While former U.S. District Judge Jim Rosenbaum exuded affability from the bench, only growing testy when a lawyer went too far, his late federal court colleague Judge Edward Devitt was just the opposite. Devitt, who died in 1992, looked as if he had come to the bench from central casting, and his bearing was foreboding, his friend acknowledged.
In Part 1 of my interview with Rosenbaum, which ran last Saturday, we discussed his current work advising lawyers on how to present their cases. In Part 2, which includes a second video, he remembers his late brother, attorney Ron Rosenbaum of KFAN and Fox 9 fame, and the lighter side of Judge Devitt. I also mixed in a “Bachelorette” question, although Rosenbaum is a “Game of Thrones” guy.
Q: Did you ever hear of your judicial colleagues wearing shorts under their robes?
A: No. But since nobody sees what the bottom of you looks like, I suppose you could do it. I do remember one day the court was gathering for a formal portrait; everybody wears their robes. Ed Devitt — chief judge for 26 years, he served for 40 years — comes out in a purple robe. And it is bright purple. You don’t say a damn thing to Ed Devitt. If Devitt wants to wear a red robe or blue robe [the only words that should be spoken are] “Thank you, your honor.” The photographer sets us up, and Ed breaks into laughter, opens it up and he’s got a black robe underneath. I don’t know if he had shorts on or not.
Q: I didn’t know about Judge Devitt’s sense of humor.
A: Ed had a wonderful sense of humor. Ed was an Irish pol. Ed came back from the Second World War a war hero. He was the last Republican congressman in St. Paul. He knew everybody. Walk down the street with Ed, people [would] come running.
Q: I only knew stern Judge Devitt.
A: [A] defendant said after a few other profanities: “He looks like God, and he ain’t afraid of anybody. He’s going to do what he does whenever he wants to.” And he did. He looked like a Renaissance painting of God. Great shock of white hair. Great black eyebrows and a craggy face. Tremendous bearing. Scared the whatchacallit out of everybody.
Q: Did he scare you, too?
A: Yes, ma’am [laughter], until I got to know him. You did not mess around with Ed Devitt. That was a serious piece of business.
Q: Previous “The Bachelorette” contestant Rachel Lindsay’s dad was a judge. What would you have done if one of your daughters wanted to go on that show?
A: My wife married me because all of my genes are recessive, so I turned out three daughters who look just like their momma ... What would I have done? [Deep sigh.] If that’s what they wanted to do, I guess I would have to let them do it. But I think I probably would not have been the happiest I might have been. I’ve never seen the show.
Q: I was watching a rerun of “The Good Wife.” Did you watch that show?
A: No, ma’am. I already have a good wife. I don’t need to look at another one. Only [show] I watch on a regular basis is “Game of Thrones.”
Q: On “The Good Wife,” a judge barked, “I make the jokes around here.” Is that TV or real life?
A: It depends on who the lawyers are. There are some lawyers who are very accomplished and the judge knows they are accomplished. They can do things that people who don’t know what they are doing can’t. You don’t want to one-up a judge. The reason is, juries tend to very much identify with the judge. If you start acting in a way that’s disrespectful, the jurors don’t like it.
Q: What do you miss doing with Ron?
A: I miss doing a lot with my brother. I lost my brother it will be two years in May. [Laugh] In this wonderful political climate, this was meat and potatoes. Three times a day, I must say “Good God, I wish I could call him and talk about [fill in the blank]. Lots of people didn’t know we were brothers; we are libertarian, kind of open, willing to take a shot.
Q: What do you miss about not being on the bench?
A: One of the glories is once in a while you get fascinating cases you may perceive are important, or may really matter to lots of people. I don’t care one way or another about the respect people are nice enough to give you as a judge. What I miss are my clerks.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.