- J.D., University of Michigan Law School, cum laude (1986)
- B.A., University of Iowa, with High Distinction (1983)
- Hancher-Finkbine Medallion Recipient (1983)
- Popham, Haik, Schnobrich & Kaufman, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Associate, Litigation Department (1988-1993)
- United States District Court, Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa, The Honorable Donald E. O’Brien, Chief Judge, Law Clerk (1986-1988)
John Baker is one of the founding attorneys of Greene Espel. Other attorneys often request him to seek reversals for their clients on appeal or to protect the results obtained in the trial court. A 1986 graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and former federal law clerk, John is an experienced advocate, author, and lecturer on constitutional law, land-use litigation, appellate practice, telecommunications law, defamation, and the law of lawyering. While carrying a full case load, John also serves as an Adjunct Professor at William Mitchell College of Law, teaching Land Use Law.
First Amendment Litigation
Advantage Media LLC v. City of Eden Prairie, 405 F. Supp. 2d 1037 (D. Minn. 2005), aff’d, 456 F.3d 793 (8th Cir. 2006) Obtained summary judgment against billboard company’s groundbreaking effort to secure standing to invalidate entire sign code under multiple theories.
Co-author of amicus briefs filed on behalf of the American Planning Association, International Municipal Lawyers Association, and other organizations, in the following federal appeals: Tanner Outdoor Advertising v. Fayette County, GA (11th Cir.), Prime Media v. City of Brentwood, TN (6th Cir.) Get Outdoors II v. City of San Diego, CA (9th Cir.), Naser Jewelers Inc. v. City of Concord, NH (1st Cir.), RTM Media LLC v. City of Houston (5th Cir.) and Midwest Media Property LLC v. City of Erlinger, Kentucky and City of Ft. Wright, Kentucky (6th Cir.).
Workman v. Serrano et al., 2006 WL 771580, 34 Media L. Rep. 1577, (Minn. Ct. App. March 28, 2006) Overturned jury award totaling $625,500 in favor of an elected official and against weekly newspaper, its affiliates, and its editorial page editor, based in part on First Amendment-protected nature of the allegedly defamatory editorial.
Fairbrook Leasing Inc. v. Mesaba Aviation, Inc., 519 F.3d 421 (8th Cir. 2008). Obtained ruling affirming entry of summary judgment on behalf of defendant on $35 million claim for damages arising from alleged breach of term sheet regarding purchase of thirty jets and leasing of twenty additional jets.
Federal Jurisdiction and Takings Claims
Kottschade v. City of Rochester, 319 F.3d 1038 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 825 (2003). Defeated “test case” created by property rights groups seeking to expand federal jurisdiction over ordinary claims that local regulations of land use constitute takings of property for which the owner receives compensation and attorneys fees.
Local Zoning and Solid Waste
Iowa Coal Mining Co, Inc. v. Monroe County Iowa, 257 F.3d 846 (8th Cir. 2001). At summary judgment stage, and on appeal, defended County and its zoning officials from constitutional and state-law claims arising from denial of permission to create 460 acres of landfill space.
Other Constitutional Litigation
McCaughtry, et al. v. City of Red Wing, ___ N.W.2d ___, 2012 WL 2077191 (Minn. Ct. App. June 11, 2012). Obtained summary judgment in lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the City's rental-housing inspection program. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed.
Woodland Development Corp. v. City of Andover, 2006 WL 1644039 (Minn. Ct. App. June 27, 2008). Obtained affirmance of rulings in case challenging legality of city’s recoupment of actual costs incurred in the development review and approval process, resulting in complete victory for city both on developer’s claims, and on judgments in favor of city for over $500,000 on its counterclaim for fees.
Nielson, et al. v. City of Roseville, No. 98-1625 (D. Minn. 1999 and 2000), and 2001 WL 1640040 (D. Minn. 2001). After partial summary judgment and a fifteen-day trial, won successful jury verdict rejecting claim that City's forgivable loan was motivated by an unconstitutional purpose, and successful court judgment affirming city's compliance with state tax-increment financing act.
Local Regulation or Financing of Telecommunications Systems.
