black women

Massachusetts gets its first black female Supreme Court Justice

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hinesReported by Liku Zelleke

The Honorable Geraldine S. Hines has been sworn in as Associate Justice of the Supreme Judicial Court by Governor Deval Patrick who administered the Oath of Office. The swearing-in on July 28th made Justice Hines the first African-American woman to serve on Massachusetts’ seven-member Supreme Judicial Court.

Justice Hines, who was first appointed to the Superior Court by the late Gov. Paul Cellucci in 2001, was also named by Gov. Patrick to serve on the state appeals court last year.

“Throughout her career, Justice Hines has been an inspiration,” said Governor Patrick at the swearing in ceremony. “I am confident that the Supreme Judicial Court and the people of the Commonwealth will be well served by her extraordinary combination of intelligence and compassion.”

Justice Hines steps into the position that was vacated by the Honorable Ralph D. Gants.

After thanking Gov. Patrick and saying that she was grateful that he chose her for the “honor of breaking yet another barrier, for choosing me as the first Africa-American woman to serve on this Court” she went on to say, “I know in my heart that this day would not be possible without the sacrifice of countless men and women whose names have been lost to history, unsung heroes all. I am mindful today that we are still commemorating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer, a time in our history that was at once terrifying and hopeful. My hero, Fannie Lou Hamer and others risked everything for just the possibility that a day like today could happen.”

Born in Scott, Mississippi, and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Justice Hines graduated from Tougaloo College in 1968 and then the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1971. Right after, she became a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute where she worked on prisoners’ rights litigations. From 1973 until 1977 she practiced criminal law at the Roxbury Defenders’ Committee and eventually became the committee’s director.

Justice Hines went on to litigate and tackle civil rights cases and even advised on special law education while a staff attorney at the Harvard University Center for Law and Education. She has been an active member of civic and community organizations and has even observed elections and investigated human rights abuses in African and Middle Eastern countries.