Judge R. Stan Baker – Nominee to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia

Judge R. Stan Baker has accomplished a lot given his youth.  Baker has served as a ranch hand, a federal district court clerk, a civil litigator, and as a federal magistrate judge.  Now, at only forty, Baker has been nominated for a lifetime appointment to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Background

A native Georgian, Raymond Stanley Baker Jr. was born in Athens in 1977.  Baker attended Davidson College, graduating with a B.A. in 1999.  After graduating, Baker worked as a ranch hand at the Four Sixes Ranch in White Sulfur Springs, Montana, for two years.

In 2001, Baker joined the University of Georgia Law School, graduating magna cum laude in 2004.  After graduation, he clerked for Judge William Moore on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.  Years later, Moore would praise Baker as a model clerk.[1]

In 2006, Baker joined the Athens law firm, Prior, Daniels & Wiltshire LLC.  After three years, he moved to the Jordan Firm, LLC. in St. Simons Island.  In 2015, Baker was chosen to be a federal magistrate judge on the Southern District, replacing the retiring Judge James E. Graham.[2]  At Baker’s investiture, Moore described an instance during the clerkship where he had helped a distraught Baker and his wife give a funeral to and bury their family dog, suggesting that the incident was a testament to Baker’s sentiment and love for his family.[3]

History of the Seat

The seat Baker has been nominated for opened on February 28, 2017, with Judge William Moore’s move to senior status.  Baker applied to a screening committee formed by Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue in April 2017, and interviewed before the Committee in May.  After interviews with the White House Counsel’s Office and the Department of Justice, Baker was formally nominated to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia on September 7, 2017.

Legal Experience

Baker’s first job out of law school was serving as a law clerk on the Southern District of Georgia.  After his clerkship, Baker joined Prior, Daniel & Wiltshire, handling both commercial litigation and the representation of governmental entities.[4]  For example, Baker represented the officers of Advantage Behavioral Health Services, Inc., an health and addictive disease services provider, in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by a former facility operations manager.[5]  Baker successfully settled the suit with the plaintiff.[6]

In 2009, Baker moved to the Jordan Firm.  At the firm, Baker focused on representing large railroads, particularly in tort suits involving exposure to toxic and traumatic injury.[7]  Notably, Baker defended CSX Transportation Inc. against a series of 438 coordinated lawsuits by workers alleging damages due to exposure to asbestos.[8]  Baker was able to secure dismissal of all but five of the lawsuits (the remaining five were settled).[9]  Baker also handled an education law practice, handling cases involving wage and hour disputes with school employees, termination suits, and ethical issues.[10]

Jurisprudence

Baker has served as a U.S. Magistrate Judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia since 2015.  In this role, Baker has presided over the pretrial periods of approximately 1300 civil and 250 criminal cases.[11]  He has also handled around 170 civil cases that have gone to verdict or judgement.[12]

Notably, Baker presided over a trial concerning potential sexual misconduct by prison officials against a pro se inmate.[13]  During the trial, defense counsel asked the plaintiff whether he “loves his children, including and especially one of his daughters” implying the Plaintiff’s convictions for sexual misconduct.[14]  Baker “immediately halted this line of questioning, and, at sidebar, directed defense counsel not to pursue the questioning any further.”[15]  However, in a post-trial motion, Baker declined to use the questioning to overturn a jury verdict for the defendants, finding that the brief questioning was not sufficient to prejudice the jury.[16]

As a U.S. Magistrate Judge, Baker has also presided over many criminal proceedings, including arraignments and guilty pleas.  In one notable case, Baker recommended the denial of a series of motions by Paul Ruble, a physician charged with 440 counts of unlawful dispensation of controlled substances, including a motion to dismiss the indictment.[17]  Over Ruble’s objections, Baker’s recommendations were accepted by U.S. District Judge Lisa Godbey Wood.[18]

