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Press Release - New Chief Magistrate Judge

Monday, January 4, 2021


United States Magistrate Judge Shirley Mensah will be sworn in for a five-year term as Chief Magistrate Judge for the Eastern District of Missouri at noon today, as United States Magistrate Judge Nannette Baker concludes her five-year term. This occasion marks the first time in the history of the Court where the position of Chief Judge has passed from one African American to another.

Judge Mensah has served as a Magistrate Judge since 2012 and has served in several leadership roles both within the District Court and across the Federal Judiciary, including her tenure on the Judicial Conference of the United States Defender Services Committee. United States Court of Appeals Judge Raymond Lohier (2nd Circuit), who chaired the Committee while Judge Mensah served, shared his praise of Judge Mensah, saying “she is brilliant, decisive, and persuasive, at once a great communicator and a great listener.  It is no small feat to stand out on a committee of outstanding jurists, but Judge Mensah managed to do it with her grace, wit, and an unerring sense of humor.  You’ll find no better or more collaborative partner in doing justice.” Chief District Judge Rodney Sippel also noted Judge Mensah’s exceptional service, saying “Judge Shirley Mensah is an outstanding judge on our Court.  She has earned the respect of her colleagues and the lawyers in the Eastern District of Missouri.  Judge Mensah’s dedication to the fair administration of justice and the Rule of Law will be a guiding light as she assumes the responsibilities of Chief United States Magistrate Judge.” Judge Mensah grew up in Liberia until a military coup caused her family to emigrate to the United States, an experience that led in part to her pursuit of a career in law. After graduating from Washington University School of Law, Judge Mensah worked at the law firm now known as Husch Blackwell before joining the Court in 2012.

Outgoing Chief Magistrate Judge Nannette A. Baker completed a successful five-year term that saw the addition of two new Magistrate Judges and a massive increase in the Court’s criminal caseload. This increase required Judge Baker to be in constant communication with all partners in the federal criminal justice system in order to help manage the growing and shifting caseload. She also helped lead the Court through the implementation of several new criminal case processes as part of the Court’s response to the ongoing COVID pandemic. Chief Judge Sippel noted the importance of Judge Baker’s service, saying “Judge Nannette Baker has served with distinction as Chief United States Magistrate Judge. In addition to her national duties she successfully managed a criminal caseload which continued to expand during the COVID pandemic.  The Court community is indebted to Judge Baker for her commitment to justice.”  Judge Baker has served on the Court as a Magistrate Judge since 2011 and was appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts to be the Magistrate Judge observer to the Judicial Conference of the United States. While serving as Chief Magistrate Judge, Judge Baker also presided over the Janis C. Good Mental Health Court, served as the Co-chair of the editorial board of the ABA’s Judges’ Journal; and is on the executive committee of the National Conference of Federal Trial Judges of the American Bar Association Judicial Division.   Prior to her service with the Court she served as a state Judge at both the Circuit Court and Appellate Court levels. Judge Baker is a native of Alabama and is a Distinguished Alumni Award winner from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Prior to her legal career, she worked for 13 years as a television journalist in Knoxville, Memphis and St. Louis. She has received numerous awards from her work in journalism, the law, and community service.

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