Championing the Underdog: David Baria

A Mississippi-born attorney with Cosmich, Simmons & Brown, Baria is the “David” we all need, slinging lethal pebbles to protect his clients against overwhelming odds.

David Baria has championed underdogs for as long as he can remember. Growing up in the small, rural town of Escatawpa, Mississippi, Baria often found himself coming to the defense of fellow classmates who needed help. “Maybe it’s biological, maybe it’s environmental, I think it’s due to what’s often referred to as ‘life’s gift,’” explains Baria. “But I distinctly remember kids being bullied in junior high and me, coming to their defense.”

As an undergraduate at the University of Southern Mississippi, Baria was majoring in Criminal Justice and, for a while, drawn to the idea of being a juvenile counselor. Before beginning work on a minor in counseling psychology, he was encouraged to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test). “I did pretty well on it, so I set my sights on law school.” After graduating with a B.S. Degree, Baria went on to earn his Juris Doctor from the University of Mississippi School of Law in Oxford in 1990.

As a trial lawyer, Baria has made it his focus to serve individuals and small businesses against mammoth corporations, primarily insurance companies. “What I have done consistently throughout my 34 years of practice is represent individuals and business with insurance claims that have been denied,” explains Baria. “And individuals with catastrophic personal injuries that are caused due to the negligence of others.”

In the spring of 2004, Baria made the move to Bay St. Louis with his wife, Marcie, and their three children. They had been living in his wife’s hometown of Jackson, and on a weekend trip to New Orleans, after dropping the kids off with their grandparents, decided to stop in Bay St. Louis. “We drove down to a little place called The Beach House and we set there having a smoothie, and Marcie said ‘This is where I want to live!’”

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, like so many others, Baria lost his home and all of their possessions. Woefully, only a month later, he and Marcie also lost their eldest child, their son Darden. Reeling from the devastation, Baria stopped practicing law, and he and his wife turned inward to focus on family, while also increasing their involvement in the community. His wife Marcie, who is also an attorney, began Recycle Hancock (among other things) to beautify the county and, after launching a hurricane cleanup/demolition company with some friends, Baria decided to run for office.

In 2007, Baria ran for district 46 of the Mississippi Senate and won, thus beginning a 12-year career as a Democratic member of the state’s political arena. During his tenure in the state’s Senate and House, Baria introduced bills which include, but are not limited to, capping insurance premiums for homeowners and flood insurance, offering tax incentives to homeowners who install solar power, raising Mississippi’s minimum wage, and demanded equal pay for men and woman.

During his time in public service, Baria did everything he could to try and lift Mississippi out of “last place.” In 2018 he voted for a bill offering incentives to keep the state’s college graduates “in state” including a three-year exemption from states taxes, and and extension if they bought a house or started a business. He’s also been a vocal supporter of Medicaid, state-funded preschool and offering two years of free community college.

Though he was able to claim the Democratic nomination when he ran for U.S. Senate in 2018, Baria was defeated by Republican incumbent Roger Wicker. In March of 2019, Baria chose not to seek re-election in the Mississippi House and backed down off the podium, but he didn’t back down from the law. In that same year, he joined Jackson based firm Cosmich, Simmons & Brown, PLLC.

Nearly all of the firms in which Baria previously practiced “had his name on the door,” so making the transition from being his own boss to working for a mid-size law firm was an adjustment. But he’s sculpted out what he calls an outpost office in Bay St. Louis. “I’m kind of a unicorn in terms of legal practice, ” says Baria. “I’ve always done plaintiff’s work and now I continue to do plaintiff’s litigation in a defense firm.”

Baria’s “stock-in-trade” is litigation, focusing on wrongfully denied insurance claims and catastrophically injured people. He also enjoys tackling business disputes because there aren’t many trial lawyers interested in getting involved in those types of cases. “I like to dig in and learn about the aspects of the business I’m representing.” says Baria.

Though Baria doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon, he and his wife Marcie do hope to travel more. Two of their children, daughters Merritt and Bess are grown and living in Oxford, Mississippi. Their eldest daughter Merritt has even followed in her father’s footsteps, and is now a 3rd year law student at Baria’s alma mater Ole Miss. “We tried to talk her out of it!” laughs Baria. Their youngest son Max, whom they adopted in 2008, is currently a 15-year-old sophomore attending Saint Stanislaus.

Looking forward, Baria claims that if his mind remains sharp, and he still enjoys it, he likely will practice law well into his 70s. “I wanted to be a lawyer because I like the law. I like the idea of justice under the law … of a courtroom being a great leveler in American society.”

*Article originally published October 25, 2023 in The Shoofly Magazine

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