Linda Copple Trout began her journey to the Idaho Supreme Court in Tokyo, Japan. Her father, who, by the way, was the personal doctor to World War II’s General Ridgway at the time, was stationed at Tokyo Army Hospital, when a baby girl arrived. “’Do you know anyone interested in adopting a baby girl?’ He convinced my mother,’” says Trout.
The family moved to Boise after Trout’s father’s service was up. Her father became a local pediatrician, and Trout fondly remembers her growing up years here, including her stint on the Boise High School drill team. “Boise was much smaller then. It was great. We would cruise Harrison Boulevard and hang out at Pac-Out.”
Trout attended the University of Idaho and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English, and a minor in French. She was aiming for a career in journalism, then found a job as ward clerk for the University of Oregon Medical Hospital in Portland. But … “I didn’t see career opportunities.” Spurred by family members who were attorneys, Trout went back to school and obtained her juris doctorate degree from the University of Idaho College of Law.
Upon graduation, she joined the Lewiston firm of Blake, Feeney and Clark, and practiced law there for six years. While at the firm, Trout says she became enamored of the idea of being a judge. “I was in court quite a bit up in Lewiston. I watched the judges and thought, ‘wow, that seems like a great job.’” There were two elements about judging that especially appealed to Trout: research and people. When a position for a magistrate judge opened up, “I applied,” Trout says. And she got it. “I was not the first (Idaho) female judge, but I was the first female attorney magistrate.”
After eight and a half years, Trout ran for a district judgeship and won. She took the district court bench in 1991. “It was a wonderful job,” she says. But after about a year, she was tapped by Gov. Cecil Andrus. It seemed that Larry Boyle, a federal magistrate judge, was leaving the Idaho Supreme Court and “Gov. Andrus said he’d really like to appoint a woman. … How many opportunities are you going to have to be considered for the Supreme Court? I finally thought, ‘I have nothing to lose.’”
And so, in August 1992, Trout was appointed by Gov. Andrus to be the first woman justice on the Idaho Supreme Court. In 1997 she was elected by the Supreme Court to be Chief Justice and she served two consecutive terms in that position.
Trout says even though she was a woman in what previously had been “a man’s world,” she felt “warmly welcomed by my fellow justices. … The important thing I thought, is that now, people coming into court have a court that reflects the culture in Idaho. … It was important and was a good step but not a big sea change … just a female voice.”
Reflecting back on her career, Trout says that her biggest cases at the magistrate level were the child custody cases – “if you look at the impact on peoples’ lives.” At the Supreme Court level, she lists cases that had an impact on Idaho law: the death penalty cases, the water cases. “As I look back, I think it’s the changes; when I was Chief Justice the way we worked expanded what judges do. We became problem-solving courts. We came to have a much broader impact on the people of Idaho. To be a part of that, I’m really proud of that,” Trout says.
Trout retired from the Idaho Supreme Court in 2007 and now serves as a senior judge for the court as a pro tem and settlement judge as well as handling administrative matters on assignment from the administrative director of the Idaho courts.
In addition to receiving an honorary doctor of law from then Albertson College of Idaho in 1999, Trout has a number of awards and accomplishments, including being one of the Idaho Business Review’s Women of the Year in 2006, Trout has served for national groups such as the Council of Chief Justices and the National Association of Woman Judges. She was selected to serve on the U.S. Court’s Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction by then U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. She served two terms on the committee from 2001 to 2007.
Trout has also provided leadership within the Idaho State Bar by teaching continuing legal education courses and by serving on various committees including the Guardian Ad Litem and the Delivery of Legal Services committees.
At the University of Idaho, Trout served on the College of Law Advisory Council for two terms and was the chair for one term, and she chaired the university-wide safety committee formed after the murder of student Katy Benoit. She also served on a dean search committee and has been the keynote speaker for College of Law commencements.
As a community leader, Trout served on the board of directors for the Lewiston City Library, the Northwest Children’s Home and the Lewiston YWCA. She was a member of the steering committee for the Idaho Partners for Justice, an organization that raises money and awareness about domestic violence.
Something that you may be surprised to know about Trout: “I can play Für Elise on the piano. It was for my one and only piano recital. I practiced it over and over again. Now, I can still sit down and play that song by memory … on the piano I’ve had since I was a child.”
Trout lists her father, Sandra Day O’Connor and her high school English teacher Roberta Hoffman as inspirational figures. She met and visited with O’Connor and was able to tell Hoffman at her 30-year high school reunion: “You really inspired me.”
What advice would she give to her younger self? “Don’t worry so much about popularity, the clothes you wear, the activities you do … don’t stress out over all of that stuff. As long as you work hard and set goals for yourself, you’re going to be fine. Don’t get caught up in planning your life. There are surprises. Life is full of surprises and opportunities.”
And the future? “I’m still in the process of figuring out what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,” she says with a smile.
To view photos from the 2016 Leaders in Law networking reception and awards event Nov. 17, 2016, visit http://www.idahobusinessreview.smugmug.com/.