The City of Allen is saddened to learn of the passing of longtime Allen Municipal Court Judge Linda Hopper. Judge Hopper served the City for 24 years before her retirement in December 2016. She passed away on August 20. Judge Hopper is survived by her husband, two children and four grandchildren. A memorial gathering will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 12.
The following tribute to her career and impact in Allen was first published in Allen Image magazine in December 2016.
All Rise! Allen Municipal Court Judge Linda Hopper reflects on 24-year career
When it comes to choosing a profession, Allen Municipal Court Judge Linda Hopper presents a convincing case for following your heart. In her mid-thirties, with a young daughter and a psychology degree, she stumbled upon her true love: the law.
“I was working as a paralegal and yearned to learn more,” she recalled. Law school was enticing, but intimidating.
“Do you know how old I’ll be when I graduate?” she asked her father.
“Do you know how old you’ll be if you don’t?” he replied.
She received her law degree from Southern Methodist University in 1981 and landed a job with the Court of Appeals in Fort Worth. At the time, it was a rare career path for a woman. Hopper was the only female briefing attorney in the office; all of the judges were men.
When she joined the George Parker law practice in McKinney, she was the only woman lawyer in the firm.
“My dad raised us to believe we were no different from boys in ability or skill,” said Hopper. “He expected us to serve the most people we can, in the best way we can.”
That mantra also applied at home. Hopper raised her daughter, Lori, as her law career took off. Her son Austin arrived a few years later.
“I don’t think I ever expected it to be easy, but it was so worthwhile,” said Hopper. “I had challenging days of course. But there was never a time I thought I wouldn’t handle it.”
Hopper moved to Allen in 1984 and later applied to be the city’s first sit-down judge. She was appointed in 1993.
“She basically designed the court system from the ground-up,” said Mayor Stephen Terrell. With fewer than 24,000 residents, Allen didn’t have a formal courtroom; trials were held in a makeshift space in the Municipal Annex. “She probably took a pay cut, but she believed in the work.”
Armed with exhaustive legal knowledge, Hopper quickly proved her ability to parse difficult cases.
“She doesn’t apply the law like a robot. If a situation called for empathy, she showed it,” said former bailiff and retired Allen Police officer Henry Toliver. That could mean sentencing a struggling single mom to community service, rather than levying a potential fine.
“Sometimes [Judge Hopper] would call me up to the bench and I’d have tears in my eyes,” remembered Toliver. “One woman actually hugged me after she got sentenced!”
Not every defendant walked out of the courtroom gushing gratitude. But a few felt it in retrospect. Behind the judge’s dais, next to photos of Hopper’s grandchildren, shines a porcelain figurine of a woman seated on a bench; she wears a flowing gown and cradles a dove.
The gift came from a teenage defendant, who later called Hopper “his guardian angel.”
“She insisted that the process be fair and equal for everyone,” said former chief prosecutor Whitt Wyatt. “If someone came in and didn’t know the legal procedures, or was clearly out of their element, she would go out of her way to explain it to them.”
Her passion for education extended beyond the bench. Judge Hopper helped launch the city’s Teen Court program, where teenage volunteers sentence other juveniles for misdemeanor crimes.
“One girl in the program now works as a judge,” recalled another former bailiff and retired Allen Police sergeant Conrad Averna. “The kids enjoyed it, and [Judge Hopper] loved doing it.”
Hopper’s responsibilities weren’t limited to the courtroom. She swore in every Allen Police officer and married countless couples—ceremonies she describes as her favorite part of the job.
“To be part of those new beginnings—it’s a privilege,” said Hopper.
Not every task was so glorious. Hopper says most Allen patrol officers have seen her bleary-eyed and pajama-clad, jolted awake at 3 a.m. by a request to draw a blood sample from a DUI suspect. (Hopper’s cat, Lacy, earned the nickname “Warrant Cat” for pawing each stack of paperwork during the judge’s review.)
Colleagues pegged Hopper as one of those people who would never retire. But at 72, she finds herself ready to pass the gavel.
“My career in Allen has been an absolute joy,” she said. ”The best 24 years of my life.”
Hopper and her husband, Randy, share a passion for travel and the outdoors with their four children and six grandchildren. The couple is building a cabin on Lake Bonham and has charted their first post-retirement excursion: a summer trip through New England and Nova Scotia. Trading court dockets for boat docks, a new calling awaits.
“It’s true that if you do something you love, you don’t work a day in your life,” said Hopper.