By Gintautas Dumcius

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

STATE HOUSE -- Citing her "intelligence, grace and life experience," Gov. Deval Patrick on Friday nominated Appeals Court Judge Geraldine Hines to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court.

Hines, a 66-year-old African-American who grew up in the segregated South, joined the Superior Court in May 2001 and served there until the Governor's Council approved her for the Appeals Court in January 2013. The same council members who unanimously approved her last year are now in position to elevate her to the SJC.

"At both the Superior Court and the Appeals Court, she's been a beloved and respected colleague, praised by judges and lawyers alike, for being smart, prepared, fair, tough, decisive, warm, thoughtful and gentle," Patrick said, adding, "All at the same time."

SJC Justice Robert Cordy, a former federal prosecutor who was appointed to the high court by Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci, on Friday told the News Service that Hines is known for a "heavy-duty intellect" and called her a "fabulous lawyer."

SJC Justices Margot Botsford, Fernande Duffly and Ralph Gants, whose confirmation Wednesday to succeed retiring Roderick Ireland as SJC chief justice cleared the way for the new nominee, also were in the room as Patrick introduced Hines.

"I've been advised to savor this moment because it gets harder from here, so clap some more," Hines quipped to the crowd at the press conference, which included her 91-year-old mother.

Asked about her judicial philosophy, Hines said, "Today is not the day for that." She said she would answer that type of question when she appears before the Governor's Council.

After the press conference, Gants said he expected Hines, a longtime friend, to "hit the ground running" if she is confirmed, given her experience on the Superior Court and Appeals Court.

Ireland is retiring in July, before he hits 70, the mandatory age of retirement for judges, in December. He is the first African-American to serve on the court.

Asked about how long Hines would be able to serve due to her age, Gants said, "She has, I think, three and a half years, which is nearly a full gubernatorial term, so one can do a lot of good in that time period."

At her 2001 Governor's Council hearing, after Cellucci nominated her to the Superior Court, Ireland said he had known Hines for 30 years and called himself "one of her biggest fans."

In 2013, appearing again before the council, Hines recalled her upbringing.

"Reflecting on my journey from the Mississippi Delta, where I came of age in the era of de jure segregation to this historic chamber where I'm assured that race is neither a burden nor a benefit, I marvel that this day is even possible," Hines said. "I could never have imagined getting here from there, a place where the spirit crushing regime of racial oppression claimed so many dreams, so many possibilities and even lives."

Hines was born in Scott, Mississippi, on Oct. 29, 1947. A graduate of Tougaloo College and University of Wisconsin Law School, she served as a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute and practiced criminal law with the Roxbury Defenders' Committee. She entered private practice in 1982, and in 1989, was one of the founding members of the first African-American women's law firm in New England, Burnham and Hines.

Hines is a Roxbury resident. As an attorney, she specialized in criminal defense and civil rights litigation.

Max Stern, a longtime criminal defense attorney, said he has known Hines since 1972 and they have worked on several cases together. "She's the most thorough colleague I've ever had on anything," he said.

Her biography on the state court system's website describes her as having been "extremely active" in several civic and community groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild and the National Conference of Black Lawyers. According to her 2013 judicial questionnaire, she was also a member of Lawyers Against Apartheid, Massachusetts Citizens Against the Death Penalty and Political Research Associates.

The court system's biography notes that she has served as an elections observer and human rights abuse investigator in Africa and the Middle East. She investigated human rights abuses in Kuwait, in the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991, worked as an elections observer in Eritrea in 1993, and as an observer in South Africa's first non-racial parliamentary election in 1995, according to her questionnaire.

Speaking at her 2001 Governor's Council hearing, Hines said she accepts that a "judge cannot be an advocate."

She added: "But you never forget where you came from. You never forget what color you are and the kind of society you live in. Those of us who have a different experience will bring it with us to the bench. And there aren't a lot of people who look like me on the Superior Court."