Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Recent News
Home / All News / Baby Boomer: From a Mrs. Degree to the Ramsey County bench
Ramsey County Judge Rosanne Nathanson didn't go to college intent on a degree in political science or business.

Baby Boomer: From a Mrs. Degree to the Ramsey County bench

Bill Klotz)

Ramsey Country Judge Rosanne Nathanson worked a series of “dead end” jobs before she got serious about a career in law. (Staff photo: Bill Klotz)

Ramsey County Judge Rosanne Nathanson didn’t go to college intent on a degree in political science or business.

She went to find a husband.

“When I went to college I was looking for Prince Charming,” she says. “Nothing that I expected to have happen when I was 16 is what really happened.”

Nathanson didn’t find Mr. Right, but she did get a liberal arts education. During summers her father sent her to business school where she learned to type. After college she worked a series of fun but “dead end jobs” for about a decade before she enrolled at Hamline University School of Law in 1977.

“It never occurred to me to be a lawyer, and I never gave any serious thought to what I might want to do after graduation,” she says. “Finally a person who became a mentor to me after my mother died told me I [had] to go to graduate school in something so I … went to law school because I wasn’t very good at math.”

At Hamline, about a fourth of her class was female, but after graduation she noticed that women and minorities were not well represented at the bigger law firms. That’s improved.

“I see more women in court,” says Nathanson. “The ones I graduated with have had all kinds of different experiences. Some are judges, some have successful practices. There is no one answer, but there are definitely more of us.”

Nathanson worked for a few small law firms and then landed a job at Leonard Street and Deinard, where she practiced family law. Some of her colleagues

encouraged her to apply for a spot on the bench, but she was hesitant. One reason is because there weren’t many women judges as examples.

“I was reluctant to say I wanted to be a judge, because to me that sounded arrogant,” she says. “But when I was in practice I liked being in court. I saw judges who did a wonderful job and … I thought, ‘I could do that.’ ”

She was sworn in in 2002. From the bench she sees the community at its best and at its worst. She says the issues of mental health, substance abuse and poverty are constants in the court system, and worries about a lack of resources for people who need help as the state and non profits have cut back on spending.

“The kinds of programs we can offer to help people are becoming more and more limited because of funding pressures. These programs would help people but there is a cost and we can’t afford it,” she says. “It’s frustrating.”

She says her family practice prepared her to listen to both sides and work toward solutions. Part of the reason she wanted to be a judge was because it’s a public service job. As a young woman she heard President John F. Kennedy’s famous ‘‘Ask not what your country can do for you” speech, and it resonated with her.

“I didn’t always make choices to live up to that idea, but it was still an important part of me,” she says. “At first I didn’t know how much I would like the job, but I have loved it. I am extremely appreciative of every experience I have had along the way.”

Leave a Reply