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Boston, MA — After 16 years on the bench, the last three as an Associate Justice on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the Honorable Geraldine S. Hines serves her last day with the Court today, a few months shy of her 70th birthday, the mandatory retirement age for state judges.
On Thursday, May 4, Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants made special remarks in the Seven Justice Courtroom prior to oral arguments recognizing Justice Hines on her last Sitting Week at the court. "When Justice Geraldine Hines was nominated to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court, she pledged to Governor Deval Patrick, 'I will labor with every fiber of my being to validate your trust in my ability to be a wise and fair judge of every issue that comes before the court.'," Chief Justice Gants said. Addressing Justice Hines directly, Chief Justice Gants said that, "I can attest, as can every other Justice who has sat with you these past three years, that you have been true to that pledge. You have brought to this court not only your abundant wisdom and fairness, but also your passion for the truth, your enormous capacity to listen, not only to what is said but to what has remained unsaid, your uncommon good sense, your grace, your humor, and your courage. You have patience for all but the pompous. And unsparingly, you speak truth to power."
"It has been my honor and privilege to serve the people of the Commonwealth for the last sixteen years, especially the last three years as a Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court," Justice Hines said. "In taking my leave, I salute my colleagues, all of whom are incredibly hardworking, thoughtful, and committed to the rule of law. But I leave without regret because there is much to be done to make good on the promise of equal justice for all in our country and I want to be part of that struggle."
Justice Hines was born in Scott, Mississippi, and grew up in the Mississippi Delta. She graduated from Tougaloo College in 1968, after which she enrolled in the University of Wisconsin Law School where she joined the Black Student Alliance's efforts to create a black studies department and recruit more black faculty and students. The Alliance's organization of class boycotts and a strike caused the governor to order the National Guard to Madison, which prompted thousands more to join the strike. The next year, the Wisconsin Board of Regents approved the creation of the Department of Afro-American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She graduated in 1971. In 2016, the Wisconsin Alumni Association gave her its highest honor, the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Upon graduation she became a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, engaging in prisoner's rights litigation, and then, from 1973 to 1977 practiced criminal law with the Roxbury Defenders' Committee eventually becoming Director of the Committee.
After an MIT fellowship researching policy initiatives to address the issue of police misconduct in communities of color, she served as co-counsel in Commonwealth v. Willie Sanders. From 1979-1982 she litigated civil rights cases relating to discrimination in education and advised on special education law while a staff attorney at the Harvard University Center for Law and Education.
Justice Hines entered private practice in 1982, appearing in state and federal courts on criminal, administrative, labor and family law matters. She continued to litigate civil rights cases, including employment discrimination and police misconduct claims, as a founding partner in the first law firm of women of color in the New England region. Governor Paul Cellucci appointed Justice Hines as Associate Justice of the Superior Court in 2001. Governor Deval Patrick appointed her as an Associate Justice of the Appeals Court in 2013. On July 31, 2014, Governor Patrick appointed Justice Hines to the Supreme Judicial Court. She was the first African-American woman to serve on the Appeals Court and at the Supreme Judicial Court at the time of her appointments.
Justice Hines has been active in a number of civic and community organizations, some of which include the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild and the National Conference of Black Lawyers. She has also observed elections and investigated human rights abuses in Africa and the Middle East. She was appointed to serve on both the Judicial Nominating Council and the Judicial Nominating Commission. Justice Hines has been an adjunct faculty member at Northeastern University Law School since 1980, and has frequently presented educational programs for attorneys and judges, including MCLE, where she has both presented and published materials in diverse subjects such as trial advocacy, federal civil litigation and municipal torts and civil rights claims.
Following her retirement, Justice Hines plans to travel the world with her daughter and dedicate herself to social justice causes that she cares about.
On Wednesday, July 19, the Governor’s Council unanimously confirmed Appeals Court Chief Justice Scott L. Kafker to the Supreme Judicial Court. He will fill the seat vacated by Justice Hines.