Reflecting on the legacy of Justice Hans Linde

by Willamette University College of Law,

  • Justice Hans Linde receives award from the Oregon Law Commission
    Justice Hans Linde receives an award from the Oregon Law Commission in 2015.

Hans A. Linde, longtime instructor at Willamette University College of Law, left an indelible imprint on the legal community in the state of Oregon.

Justice Hans Linde, former Justice of the Oregon Supreme Court and longtime instructor at Willamette University College of Law, passed away on Monday. He was 96.

Hans A. LindeLinde and his family left Nazi Germany in 1933, ultimately settling in Oregon. He attended Lincoln High School and Reed College before graduating law school from U.C. Berkeley. Linde clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas and worked for Oregon U.S. Senator Richard Neuberger before joining the University of Oregon School of Law, where he taught for nearly 20 years. In 1977, Linde was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court, where he served until 1990. Justice Linde then joined Willamette University College of Law, first as a Visiting Professor, then as a Distinguished Scholar in Residence.

“Oregon has lost a giant of the law,” said Norman Williams, Ken and Claudia Peterson Professor of Law. Indeed, Linde’s intellectual vigor was felt at every scale, from the beginning to the end of his career. At Willamette, Justice Linde taught an extremely popular state constitutional law seminar, attended both by students and by numerous junior scholars at the school. “For those of us who joined the faculty in the 2000s,” said Professor of Law Paul Diller, “Hans left an indelible imprint on our scholarly work, reading drafts of law review articles and offering extraordinarily helpful feedback.” Diller remembers Linde’s insatiable appetite for intellectual engagement: “If your office door was open and Hans was walking down the hall, he was likely to engage you for the next hour on a legal issue.” Jeff Dobbins, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Professor of Law, added, “Those conversations were remarkable, as Hans usually left you with a completely new perspective on a legal topic that you thought you had already considered from all sides.”

Justice Linde is celebrated as one of the most influential state court judges in the country, with numerous law reviews highlighting Linde’s pathbreaking work on state constitutional interpretation. A 2007 symposium on the occasion of his retirement from teaching was published in Volume 43 of the Willamette Law Review.

Justice Linde was dedicated to improving the law, and did so not only through his academic writing but also in very practical ways. He served on the Oregon State Constitutional Revision Commission in the 1960s and helped create the state’s official law reform body, the Oregon Law Commission, which he served on for many years. Even after Justice Linde retired from teaching, he remained a constant presence in the work of his colleagues at Willamette and throughout the legal community.

Justice Linde and his wife, Helen, were married for over 75 years, and had two children. Our thoughts are with his family this week. We also celebrate the innumerable intellectual offspring that Justice Linde left behind, in the form of statutes, constitutional provisions, law review articles, books, opinions, legal tests, and the many, many former students, clerks and colleagues who benefitted immeasurably from his intellectual vigor, curiosity, and skill. “Hans was a mentor to everyone,” remarked Associate Dean of Faculty & Van Winkle Melton Professor of Law Laura Appleman. Justice Linde had a positive impact on the Willamette legal community that will last generations.

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