Marilyn B. Rosenbaum
Originally published in the September/October 1992 issue.
Author: Clifford M. Greene
"I’ve always considered myself very lucky in my career," observes Marilyn Rosenbaum with characteristic modesty. "My first job out of law school was a law student’s dream: trying civil rights cases in Chicago—often in federal court—on behalf of a variety of tenant clients. We thought our work really mattered."
She is sentimental about her years as a Chicago courtroom lawyer for other reasons: "It was there I met a talented VISTA lawyer named Jim Rosenbaum." And then, she offered the understated aside: "We worked very well together."
Apparently so. When it came time for these two idealistic lawyers to move on to new phases of their careers, they did so together—as a domestic partnership. They decided to pursue life together in Minnesota.
"I got a job working for the IRS, which turned out to be one of the best opportunities I could possibly have had to explore a new state and a new area of the law at the same time."
Marilyn Rosenbaum traveled throughout greater Minnesota on cases involving farm estates and complex business valuations. She may be the only person in recorded history to wax nostalgic about employment with the IRS.
In the mid-1970s, Marilyn Rosenbaum entered a new vocation—motherhood. The birth of Alexandra, now 17, was followed within two years by the arrival of twin girls, Victoria and Catherine. With three children in diapers, Rosenbaum devoted her attention to raising a family. Nevertheless, "I never stopped working altogether. I helped out individuals by writing wills or assisting with taxes. And when Jim started his own law firm, I became a part of that as well." The firm of Rosenbaum & Rosenbaum practiced law for two years until husband Jim became U.S. Attorney in the early 1980s.
Once the Rosenbaum girls had all enrolled in elementary school, their mother found time to conquer a new professional world, private practice in a large law firm. At the same time, the future judge blazed trails for female attorneys seeking to blend ongoing family involvement with their desire to serve others through the practice of law. Marilyn Rosenbaum is ever-grateful to her former colleagues at the Robins Zelle law firm (now Robins Kaplan) for developing a part-time position for her. She became able to build a private practice in trusts and estates without denying herself the rewards of shepherding three girls through childhood. "I have always been grateful that the lawyers at Robins were willing to hire me in a flexible arrangement," she states, describing her years at Robins with fondness. "My new specialty trusts and estates was the closest you can get to an old-fashioned law practice. I worked closely with clients who were real people with very immediate problems," explains the new judge, ". ... and my work with them could have an immediate impact on their lives. It was very fulfilling."
At the Robins firm, she worked closely with attorney Jim Rockwell, a partner in the trust and estate area. When Rockwell moved his practice over to the Popham Haik law firm, he urged his valued colleague to join him. She joined Popham Haik several years ago.
Despite the relative brevity of her stay at Popham Haik, her colleagues describe her as if she were a life-long friend—which indeed she has become. In response to an informal survey by the author seeking anecdotes or impressions of Rosenbaum for this article, one colleague’s response is typical:
"Marilyn is blessed with uncommon social grace. She is thoughtful and obviously cares about people. She is sensitive to others, knows how to listen and displays a high degree of professional ethics. I have no doubt that she will be a great addition to our judiciary."
Undoubtedly, Marilyn Rosenbaum will bring those qualities of grace, ethics, and sensitivity to the bench. Those characteristics will be evident to anyone who steps into her courtroom. What attorneys and litigants may not know is that Rosenbaum’s judicial "wish list" includes the opportunity to preside over complex commercial litigation, which will call on her training and experience in tax, financial, and business valuation matters she received as an IRS lawyer, and later, in private practice.
Marilyn Rosenbaum joins the judiciary with atypical insight into the tribulations, as well as the trials, of judging. "I know what I’m getting into," she acknowledges. In the years since her husband became a federal judge, she has developed a personal understanding that sometimes judges must make decisions which are difficult and stressful. "I appreciate the burden that a judge carries when trying to make a decision, such as sentencing, which can change someone’s life so drastically."
Rosenbaum vows that her judicial responsibilities will not force her to abandon the extracurricular pursuits she loves: the bowling team which has become an autumn ritual for the Judges Rosenbaum, cheering for her teenage daughters in volleyball, attending the girls’ fast-pitch ball games and tennis at Minnetonka competitions, and traveling with her family. (Her most recent vacation included a pilgrimage to Twinsburg, Ohio, so that her family could participate in a twins convention.)
The Hennepin County district court has gained an extraordinary individual with exceptional legal experience and talent. As her long-time colleague Jim Rockwell noted at her swearing-in, "She has dealt with both the simple and the sophisticated, the elderly, disabled, and those who have lost loved ones ... Marilyn typifies what is good about the profession as she has balanced her career with her family life." The Hennepin County judges will be gaining a friend. Attorneys have gained a very smart and hard-working jurist. And litigants will experience a judge with uncommon sensitivity who communicates effectively but with a "common touch," and who will strive to be scrupulously fair to all sides.