Gregoire offers condolences to Linde's family; autopsy Monday or Tuesday
December 4, 2009 · Updated 4:53 PM
BULLETIN: Honolulu Police Sgt. Kenneth Quiocho said today an autopsy will be conducted Monday or Tuesday to determine the exact cause of Superior Court Judge John Linde's death.
Linde, 62, died Dec. 3 while vacationing with his wife and two friends in Hawaii. He had been snorkeling with a friend in Anaeho'omalu Bay — described by Quiocho as "pretty calm" — until the friend returned to shore sometime between 9:30 and 10 a.m.
Linde was in the water alone for about 10-20 minutes when occupants of a charter snorkeling boat found him floating in the water 75 yards off shore.
"He wasn't breathing, he was pulseless and unresponsive," Quiocho said. "They took him to shore and attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation until fire/rescue personnel arrived and took him to North Hawaii Community Hospital."
Linde was pronounced dead at the hospital at 11:20 a.m.
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For a moment this morning, San Juan County Superior Court was still. No gavel, no opening statements, no questions, no testimony.
Judge John Linde's courtroom opened at 9 a.m. today with a moment of silence in his memory, the county communications office reported. Linde, 62, died Dec. 3 while vacationing in Hawaii. He had been snorkeling with a friend; an autopsy was scheduled.
Glenna Hall, a retired King County Superior Court judge living on San Juan Island, was filling in for Linde while he was on vacation and was on the bench today.
County Clerk Joan White, who is the local Superior Court's administrator, notified Gov. Christine Gregoire's office today of Linde's death. Gregoire offered her sympathies and condolences to the Linde family.
Gregoire appointed Linde to the Superior Court in December 2007, after the Legislature separated the Island County/San Juan County Superior Court Judicial District into two districts, giving San Juan County a Superior Court of its own. Linde was elected to a four-year term in the general election a year later.
"The governor is very saddened to hear of Judge Linde's passing and offers her sympathies and condolences to his family," spokesman Glenn Kuper said.
Kuper said Gregoire will appoint a successor, though she is not under any deadline to do so. Her appointment will serve until the next general election.
"We are already getting the process in motion," Kuper said. "The governor recognizes the need to have a replacement in place as soon as possible."
San Juan County Prosecuting Attorney Randall K. Gaylord issued a statement, calling Linde a "rock" in uncertain times.
"The legal community is small and we know each other well. We are shocked and saddened by this unexpected turn of events. This is a loss to the family, the entire county and to the legal system.
"It was great to have Judge Linde back at the courthouse every day for the past two years as a full-time Superior Court judge. In these uncertain times, Judge Linde was a rock. When he spoke, people listened. We will miss him greatly.
"Our thoughts and hearts go out to John's family, and especially to Carol and his children."
White called Linde's death "a tremendous loss to the community."
"This tragic news has been so shocking to me, my staff and the county," White said. "John was a fine gentleman and so very fair to everyone who came before him at the bench. It won’t be easy for someone to follow in John’s footsteps. But I trust the process and we will get through this horrible time."
White recalled fondly that Linde and his wife, Carol, encouraged her to run for county clerk and chaired her campaign.
"I remember prior to completing the paperwork to run for office, we were standing at the District Court counter with Marion Melville who asked if I was going to run. I said I hadn’t decided yet. John said, ‘It’s time. We’ll flip a coin.' I never saw both sides of the coin, but he said, ‘It’s heads. You will run.' I did and with Carol and his help, as well as my county voters, it is my pleasure to serve this county. And I have John to thank for helping me make that decision," she said.
"My heart goes out to Carol and Brian and Kristen. May they have the strength to get through this very sad and difficult time."
Carla Higginson, a local attorney and president of the San Juan County Bar Association was "still reeling from the shock" from the news of Linde's death.
"The reaction from bar members has been one of shock and great sadness," she said. "This is a real and very tragic loss for the legal community and the community as a whole. We had all believed he would be our judge until he chose to retire, and we expected that wouldn't be for a number of years. It's such an unexpected situation for us. It's hard to contemplate anyone else in that position."
Higginson said she met Linde 32 years ago, when she was in law school and he had joined Charlie Schmidt's law practice in Friday Harbor.
"As an attorney, he was always very practical in trying to see ways that clients could resolve their differences. I always appreciated that as an attorney," she said. "He was aware that lawsuits created a lot of bad feelings. He was looked for ways for people to resolve disputes and put their differences behind them. He brought that same understanding of human nature to the bench. He absolutely respected and honored the law, but if there was any way people could resolve their differences without bitter fighting, he would encourage them to do that."
Higginson said Linde "tempered justice with mercy" in the Robert Nathan Benedict case. In September 2008, Benedict pleaded no contest to vehicular homicide in the death of his friend, Jarvis Teasdale, a year earlier. According to court documents, Benedict is developmentally disabled.
"It's fairly unusual for a defendant to have the limitations that my client had," Higginson said. "John was very tough on criminal defendants. He believed if you violated the law, there had to be a consequence. But he recognized there were some real legal extenuating circumstances and, as result of that, he tempered justice with mercy."
Vehicular homicide carries maximum penalties of life in prison, a $50,000 fine, or both. The prosecuting attorney recommended a jail term of six months. Linde sentenced Benedict to one month in jail, eight months on house arrest and one year on probation.
Jack Bourgault, an investment banker in Houston, graduated with Linde from Seattle's Nathan Hale High School. He remembered his long-time friend as a "pretty serious" student who "knew where he wanted to go." But he was also fun.
"You know the kind of guy who can go swimming and he gets out of the water and his hair still looks great? That was John," Bourgault said. "He was a male model — a diver, a swimmer. He was always in great shape."
Bourgault added, "He was fun — he never drank, never caroused. He was just a great guy."
Linde went to University of Washington and Willamette University, ultimately settling on a law career in the islands. Bourgault went to UW and left Seattle in 1974. The two friends kept in touch but Bourgault regretted today that he hadn't seen Linde since about 1983 or 1984.
Bourgault was hoping to connect with his old high school buddy again at their 45th class reunion, Aug. 15, 2010.
"Over the years, we talked back and forth and he did some legal work for me," Bourgault said. "The thing that's affected me the most is, a friend called me and told me (about Linde's death) and I just got this thing for the reunion. I'm feeling guilty more than anything else."