Geraldine Hines to join state’s highest court as first black justice

Last modified: Friday, July 25, 2014
BOSTON — Gov. Deval Patrick’s nominee to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court was approved on Wednesday, making Geraldine Hines the first black woman to sit on the high court.

The Governor’s Council voted 8-0 to approve appeals court judge Hines for a spot on the seven-member court. Patrick had nominated Hines for the post last month. The 66-year-old Hines will fill the spot left vacant when Associate Justice Ralph Gants becomes chief justice. The current chief justice, Roderick Ireland, is retiring. Hines previously served on the Superior Court, and the Mississippi native also worked as a private attorney and law professor. Patrick said when he nominated Hines that the legal community had been effusive in its support of her elevation to the top court.

“She has been a beloved and respected colleague, praised by judges and lawyers alike for being smart, prepared, fair, tough, decisive, warm, thoughtful and gentle, all at the same time,” the governor said in announcing her nomination in June.

Hines was raised in Greenville, Mississippi, and earned a degree from Tougaloo College before attending the University of Wisconsin law school. “Looking back on my humble beginnings as a child of the segregated South and all that Jim Crow represents, a flood of emotions washes over me,” Hines said after Patrick nominated her.

For Patrick, the nomination is his seventh to the high court in his two terms in office, including five associate justices and two chief justices. With her confirmation, appointees of the Democratic governor would comprise a majority of the court for at least five years after he leaves office in January. Hines was appointed to the Superior Court in 2001 by the late Gov. Paul Cellucci.