When asked about this, Linde responds with a wave of the hand. "The author wasn't a lawyer," he says, presumably suggesting that had the writer been so fortunate, she would have recognized that Linde simply applied the law as he found it. To use lawyers' lingo, Linde sees himself as a "positivist"-one who bases his decisions on legal premises-rather than a "realist"-who would give policy reasons based on social assumptions and desired consequences.
"Of course it was my concern to protect civil liberties," he explains. "But a court can't protect civil liberties without a legal basis for doing it." In other words, if Linde's concern for civil liberties makes him a liberal-which is how his detractors undoubtedly view him-he gets there, as Linde himself will acknowledge, by a decidedly conservative process. No wonder Linde is a bit antsy about being labeled.
If Linde is circumspect about discussing his judicial career, however, he makes up for it when given a chance to discuss the events leading up to it. Arriving in Portland, Oregon, in 1939 at the age of 15 after a 19-day cross-country trip with his family in an old Buick, Linde enrolled at Lincoln High School. Although he may not have been able to speak fluent English at the time, Linde, who still has a trace of an accent from his native Germany, nevertheless wrote it well enough to become an editor of the school paper.
Graduating from high school in 1942, Linde entered Reed, which had the dual advantage, he says, of being not only a school with high academic standards but one that was inexpensive as well. At the time, he recalls, tuition was about $250 a year.
"My generation's Reed experience was not a normal college experience," Linde observes. Drafted into the army after a year of college, Linde was sent to Europe, where he was put to use as an interpreter. At the end of the war, he returned to Reed, married his high school classmate, Helen Tucker '46, and in 1947 graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1950, fresh out of the University of California's Boalt Hall School of Law (where, not surprisingly, he was editor of the law review) he spent a year clerking for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, a period of judicial history marked by dissents in such cases as the Cold War imprisonment of American Communist Party leaders.
From the court, Linde moved to the State Department as a legal adviser on United Nations affairs, a promising assignment for anyone who had experienced the international lawlessness of the 1930s. He left when Secretary of State Dean Acheson was succeeded by John Foster Dulles, realizing that legal advisers had limited effect on policies unless they attached themselves to men of power. Otherwise, Linde might well have followed the same path as former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who had a similar background to his own: both born in pre-World War II Germany, immigrating to the United States in their teens, both brilliant students (although Linde wouldn't say so himself) recognized for their intellectual capabilities at an early age. To Linde, the difference is essential. Kissinger, by attaching himself to Nelson Rockefeller, rose to become Secretary of State.
After returning to Portland to practice law, Linde soon found himself working on Richard Neuberger's senatorial campaign. When Neuberger won, he became Oregon's first Democratic senator since 1914. Linde went back to Washington as his chief legislative aide, working there from 1955 to 1958.
"It's been downhill since then," says Linde with a laugh, going on to explain that unlike a judge, a senator can initiate action on issues that he or she thinks is important. It is obvious that Linde enjoyed these relatively carefree years, especially those spent with Neuberger. Linde, who regards Neuberger and Douglas as formative exemplars, worked successfully on banning billboards from the new highway interstate system and drafted the first bills for public financing of congressional election campaigns.
After four years Linde chose to follow another path. He accepted a position at the University of Oregon law school, where, interspersed with visiting professorships, he taught for 18 years. In 1976 he was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court by then-governor Robert Straub.
"I never really expected to be a judge," says Linde. "It's not something that I set out to do." He sees himself as legal scholar, whose job is to expose the hidden assumptions and circular arguments in legal arguments and "to move the analysis forward."