Geraldine S. Hines, associate justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, will address the Class of 2017 at Boston College Law School’s 85th Commencement on May 26.
BC Law’s graduation ceremonies will take place at Conte Forum on BC’s Chestnut Hill campus.
“I am delighted that Justice Hines has agreed to be our Commencement speaker,” said BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau. “Her experience as a civil rights advocate and her record of achievement on both sides of the bench make her an example to us all.”
Justice Hines grew up in the segregated South, a young witness to the 1960s upheavals over racial discrimination and voting rights abuses. Her appointment to the SJC by Governor Deval Patrick in 2014—a first for a black woman—capped four decades of service to the causes she championed as a child of the Mississippi Delta.
As she told Gargoyle, the alumni publication of the University of Wisconsin, where she received her law degree, “I chose work that was important to me and my community. For me, that always meant following some problem that needed attention, that not too many other lawyers were involved in.”
Justice Hines jumped right in after graduation from law school, becoming a staff attorney at the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute where she litigated for prisoner rights. She later applied her research into police misconduct as an MIT fellow when serving as co-counsel in Commonwealth v. Willie Sanders, a highly publicized trial of a black man accused of raping eight women.
As a founding partner in the first law firm of women of color in New England, she litigated cases on discrimination in education, labor and family law matters, employment discrimination, and police misconduct claims. “Our little firm took cases that most big law firms wouldn’t touch,” she told Gargoyle. “We tried to represent folks who had legitimate justice concerns, whether or not they had the means to pay for our services.”
Among the more prominent organizations in which Justice Hines has been involved are the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Lawyers Guild, and the National Conference of Black Lawyers. As a result of those involvements, she has observed elections and investigated human rights abuses in both Africa and the Middle East. She also was appointed to both the Judicial Nominating Council and the Judicial Nominating Commission.