Judge Baker inspires

Judge Baker. Photo courtesy of Tiffany Baker

On Nov. 3, 2020, Tiffany Baker became the youngest African American woman to be elected judge in the Second Judicial Circuit at 35. This was not just a huge win for Baker’s law career, but a historical moment for Black women and girls in the state of Florida. 

Baker defeated her 2020 Second Judicial Circuit judge opponent by over 8,000 votes. Baker says her clean and spiritually led race for the elected position was overwhelming but an experience that she is immensely proud of. 

A man who worked at the Supervisor of Elections Office informed Baker that she had 24 hours to complete missing documentation to qualify for candidacy in the election. After a conversation with Baker’s mom about her campaign, he remembered Baker and went out of his way to make sure she qualified for the race. She stayed up all night to complete her paperwork and was approved to continue her campaign shortly after.

“Every time I started to doubt, God would send an angel to affirm, encourage, lift, motivate and keep me going,” said Baker.

With an emphasis on making everyone in the community confident in the state’s justice system, Baker currently presides over the Juvenile Delinquency and Family Law Division. According to Leoncountyfl.gov, Baker was recently appointed to serve as a Circuit Champion by Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom. 

In her elected position, Baker started a tie program that encourages juveniles to learn how to tie a tie for five community service hours and earn three more for wearing a tie to court. She also has a collection of ties in the courtroom where defendants without ties can take one. Another one of her programs began in January 2022, where juveniles placed on probation can learn a skill or trade for community service hours and a source of income as a part-time job. 

The Florida native was born and raised in Quincy, Fla., but relocated to Miami at 12 years old after her parents divorced. After living there for a year and a half, Baker moved to Tallahassee with her father and attended Amos P. Godby High School. 

Even though she was unsure about her future career, Baker attended and graduated in 2007 from the University of Miami with a Bachelor of Science degree in finance and a minor in chemistry. She became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the mock trial team, and Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity during her undergraduate career. 

With this degree, she thought of opening a hedge fund and pursuing a career in venture capitalism or going to medical school to become a pediatrician. Still, the idea of her becoming a lawyer from her mother and the people around her stuck with her. After taking two years off after undergrad, Baker went into a period of reflection and restructuring to change her career plans. 

“It was a lot of people that I would encounter in my life who would encourage me like, ‘Oh, wow, you would make a great attorney,’” said Baker. “I would come across individuals in different walks of life who were attorneys, and I would pick their brains about practicing law. I then realized that I wasn’t making any real progress in venture capitalism, and I decided that medical school just wasn’t for me.”

After deciding to pursue law, she earned her law degree at a Historically Black University, Howard University School of law, in 2012. Baker chose the college because of its role as “the leading institution in social engineering and civil rights.”

“[Howard University] birthing the first black Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, and how it educated so many African American attorneys who were just down for the cause always piqued my interest,” said Baker. “I just wanted to experience some of that greatness.”

During her time in law school, she was able to get real experience with defendants charged with misdemeanors at the DC Superior Court through going to trial, investigating in the local community, talking to their clients and negotiating on their behalf.

Baker disclosed that her law school experience involved dealing with self-doubt as highly intelligent minds surrounded her. On the other hand, these same Black peers and faculty who looked just like her served as a confidence booster as they flooded her with support along the way. 

Baker is currently married to Leonard W. Carper Jr. and a proud mother of two girls, Phoenix Ray and Lennox Luna, who she considers to be her inspiration. She had her first daughter during her third year of law school before moving back to Florida. She took care of a three-month-old while studying for the Florida bar exam and passed on her first try.

“They [her two daughters] are the reasons why I go to work every day and strive to do it with excellence,” said Baker. “I aspire to leave a legacy for them that they can walk in and receive tremendous favor before they even show up. They inspire me to keep doing what I do.”

Six months after passing the bar, Baker began working at the public defender’s office under Nancy Daniels, which was her dream job because she could defend people in the community. With the desire to move up in her career, she was hired as an attorney at Tallahassee’s well-known personal injury firm, Fasig Brooks. She later started her own sports marketing and management practice before honing in on being a sole practitioner of criminal defense and working towards her judge aspirations. 

Ryan Randolph, Baker’s judicial assistant, has known Baker since 2013 and thinks of her as a powerful role model who pushes those around her to reach their highest potential.

“She’s an excellent role model for the black community, young women, and girls when they see her in the courtroom, at the bench or just in the hallways,” said Randolph. “We have had a couple of students that visit from R. Frank Nims Middle School who really aspire to be just like her, and to see those kids be so happy when they meet her is excellent.”

As Black women continue to dominate legal professions, Baker continues to be an inspiration on and off the bench. When asked about Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court justice nomination, Baker stated that even though she cannot endorse another judge, Jackson’s nomination will allow more young Black girls to see their future selves in her.  

Baker’s experience in criminal, family, and civil law matters speaks volumes. She is destined for greatness as she continues to improve transparency in the courtroom and rebuild community trust in our legal system.