A love of humor, sports and the public's right to know - Albuquerque Journal

A love of humor, sports and the public’s right to know

Attorney Pat Rogers, representing presidential candidate Ralph Nader, talks with Carol Miller, a Nader campaign coordinator Carol Miller in an Albuquerque courtroom in 2004. He was a staunch defender of First Amendment rights. Rogers, 66, died Saturday. (Jaelyn deMaria Leary/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2022 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque attorney Pat Rogers was a staunch defender of First Amendment rights, an advocate for public access to government records and an influential force in Republican politics on the state and national level.

But his wife, Julie, remembers him most for his sense of humor. She met him at a surprise birthday party he threw for himself.

“I was not married and a friend took me to the party,” she said. “I loved that he would have a party like that. Humor was a huge part of his life.”

Rogers, 66, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, died Saturday at Presbyterian Rust Medical Center.

Survivors include his wife; son, Nathan, and wife Lindsay; and son, Jack. Services are pending.

Quiet and determined

Rogers was born in Wahoo, Nebraska, but moved with his Air Force family to Clovis when he was in his teens. He earned an undergraduate degree at the University of New Mexico in 1977 and received his law degree from the Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, D.C., in 1982.

Before starting his law practice in New Mexico, he worked as a legislative assistant to U.S. Sen. Harrison H. “Jack” Schmitt, R-N.M.

Rogers served as New Mexico Republican National Committeeman from 2008 to 2016 and also represented the New Mexico Republican Party for many years. He was a former board member of the New Mexico Foundation for Open Government and had been a partner and vice president of Albuquerque’s Modrall Sperling Law Firm. In recent years, he had his own law practice, Patrick J. Rogers, LLC.

In a statement released Monday, FOG remembered Rogers as a man whose devotion to governmental transparency had lasting impacts.

“In the early 1990s, he played a key role in passing favorable amendments to the Inspection of Public Records Act and provided guidance to FOG’s founding executive director, Bob Johnson,” the statement read.

Albuquerque attorney Charles Peifer, who represents the Journal and is a member of FOG’s board of directors, met Rogers in the late 1980s.

“Pat was passionate about freedom of speech and public access to government records,” Peifer said. “He would lobby for free in the Legislature for FOG. He was very active in the Republican Party, especially on election and redistricting issues.”

Peifer said Rogers was a quiet but determined lawyer with a wonderful, dry sense of humor.

“He was a friend to everybody he came across, particularly when they had a common interest,” Peifer said. “He loved the practice of law. He was not a loud guy, although he was involved in some very high-profile cases and a lot of controversial matters. What drew clients to him was that he was a very steady hand.”

Rogers represented The Gallup Independent newspaper for many years.

Independent Publisher Robert “Bob” Zollinger said news of Rogers’ death overwhelmed him with sadness.

“I thought Pat had a lot of integrity and was really pretty smart,” Zollinger said. “He gave me good advice, and his legal knowledge was awesome.”

Former Gov. Susana Martinez recalled that Rogers would send pies to the governor’s office during the final night of the state legislative session.

“He was just a really kind soul,” she said. “I never saw him angry or upset about anything.”

In 2012, Rogers’ career suffered a setback when he sent an email to members of Martinez’s staff that seemed to suggest that the governor’s attendance at a summit with the state’s American Indian tribal leaders dishonored George Armstrong Custer, a U.S. Army cavalry officer much detested by many Indian peoples.

Rogers characterized the email as a “poor attempt at humor,” but the backlash prompted his resignation from the Modrall Sperling law firm and the FOG board.

Always positive

Pat and Julie Rogers would have celebrated their 36th anniversary this week.

Julie said life with Pat was filled with sports, in addition to humor, law and politics.

“Basketball was a big thing for him,” she said. “For most of the time we were married, he played nearly every weekend with guys about his age. He ran, he swam he participated in many marathons and triathlons.” Rogers coached kids’ basketball and son Jack’s elementary school soccer team, and he cheered on Jack and Nathan’s efforts in competitive swimming.

“He loved Lobo sports and the Dallas Cowboys,” Julie said.

But always it was his sense of humor and positive outlook that stood out.

Ex-governor Martinez said she had to cancel dinner plans with Rogers and his wife, and when she called him, he answered in the hospital. She said that despite his declining health, he retained his dry sense of humor.

“He was positive even during that call,” said Martinez, noting that they made plans to reschedule the dinner.

Journal Capital Bureau Chief Dan Boyd contributed to this report.

 

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