“Alex is a bright, tough, compassionate young attorney…but don’t let his smile fool you. He knows the law, he knows people, he knows how to get the job done right. I am proud to know him and recommend his without reservation.”
I have referred several clients to Alex and Rogosheske, Rogosheske & Atkins, PLLC and will continue to do so without hesitation. They have successfully handled difficult charges, complex legal issues, and always while taking the time to explain to the client what is happening in their case. I am fully confident in Alex’s and Paul’s abilities in obtaining great results for the clients that I have referred to them.
Schwartz Law Firm
Then Minnesota Senate President Jim Metzen was busted for drunken driving last month, he hired South St. Paul attorney Paul Rogosheske to defend him.
After all, Rogosheske is Metzen’s campaign treasurer.
But he’s also become the lawyer for Democratic politicians who behave badly.
Over the past 20 years, Rogosheske has represented at least three other Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators charged with driving while intoxicated and a couple of lawmakers accused of ethics violations. In addition, he’s defended DFL lobbyists, local government candidates and politicians’ children.
Why does he get those cases? Friends and adversaries in the legal community offer two reasons.
First, he’s politically well connected.
Second, his colleagues agree with Dakota County District Court Judge Richard Spicer’s observation that “Rogo’s a pretty damn good lawyer.”
“Paul Rogosheske is unique,” Spicer said. “He’s like the Energizer bunny; he keeps going and going and going.
“Is he better than other criminal lawyers? Probably not, but he’s in the top echelon of criminal lawyers.”
Even his sometime adversaries respect and admire him.
Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Paul Anderson came out of a Republican law firm in South St. Paul that often rivaled Rogosheske’s Democratic firm. He described Rogosheske as a good, hard-working lawyer who cares deeply about the law and “isn’t afraid to take on the tough case.”
IN THEIR CORNER
Dakota County Attorney Jim Backstrom has opposed Rogosheske in criminal cases for more than 25 years. “He’s an aggressive advocate for his clients,” Backstrom said. “I can understand why people in trouble would seek him out.”
Rogosheske’s former law partner, ex-DFL state Rep. Tom Pugh, of South St. Paul, called him the “ultimate advocate. If I were in trouble and wanted someone on my side who I knew would be scratching, clawing, digging every minute for every potential advantage I could get, it would be Paul.”
But like all criminal defense lawyers, Rogosheske has his critics. Perhaps his harshest is Jon Cummings, the founder of Minnesotans for Safe Driving, an advocacy group for stronger drunken-driving laws. In 1994, Rogosheske represented a drunken driver who was convicted of killing Cummings’ son in a collision.
Like most defense lawyers, Cummings said, Rogosheske tends to “dismiss drunken driving as a mistake. But it’s not a mistake; it’s knowingly committing a crime. And by calling it a mistake, they diminish the severity of the crime and its impact on the hundreds of people who are killed and thousands who are injured by impaired drivers.”
After the trial, Cummings said, he asked Rogosheske to encourage his drunken-driving clients to “stand up and take responsibility” for their crimes. He said the lawyer disregarded his advice.
“He has no credibility with me,” Cummings said.
ALWAYS A DEMOCRAT
Rogosheske’s political connections stem in part from his law partners. One was Pugh, a former House minority leader who is now a state public utilities commissioner, and another is Rep. Joe Atkins, DFL-Inver Grove Heights.
But Rogosheske’s political ties flow most directly from his pedigree. He is the son of the late Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Walter Rogosheske, who sparked his son’s interest in the law and exposed him to his circle of politically active judges and lawyers. Before his appointment to the bench, the senior Rogosheske served in the Minnesota House as a conservative, as Republicans were called before party designations.
Paul Rogosheske, now 55 and a Mahtomedi resident, was born in Little Falls, where his father was a district court judge. His family moved to St. Paul in 1962, when Republican Gov. Elmer Andersen appointed Walter Rogosheske to the Supreme Court.
As a 12-year-old, Paul Rogosheske said, he became interested in the law, particularly the criminal cases his father handled. The judge let his son tag along to court hearings, social gatherings with lawyers, and judicial meetings across the country and around the world. By age 15, “I knew I wanted to become a lawyer,” he said.
He graduated from St. Paul Academy and Hamline University, where he bolstered his competitive streak by playing football, basketball and baseball. After a year at Georgetown University law school, he returned home to earn a degree from William Mitchell College of Law in 1979. He immediately started his legal practice in South St. Paul, where he associated with DFL lawyers.
“I’ve always been a Democrat,” he said. While his father was once a Republican, he “turned into a liberal” while on the high court.
While Rogosheske’s law partners ran for the Legislature, he kept his political activity behind the scenes. When his partners were at the Capitol, “somebody’s got to be back here holding down the fort,” he said during an interview last week in his office.
“I’d love to run,” he said, “but the nature of my practice as a trial lawyer is that I’m more combative and aggressive. As a politician, you have to be a lot smoother.”
He socialized with DFL candidates and contributed money to their campaigns, although not enough to be considered a high roller. In the process, he got to know many Democratic legislators, including some who have broken the law.
Citing attorney-client privilege, he refused to talk about individual cases.
But he said defending politicians is more difficult than representing other clients, because, no matter how strong his case is, “to the public, they’re still guilty.” While the public ignores thousands of people who commit the same crimes as politicians, it holds elected officials to a higher standard, he said.
“It’s human nature to pick on people who seem to fall from grace,” he said.
Rogosheske, however, isn’t complaining.
“I like what I do,” he said. “When people tell you you did a good job, it’s very gratifying. It makes life worth it.”