Charles G. Flinn has been appointed Arlington County attorney by the County Board, culminating nine years of service as assistant and deputy county attorney and a year as acting county attorney.

Flinn, a scholarly lawyer known for his low-key style, will be the chief legal adviser to the County Board and will defend Arlington in the courts.

"He has worked very well with the board in the year he has been acting as county attorney," board Chairman Stephen H. Detwiler said. Both Republican and Democratic board members agree that Flinn avoids interjecting ideological views into his advice. "I don't direct attention to myself," Flinn said.

Flinn, 44, was appointed by the board under a state law that took effect this July and no longer reports to the county manager. His salary will be $53,208.

"He can impress you as a bookwormy type, but he really isn't," county clerk Dave Bell said. He added that Flinn is "very cautious about his thoughts but still a fighter."

"He likes to emphasize custom and tradition," housing official Ed Brandt said of Flinn, who majored in history at Princeton University as an undergraduate. "He likes to find some precedent in 19th century or 18th century English common law for what we're doing today."

Flinn, a graduate of the University of Virginia law school, worked for the Navy on its submarine programs before he became assistant commonwealth attorney in Arlington, fulfilling a longstanding goal. Flinn moved on to the county attorney's office in 1972, later serving as deputy county attorney under County Attorney Jerry K. Emrich.

During that period, the county attorney office expanded its involvement with the federal government in issues ranging from civil rights to employment laws to the height of office buildings in Rosslyn, Emrich said.

Flinn is "generally low-key, sometimes high-key," Emrich said. "He's gotten a little more gray-headed, but I don't think he's changed."

In one of Flinn's cases, the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year against the county's position, saying an apartment building bought by East Germany to house embassy personnel was exempt from county property taxes. The county is still pursuing the case.

Flinn successfully defended the county when citizens sued the County Board for ignoring adverse effects of development plans for Pentagon City. The Virginia Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision in favor of the county by refusing to review the case.