As law students at New York University, Dan Rogan and Kate Menendez would take walks around Greenwich Village and Central Park to decompress from the strain of their studies. Like many of their classmates and colleagues, they dreamed of one day arguing before the U.S. Supreme Court, a goal to which many attorneys aspire but few achieve.
Menendez, then a federal public defender, got her wish in 2015. And in February it came true for Rogan, too.
Rogan, a senior assistant Hennepin County attorney who also serves as a Robbinsdale City Council member, argued in front of the high court on Feb. 28 in defense of a Minnesota law that bans electioneering from polling places. He had successfully argued the case in the lower federal courts before the Supreme Court opted to review it.
The case, Minnesota Voters Alliance v. Mansky, dates to 2010 when the Voters Alliance’s executive director wore a “Please I.D. Me” button and a Tea Party shirt to his Eden Prairie polling station. The button was part of a campaign to require Minnesota voters to show photo IDs to vote.
The court’s decision in the case, which pitted the right to vote against freedom of speech, is expected to be announced in May or June.
Menendez, who was named a federal magistrate judge in 2016, successfully defended an indigent criminal in 2015 and convinced the Supreme Court to strike down a federal three-strikes law as unconstitutionally vague. She had worked as a federal defender since the late 1990s.
One of a very few married couples ever to have argued in front of the high court, Rogan and Menendez took turns handling the majority of family duties while preparing for what Rogan called the “pinnacle” of an attorney’s career.
“It’s the only time in your legal career where you’ve been able to shut out a lot of different things at work. I can’t imagine having it happen at the same time,” Rogan said. “Having someone at home realize what you’re going through and take a lead role in homemaking was critical.”
The case piqued their two sons’ interest in government. But after having both parents prepare for a Supreme Court case in the last few years, a vacation was in order.
“Kate and I would talk about [cases] and they would roll their eyes at having another Supreme Court discussion at the dinner table,” Rogan said. “They wanted to talk about how the Wild were doing or if Joe Mauer should be DH’ing or playing first base.”
The family has lived in Robbinsdale for 15 years. Rogan first ran for the Second Ward seat on the City Council in 2004 and won with 72 percent of the vote. He has been reelected three times since, winning with 96 percent of the vote in 2016.
Returning to New York with their sons this year, Rogan felt that he and his wife were better able to enjoy the city than when they were students.
“We were law students without a lot of money, so we didn’t do a lot of the high-end things. We did some of the more mundane things when you’re a law student,” he said. “It was an amazing time in New York doing some of the things I wished I had done while living there.”
Trevor Squire is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.