A life-long Iowan, Justice Baker was born in Muscatine in 1952 and grew up in Waterloo. Justice Baker attended undergraduate and law school at the University of Iowa, receiving his bachelor’s degree in 1975 with Honors in Sociology and his law degree in 1979 with high honors, Order of the Coif.
Following graduation from law school, Justice Baker worked in the private practice of law for 25 years where he practiced in various areas including tax and corporate to bankruptcy to litigation. His initial areas of practice were a general practice with an emphasis in tax, estate planning and corporate. He evolved away from a business practice to a litigation practice, initially bankruptcy and later insurance defense. In 1989, Justice Baker began a new firm with John Riccolo under the name of Riccolo & Baker, P.C. practicing almost exclusively in the area of litigation.
Justice Baker has handled cases involving personal injury, professional negligence, construction, real estate, commercial questions, employment issues, and workers’ compensation. He has been involved in numerous trials as well as administrative and bankruptcy hearings. He had an extensive appellate practice.
He was appointed as a district court judge for the Sixth Judicial District in the State of Iowa beginning January 3, 2005. He was appointed to the Iowa Court of Appeals in 2006. He was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2008 where he served until December 31, 2010. As a district court judge, he heard cases ranging from divorces to medical malpractice cases to land disputes. As an appellate judge, he has heard hundreds of cases covering almost every aspect of the law.
Justice Baker has been involved in many professional activities. As a member of the Iowa State Bar Association, he was involved in Jury Instructions Committee, Bench/Bar Committee, and the Appellate Practice Committee where he participated in the writing of the Appellate Practice Manual. He is currently the co-chairman of the Bench/Bar Committee. Justice Baker also served as a temporary bar examiner for 10 years and has been a lecturer for the Iowa Bar Review School. In the Linn County Bar Association, he served as a member of the Ethics and Grievance Committee. He is currently a member of the Sixth Judicial District Judicial Nominating Commission. He was also a member of the Merit Selection Panel involved in the selection of the U.S. Magistrate for the Northern District of Iowa. He was the chairman of Amicus Curiae Committee for the Iowa Trial Lawyers Association. Based upon the recommendations of his peers and judges, he was inducted into the Iowa Academy of Trial Lawyers, whose membership is limited to 250 attorneys who have displayed exceptional skills and the highest integrity. He is also a member of the The National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. He is currently a member of Mason Ladd Inn of Court.
Both as a judge and an attorney, Justice Baker has been a frequent lecturer at continuing legal education programs. He has also been a participant at educational activities for law students at both the University of Iowa and Drake law schools. He is currently an adjunct instructor at the University of Iowa College of Law teaching Trial Advocacy and State Constitutional Law.
In May 2012, Justice Baker received the 2012 John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award. He has also been honored with the 2011 Louise Noun Civil Liberties Award from the Iowa ACLU.
Justice Baker is a member of the Linn County, Iowa State and American Bar Associations.