United States Magistrate Judges- Middle District of Alabama, 0918 ALBJ, Vol. 79 No. 5 Pg. 342

AuthorRudy Hill.
PositionVol. 79 5 Pg. 342


Vol. 79 No. 5 Pg. 342

Alabama Bar Lawyer

September, 2018

Rudy Hill.

Wallace Capel, Jr., Chief Magistrate Judge.

Chief Magistrate Judge Wallace Capel, Jr. has served on the federal bench for almost 20 years. He has served as a magistrate judge in the Middle District of Alabama for more than half of that time. His career has been devoted to public service in a variety of interesting capacities and places.

Judge Capel was born into a military family at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, although he thinks of Alabama-specifically, Tuskegee-as home. His father was from Andalusia, while his mother was from New Orleans. He has three siblings-two older sisters and a younger one.

Judge Capel's father was a quiet, disciplined and determined man. He served as a flight surgeon throughout a lengthy and distinguished military career, which he retired from as an Army Colonel when Judge Capel was 18. Judge Capel learned much from his father, including the importance of serving one's country and doing the right thing.

Judge Capel's family moved several times during his childhood. During his high school years, his father was stationed at a U.S. Army testing facility, Dugway Proving Ground or "Area 52," which is located in Utah about 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City. So, Judge Capel attended and graduated from high school in Utah. Thereafter, he enrolled in college at the University of Utah, where he graduated from in 1977 with a B.S. degree in political science.

In the meantime, Judge Capel's father had retired from the military and begun serving as chief of staff at the VA Medical Center in Tuskegee. After college, Judge Capel rejoined his family in Tuskegee and obtained a master's in public administration from Auburn University at Montgomery. He then attended law school at Wayne State University in Detroit and graduated in 1982.

After law school, Judge Capel went to work as a public defender in Detroit. He tried a number of jury trials over the course of the next five years, most of which involved murder charges, thereby gaining invaluable experience in state courts. He then went into private practice for a period of time before moving to St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Judge Capel's change in practice at that time was almost as radical as his change in geography-he went from a practice devoted primarily to representation of criminal defendants to the practice of a prosecutor, serving as an assistant attorney general in Christiansted, St. Croix. This change furthered the diversity and complexity of his experience, as he began prosecuting a wide variety of cases ranging from murder charges to paternity and child support matters as well as handling government civil suits. He enjoyed the change in scenery as well, learning advanced diving techniques and often taking swims in the ocean before work. Judge Capel was working in St. Croix when Hurricane Marilyn hit the island in 1995. The island sustained significant damage and was governed by martial law for a period of time. Not long afterward, Judge Capel returned to Michigan.

Upon his return, Judge Capel helped open a new branch of the Federal Defender Office for the Eastern District of Michigan in Flint. Not long thereafter, he was appointed to fill an open magistrate judge position in that district in 1999. He served in that position for seven years and then applied for a magistrate judge position in the Middle District of Alabama in 2006 to get back closer to home. He was offered the position and has been serving in that role ever since.

Judge Capel has a unique perspective, having served as a magistrate judge in multiple districts and states. He appreciates the diverse caseload enjoyed by the magistrate judges serving in the Middle District of Alabama and also the efficiency with which those cases are handled. He also appreciates the collegial relationship among the judges.

In his courtroom, Judge Capel values punctuality, preparedness and decorum. He also appreciates when attorneys before him are familiar with courtroom procedures. He has a lot of respect for and greatly enjoys good lawyers. For younger lawyers he has this advice: "He who knows that he knows not is a wise man." In other words, it is perfectly acceptable to answer a question honestly by saying, "I don't know, but I'll find out." It is not acceptable to pretend to know an answer and, in so doing, to misrepresent the facts or the law to the Court.

When he is not serving as a judge, Judge Capel enjoys a variety of activities, including sport shooting, flying drones, building computers, reading and traveling, and he engages in many of these activities with his family. He has two children.

Judge Capel is currently serving as Chief Magistrate Judge for the Middle District. He appreciates the tremendous workload and significant responsibilities that his office holds. The Middle District is fortunate to have someone with his experience and dedication to hard work on the bench.

David A. Baker, Magistrate Judge.

Judge David A. Baker has served as a federal magistrate judge for 27 years. He was first appointed to the bench in the Middle District of Florida in 1991. He retired in 2016, but was immediately recalled to continue his service. And he did not just return to his home district; after talking to then-Chief Magistrate Judge Susan Russ Walker about openings in the Middle District of Alabama, he volunteered to assist in our state as well.

Judge Baker grew up in northern Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C. He attended college at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill where he was awarded degrees in mathematics and English. After completing his undergraduate studies, he attended the University of Virginia School of Law. He describes law school as an "interesting experience" for several reasons. First, the University of Virginia was, and still is, home to the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, which placed Army officers in many of Judge Baker's classes. Second, the university had just begun to admit women into its undergraduate programs during Judge...

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