Delta native nominated for Massachusetts Supreme Court

law_webGREENVILLE — Appeals court judge Geraldine Hines, a self-described child of the segregated South with more than 40 years of legal experience in Boston, was nominated Friday by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to fill an upcoming vacancy on the state’s highest court.

If confirmed by the Governor’s Council, Hines, 66, would be the first black woman to serve on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.

Hines was appointed by Patrick to the state appeals court last September after serving on the Superior Court. Prior to becoming a judge, she was a private attorney and law professor. She co-founded the first law firm in New England headed by minority women.

Patrick announced the nomination just two days after the Governor’s Council unanimously confirmed the elevation of associate SJC justice Ralph Grants to chief justice of the court. The current chief justice, Roderick Ireland, is retiring next month.

Patrick said the legal community had been effusive in its support of Hines.

“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.

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,” said Hines, calling her nomination to the high court a “profound privilege.”

She declined to comment on her judicial philosophy during Friday’s introduction, but said her upbringing helped shape her commitment to justice and humanity.

Hines thanked her 91-year-old mother, Rosie Allen — who was coincidentally in Boston along with other family members and attended the Statehouse event — joking about her mother’s “constant nagging” that she aim high in life.

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. If Hines is confirmed, 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, a Republican.

The eight-member Governor’s Council will likely schedule a confirmation hearing in the coming weeks. One councilor, former Springfield Mayor Michael Albano, immediately issued a statement saying he would vote to confirm Hines.

A prominent lawyers’ group also had strong praise for the nomination.

“We commend the governor on his historic appointment of Judge Hines, who, in addition to being the first African-American woman to sit on the Supreme Judicial Court, brings a stellar reputation as one of the intellectual giants in our judiciary,” said Martin Healy, chief operating officer and legal counsel for the Massachusetts Bar Association.

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