Bridgewater Telephone Co. v. City of Monticello, 765 N.W.2d 905 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009), review denied (Minn. Jun. 16, 2009). Obtained an order dismissing telephone company’s lawsuit alleging that the City’s plans to construct a high-speed Internet/telephone/cable system were unlawful because such a system is not a “utility or other public convenience from which a revenue may be derived,” within the meaning of the relevant Minnesota statutes. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed, and two weeks later, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued an expedited decision denying the telephone company's petition for review of the Minnesota Court of Appeals' decision.
Following the supreme court’s denial of review, Greene Espel obtained a $1.5 million settlement in favor of the City of Monticello, based on the surety bond order it had secured from the district court. The surety bond was conditioned for payment to the City of any loss or damage caused to the City or its taxpayers resulting from the pendency of Bridgewater’s lawsuit.
In re Dakota Telecommunications Group, 590 N.W.2d 644 (Minn. App. 1999). On certiorari, successfully defended city’s award of a second cable television franchise.
Witzman v. Gross, 148 F.3d 988 (8th Cir. 1998). At summary judgment stage, and on appeal, successfully defended lawyer and law firm sued by beneficiary of a trust administered by their former client.
U.S. Supreme Court
State of Minnesota
U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits
U.S. District of Minnesota
Eighth Circuit Bar Association, Board of Directors
Minnesota State Bar Association, Appellate Practice Section Council
American Bar Association
Hennepin County Bar Association
American Planning Association
Named a “Super Lawyer” in the field of government/cities/municipalities, (2003-2012)
Named as one of the "Top 25 Appellate Law Super Lawyers," Minnesota Journal of Law and Politics (2005)
“Dr. Strangebill (or How the Last Congress Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Substantive Due Process),” 54 Fed. Lawyer 40 (Oct. 2007)
“‘Drawn From Local Knowledge . . . and Conformed to Local Wants’: Zoning and Incremental Reform of Dormant Commerce Clause Doctrine” (with Mehmet Konar-Steenberg) 38 Loy. U. Chi. L.J. 1 (2006)
“Bulldozing Their Principles,” 29 Legal Times No. 33 at 46 (August 14, 2006)
“The Modern Tower of Babel: Defending the New Wave of First Amendment Challenges to Municipal Billboard and Sign Regulations,” 58 Planning and Environmental Law No. 10 at 3 (2006) (with Robin M. Wolpert)
“Debunking the Urban (Planning) Legends About Kelo,” 57 Planning and Environmental Law No. 9 at 11 (2005)
“The Minnesota Constitution as a Sword: The Evolving Private Cause of Action,” 20 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 313 (1994)
“The Shrinking Role of the Jury in Constitutional Litigation,” 16 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 697 (1990)
TEACHING AND LECTURING
Adjunct Professor of Land-Use Law, William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota, (January 2006 - present)
"Open Minds, Closed Records & Meaningful Hearings: How ‘judicial’ must a quasi-judicial action be?" Minnesota City Attorneys Educational Conference, (February 2011)
"Protecting Your Sign Code Against Attack," APA National Conferences, 2007 and 2008
Bettman Symposia Panelist, APA National Conferences, 2007 and 2008
“Appellate Issues from a District Court Perspective,” Panelist and Moderator, Annual Seminar, Minnesota Chapter of the Federal Bar Association (June 2006)
“New Developments in Comprehensive Planning,” Real Estate Law Society of William Mitchell College of Law (March 2006)
Panel discussion regarding Kelo v. City of New London before the William Mitchell College of Law chapter of the American Constitutional Society (May 2005)
Debates before the University of Minnesota's Federalist Society Chapter regarding Kelo v. City of New London, against Dana Berliner of the Institute for Justice (February 2005) and Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute (September 2005)
“Dormant Commerce Clause Attacks on Local Zoning,” International Municipal Lawyers Association Mid-Year Seminar (April 2004)
“Development Fees,” Minnesota Government Training Service – City Attorney Update (1998)
“Ex Parte Contacts with Public-Sector Clients During Litigation,” Minnesota State Bar Association Continuing Legal Education, Developing Land: Getting Local Governmental Approval (2002)
“Four Recurring Ethical Issues in Public Sector Litigation,” Minnesota Government Training Service – City Attorney Update (2002)
“Defamation by Implication: Finding Falsity from Truth,” Minnesota Institute of Legal Education Defamation Law Seminar (1999)
“What Issues Should Be Appealed?” Minnesota Defense Lawyers Association Appellate Practice Seminar (1998)