James E. Baker (born March 25, 1960) is the former Chief Judge to the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. He was appointed to the Court on September 19, 2000 and became its Chief Judge upon the expiration of Andrew S. Effron's term in September, 2011. On June 22, 2016, President Barack Obama appointed Judge Baker to the Public Interest Declassification Board.
Judge Baker was born in New Haven, Connecticut and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He graduated from Yale College in 1982 and Yale Law School in 1990. Following college he served in the Marine Corps as an Infantry officer. He resigned from the Reserves as an Infantry officer upon joining the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Judge Baker has also served as a legislative aide and Acting Chief of Staff to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
In the Office of the Legal Advisor, U.S. Department of State, he provided legal advice on law enforcement, intelligence, and counter-terrorism issues and served as counsel to delegations to various environmental negotiations. Judge Baker’s civil service also includes posts as Deputy Legal Advisor to the National Security Council (1994-1997) and as Counsel to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board and Intelligence Oversight Board (1993). From 1997 to 2000, he was Special Assistant to the President and Legal Advisor to the National Security Council (NSC). At the NSC, Judge Baker advised the President, the National Security Advisor and the National Security Council staff on national security law.
Judge Baker is the recipient of the 1999 Colonel Nelson Drew Award. That award, the NSC’s highest honor, recognizes “distinguished contributions to the formation of peaceful, cooperative relationships between states, and U.S. security policy for global peace.” He is also a recipient of the "Director's Award", given by the Director of Central Intelligence as recognition for "superior contributions in the fields of intelligence and national security". In 2009, the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College awarded Judge Baker the honorary degree of Master of Military Art and Science.
In addition to numerous articles, Judge Baker is the author of In the Common Defense: National Security Law for Perilous Times and, with Michael Reisman, Regulating Covert Action. He is a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Law and National Security, as well as the Editorial Board of the Journal of National Security Law & Policy. He regularly teaches at Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Iowa College of Law, and has also taught at Yale Law School and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.