As he looked out over the skyway one recent day, Twin Cities power lawyer Doug Kelley said, “There’s my law-school classmate Randy Johnson,” a longtime Hennepin County commissioner.
The two graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School in 1974, in a class with many now-familiar names. Theirs was one class where lifelong alliances and acquaintances were made.
Former state auditor Judi Dutcher has known St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman since they were in law school together at the university in the class of 1987. Dutcher said the two have had an enduring friendship forged over law-school beers where talk never turned to politics. “We talked about school, Gopher sports and who was going to buy the next drink. I usually tried to make it him,” she said. Nonetheless, they remain pals, and Dutcher said the mayor publicly threw her a “lifeline” at a difficult time in her political career.
Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, were a year ahead of them at the U Law School — long before he won an election and she became a Dakota County judge.
Because students generally sit alphabetically, former Minneapolis City Attorney Jay Heffern was next to former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger in their class.
For legal star power, however, it’s tough to beat Kelley’s class, which included not only Johnson, but Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Judge Dan Mabley, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery and U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Diana Murphy.
“It was a strong middle section,” Kelley joked about the seating arrangements in that class.
Hennepin County Judge Mark Wernick went to Drake University in Des Moines, where a classmate was Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad.
Then there are those who barely remember their classmates, including former Attorney General Mike Hatch, who graduated in 1973. “I was just trying to get through school,” Hatch said, before coming up with the name of classmate and former U.S. Rep. Gerry Sikorski.