News Release

The Hon. Justice Geraldine Hines Receives the Judicial Recognition Award from Nation’s Criminal Defense Bar

Washington, DC (May 28, 2024) – Retired Justice Geraldine S. Hines of the Massachusetts Supreme Court received the Judicial Recognition Award at NACDL’s Race Matters conference in Baltimore on May 23. NACDL presents its Judicial Recognition Award to acknowledge judges who demonstrate a continuing dedication to protecting democratic principles and the fundamental rights of individuals within American society.

Geraldine Hines, a trailblazing criminal defense attorney and jurist, dedicated her career to fighting for justice. Born on the Mississippi Delta, she was eight years old when the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till on the Delta in 1955 brought nationwide attention to the racial violence and injustice prevalent in the segregated South. Her witnessing of the effects of systemic racial discrimination fueled her determination to pursue a legal career. When Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick appointed Justice Hines to the state’s Supreme Judicial Court in 2014, she became the first the first African-American woman to serve on the Court in 322 years.

“The award honors Justice Hines’s accomplishments for racial equity and civil rights, such as her authorship of a widely cited ruling protecting Fourth Amendment rights in Commonwealth v. Warren, recognizing that a Black man’s flight from the police in Boston ‘might just as easily be motivated by the desire to void the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity,’” said NACDL President Michael P. Heiskell. “Justice Hines also authored a unanimous opinion that fundamentally changed the bail procedure in Massachusetts in Commonwealth v. Brangan, ruling that a judge must consider a defendant’s financial circumstances in setting bail. She also authored commendable and courageous opinions criticizing draconian limitations on where individuals registered as sex offenders can live, and the use of prior acquitted conduct as ‘404(b)’ evidence in subsequent trials. There’s not a more honorable or deserving model of judicial wisdom and integrity than Judge Hines.”

“Justice Hines’s early life experiences growing up in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era brought to her a deep understanding of the role of law enforcement in the subjugation and brutalization of Black people,” said Nellie L. King, Immediate Past President of NACDL and Co-Chair of NACDL’s Task Force on Law Enforcement Accountability and Transparency. “These experiences shaped her judicial approach: her service immeasurably advanced jurisprudence across this country on topics of racial equality and access to justice for the underserved. Justice Hines is most deserving of this recognition.”

Hines graduated from Tougaloo College and the University of Wisconsin Law School, becoming one of the few Black students in her class. She began her legal career advocating for prisoners' rights and then transitioned to criminal defense, joining the Massachusetts Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers and working for the Roxbury Defenders’ Committee.

Throughout her career, Hines championed civil rights and litigated discrimination cases in education. She co-founded the first women-of-color law firm in New England, further diversifying the legal landscape. In 2001, Hines’s dedication to justice was recognized with her appointment to the Massachusetts Superior Court. She rose through the ranks, becoming an Appeals Court justice and, in 2014, the first Black woman to serve on the state Supreme Judicial Court. Justice Hines's influence extends beyond the courtroom. She has actively participated in civic organizations and advocated for voting rights, a cause she considers critical in today’s society. Currently, Justice Hines shares her wisdom as a visiting professor at Boston College Law School, inspiring future generations of legal minds.


Jonathan Hutson, NACDL Senior Director of Public Affairs and Communications, 202-480-5343 or

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.

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