In the two years that Baker has served on the bench, eleven of his reports and recommendations have been partially or completely rejected by the district judge.[19]  In five of those cases, the district judge declined to adopt Baker’s recommendation to dismiss the case based on new factual allegations made by the plaintiff in their objections.[20]  In a different case, the district judge rejected Baker’s finding that a prisoner’s post-conviction filing was timely and should not be dismissed, finding that Baker erroneously relied on the prison mailbox rule in tolling the statute of limitations.[21]

Overall Assessment

When nominated for the bench, federal magistrates are generally seen as very likely to be confirmed.  As federal magistrate judges are usually selected by their district court colleagues, they have already been vetted.  Further, magistrates handle many of the same matters as their senate-confirmed colleagues, and have already developed reputations in the legal community.  In addition to these advantages, Baker has the advantage of youth.  At only 40, Baker will have as many as fifty years on the bench ahead of him.  Additionally, he is a prime candidate for later elevation to the Eleventh Circuit (or potentially further).

Furthermore, Baker is unlikely to draw strong opposition.  Not only does he have the strong endorsement of Moore (a Clinton appointee and a Democrat), but he also has a relatively mainstream record on the district court bench.  This was tacitly acknowledged at Baker’s confirmation hearing, with virtually all the questions being focused on other nominees at his panel.

Barring anything unforeseeable, Baker should expect a smooth confirmation, and Georgians should expect a new moderate-conservative federal judge to join their ranks in the next 2-3 months.


[1] Terry Dickson, Family, Colleagues See New Judge Take Bench: Celebratory Occasion for Golden Isles Attorney Baker, Florida Times-Union, Feb. 4, 2015.  

[2] See id.

[3] See id.

[4] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., R. Stan Baker: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 40.

[5] Moore v. Gabriel, 3:05-CV-31 (M.D. Ga. April 8, 2005).

[6] Id.

[7] Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., R. Stan Baker: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 39.

[8] Id. at 41-42 (citing Adams v. CSx Transp. Inc., MDL No. 875, 2:09-CV-74307 (E.D. Pa. July 1, 2009).

[9] Id. at 42.

[10] Id. 

[11] Id. at 15.

[12] Id.

[13] Scott v. Dunnam, 5:14-cv-5 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 23, 2013).

[14] See Scott v. Dunnam, 5:14-cv-5, 2016 WL 1452413 (S.D. Ga. April 13, 2016).

[15] Id. 

[16] See id.

[17] See United States v. Ruble, 2:15-cr-23 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 2, 2013).

[18] See United States v. Ruble, 2016 WL 2344879 (S.D. Ga. May 3, 2016).

[19] See Sen. Comm. on the Judiciary, 115th Cong., R. Stan Baker: Questionnaire for Judicial Nominees 31-34.

[20] See Santais v. Corr Corp. of Am., No. 5:16-cv-80, 2017 WL 402979 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 20, 2017), rejected in part by 2017 WL 1100817 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 23, 2017); Brumfield v. Toole, No. 6:16-cv-1, ECF No. 9 (S.D. Ga. Apr. 12, 2016), rejected in part by ECF No. 22 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 3, 2016) (order); King v. Henry, No. 6:15-cv-17, ECF No. 14 (S.D. Ga. Nov. 12, 2015), rejected in part by ECF No. 22 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 3, 2016) (order); Marshall v. Tatum, No. 6:15-cv-85, 2016 WL 1039503 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 5, 2016), rejected in part by 2016 WL 1064604 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 14, 2016); Simpson v. Allen, No. 6:15-cv-118, 2016 WL 205403 (S.D. Ga. Jan. 15, 2016), rejected in part by 2016 WL 524620 (S.D. Ga. Feb. 8, 2016). 

[21] Crawford v. Benton, No. 6:16-cv-160, 2017 WL 1156744 (S.D. Ga. Mar. 28, 2017), rejected by Order No. 6:16-cv-160 (S.D. Ga. Aug. 29, 2017) ECF No. 25.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Judge C.J. Williams – Nominee for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa | The Vetting Room

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