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After Four Decades on the Bench, Every Day is New

Magistrate Judge David Noce

Every day is different.  Not everyone can say that about a job they’ve had for 40 years, but it’s the thing that keeps U.S. Magistrate Judge David D. Noce coming back every day to the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, headquarters of the Eastern District of Missouri.

On Oct. 1, Noce began his sixth, eight-year term, making him the longest-serving, active magistrate judge in the federal system. He was first appointed on Oct. 1, 1976.

“I love the fact that every single day brings different challenges to my desk,” Noce said. “Every day there is something new because the judiciary deals in and affects people’s lives, and everyone is different.”

Noce appreciates that over the years, the district’s chief judges have given the magistrate judges wide berth to work on a range of cases. Unlike federal district judges, who are appointed for life, magistrate judges serve eight-year, renewable terms. Noce also credits his wife, Kathleen, and their two adult children, with providing invaluable family support over his many years on the bench as a magistrate judge.

Judge Noce has been quick to take on new and interesting challenges, such as participating in the district’s reentry program aimed at rehabilitating drug offenders.  The experience, he said, has made him even more acutely aware of ways courts can positively impact people’s lives through the coordinated efforts of judges, federal prosecutors, federal defenders, probation officers, therapists, and the U.S. Marshals Service.

Magistrate judges are appointed by district judges to serve in an array of support roles, from handling pretrial motions in criminal cases to deciding civil cases.

Judge Noce has contributed to his profession in myriad other ways. He served as the district’s chief magistrate judge and on the Eighth Circuit Judicial Council. He also was a member of the Criminal Law Committee of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Since 1996, he has taught a course called “Jury Instructions and the Trial Process” at the St Louis University School of Law – a course he developed after realizing that law students were graduating with very little practical knowledge about the trial process and writing effective jury instructions. He also wrote the course book, “From the Opening to the End Game at Trial.” And, he is the author of the second edition of Volume 30 of the Missouri Practice Series, Insurance Law and Practice, and its annual supplements. 

Judge Noce did his undergraduate work at St. Louis University and went on to get his law degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. After law school, he taught business law, served as a legal officer in the U.S. Army, and clerked for two judges in the Eastern District of Missouri. Before being appointed a magistrate judge, Noce prosecuted criminal cases as an assistant U.S. attorney.