam was initiated and constructed. Most recently,  we involved in raising the Terminus Dam to accommodate additional water storage for irrigation and power. The firm has always had a strong emphasis on civil and criminal litigation. In 1919, Dixon F. Maddox, son of Ben M. Maddox, the publisher of what subsequently has become The Visalia Times-Delta, began his practice specializing in insurance defense matters, criminal litigation, and civil trial work.

Perhaps the primary focus of the firm’s practice is general business and real estate matters, and estate planning and administrations which include significant emphasis on wealth transfer techniques to minimize the impact of federal estate and gift taxes. Attorneys James K. Abercrombie and Erling H. Kloster, spearheaded the firm’s interest in these areas early in the firm’s development as a predominant law firm in the San Joaquin Valley. Mr. Abercrombie represented and sat on the Board of Directors of the J.G. Boswell Company, at the time, the largest farm corporation in the world. Most notably, he is remembered for his advice and guidance for many years as counsel for Dairyman’s Cooperative Creamery Association. Following his death, Attorney Gary H. Ruddell continued that representation for almost 30 years culminating in the merger of Dairyman’s Cooperative Creamery Association with one of the largest agricultural cooperatives in the United States, Land O’Lakes.

Attorney continues to focus on business, real estate, and estate planning matters. Since 1976, he has handled business formation and related transactions, wealth transfer programs, and general business litigation. Ruddell Bixler practice involves real estate matters, including acquisitions and sales, with a strong emphasis on landlord/tenant and homeowner association issues.

In the early 1960s, the firm started handling land use and land development cases involving large residential subdivisions and commercial shopping centers. Gary H. Ruddell continues to represent clients in commercial and residential developments in Visalia and surrounding communities the most visible being Del Lago in Tulare, Mary’s Vineyard, Rancho Viejo, The Courtyards, Village West, Key West, and Shannon Ranch Residential and Commercial Developments.

Attorney Matthew W. Bixler has similar interests and works in general business matters and commercial real property developments emphasizing land use issues, and real estate acquisitions and sales.

Over the years Ruddell Bixler has emphasized the importance of community involvement. It’s partners have been presidents of the local Visalia Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Club, Tulare County Bar Association, Visalia Chamber of Commerce, and has been involved with numerous charitable organizations including the Kaweah Delta Hospital Foundation, the Boy Scouts, YMCA, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, local high school clubs and organizations, churches and church groups, and others.

There are currently five partners in the firm and two associates, although opportunities for expansion are always being considered, the firm’s policy has been to focus on quality representation for its clients in key legal areas including business, estate planning and wealth transfer, real estate, water, and civil litigation.

With the significant changes in the community during the last 125 years, every effort has been made by the firm to adapt the firm’s representation to the legal needs of the community. Although the firm is involved in traditional legal matters affecting all businesses and individuals, it particularly enjoys being involved in new and innovative businesses, developments, and issues having far-reaching future implications.

Firm Name Firm Dates
Eldridge C. Farnsworth 1890 – 1906
Farnsworth & McClure 1906 – 1919
Farnsworth, McClure & Burke 1919 – 1925
Farnsworth, Burke & Maddox 1925 – 1940
Maddox & Abercrombie 1940 – 1951
Maddox, Abercrombie & Kloster 1951 – 1956
Maddox, Abercrombie, Kloster & Jacobus 1956 – 1964
Maddox, Abercrombie & Kloster 1964 – 1971
Abercrombie, Kloster & Ruddell 1971 – 1980
Kloster, Ruddell & Hornburg 1980 – 1990
Kloster, Ruddell, Hornburg, Stanton & Smith , LLP 1990 – 1999
Ruddell, Hornburg, Cochran, Stanton , Smith & Gulla, LLP 1999 – 2003
Ruddell, Cochran, Stanton, Smith, Gulla & Bixler, LLP 2003 – 2007
Ruddell, Cochran, Stanton, Smith, Bixler & Wisehart, LLP 2007 – 2011
Ruddell, Cochran, Stanton, Smith & Bixler, LLP 2011 – 2018
Ruddell, Stanton, Bixler, Mauritson & Evans, LLP 2018 – 2023
Ruddell Bixler Mauritson Evans Fox & Buss, LLP 2023 – Present
Office of Ruddell Bixler Mauritson Evans Fox & Buss, LLP

Our office hours are Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.