Following four years in private practice, he became a state circuit judge in Lane County, Ore. He was appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court in 1960 by Gov. Mark O. Hatfield, a Republican who, later as a United States senator, would twice recommend Judge Goodwin to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court.
One of Judge Goodwin’s opinions, in a 1969 case in which a motel owner claimed ownership of the beach outside his motel, preserved public access to all dry-sand beaches in Oregon. “He had many notable opinions,” said Mary Hay, a law professor at the University of Oregon, “but his most enduring legacy was this opinion.”
In his decision on the beach issue, Judge Goodwin wrote, “The rule in this case, based upon custom, is salutary in confirming a public right, and at the same time it takes from no man anything which he has had a legitimate reason to regard as exclusively his.”
In late 1969, when Judge Goodwin was first nominated for the federal bench, in the District of Oregon, Sen. Bob Packwood, Republican of Oregon, told a Senate subcommittee: “I can’t put a label on Ted Goodwin. He’s not a radical or a reactionary. He’s objective.”
He was approved as a district court judge, and, two years later, the Senate confirmed his appointment to the appellate court.
Despite the notoriety that arose from his Pledge of Allegiance opinion, Judge Goodwin had a reputation as a low-key jurist who did not crave the limelight.
“He always tried to decide things on very narrow grounds and didn’t reach out to make law,” Marc Zilversmit, who clerked for Judge Goodwin in the late 1980s, said by phone. “And if there was another judge on the panel who wanted to write the opinion of a case, even if Judge Goodwin was the senior judge, he’d defer and let the other judge have it.”