Baker to nominate Dot judge Georges for open seat on state's high court

Serge Georges, Jr.: BC High, BC, and Suffolk Law School

Serge Georges, Jr., who currently sits as an associate justice at the Dorchester Division of Boston Municipal Court, was nominated by Gov. Charlie Baker on Tuesday to join the Supreme Judicial Court. The son of immigrants from Haiti who was raised on Hancock Street near Kane Square, Georges would fill a vacancy on the seven-member body left when Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants died after a brief illness in September.

A graduate of St. Kevin’s Grammar School, Boston College High School, Boston College, and Suffolk University School of Law, Georges is a former president of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association and a professor at Suffolk University. He practiced law privately until 2013 when he was appointed to the Boston Municipal Court by Gov. Deval Patrick. He and his wife Michelle live in Randolph with their daughters, Olivia and Samantha.

“His unique voice and real-world experiences will improve the quality of discussion and debate on the Commonwealth’s highest court and I am pleased to nominate him,” said Baker.

Georges cited his Jesuit education at Boston College High School and later Boston College, where he graduated from in 1992, as influencing his approach in municipal and drug court.

“There are plenty of people that have just made mistakes that need some guidance in order to get back on their feet, stop committing crime and be productive members of society,” he said. “That’s a cornerstone principle of the Jesuit tradition, and I try to do that, to give people an opportunity to be successful.”

The governor’s choice drew swift praise from many quarters on Tuesday. Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Georges “has served the judiciary with honor, fairness and compassion as a Boston Municipal Court judge.  He will serve the people of Massachusetts with that same integrity as a justice of our Supreme Judicial Court.”

“He brings to the SJC not only professional judicial experience, including from his work leading the Dorchester drug court program, but also his knowledge as a seasoned criminal defense attorney, a civil litigator, a solo practitioner, a partner at a law firm and a childhood raised in a neighborhood known all too well to the SJC,” said Rollins.

Sean Curran, a political consultant who has known Georges since they were both 14-year-old freshmen at BC High, said that the appointment is “a validation of his scholarship and his grounding in judicial procedure. It speaks to the temperament that he has on the bench and the fact that he sees the dignity in the people coming before the district court with all of life’s problems.”

He added, “He’s got tremendous empathy for the people who stand before him. And that sets him apart.”

Georges Jr. would be one of only a handful of district court judges elevated to the state’s highest court if his nomination is successful, a step that Baker described as “unbelievable” when he unveiled his latest pick. Georges has served as an associate justice in the municipal court’s Dorchester Division for six years, spending four of them presiding over the Dorchester Drug Court.

That background puts him in rarefied company: according to Baker, only about four or five members in the centuries-long history of the top state court, including current SJC Justice David Lowy, have ever served at the district court level.

“Having another voice on our highest court that comes with the real-world experience of the district court will improve the quality of the discussion and debate and, ultimately, the quality of the decisions that will be rendered,” Baker said.

If successful, Georges’s nomination would also further reshape the court into a diverse panel more representative of the backgrounds in Massachusetts.

Born in Manhattan, he hails from one of the first Haitian families to put down roots in Dorchester’s Uphams Corner, and he would become the third nonwhite member of the seven-justice SJC alongside two other Baker nominees, Kimberly Budd and Dalila Argaez Wendlandt.

Describing the nomination as a great honor, Georges stressed that “you don’t get to this position of being the governor and the lieutenant governor’s nominee for the Supreme Judicial Court by yourself.”

“Through all of the things that the Haitian people have been through with natural disasters and some of the other challenges with the governmental systems over the years, it’s incredibly important for (my parents) to see that — that they came with the hope of giving us a better life, and I think through some measure of our achievement, they feel that they have.”

With the latest nomination, Baker is poised to appoint all seven sitting members of the SJC.

The Governor’s Council, which vets and confirms Baker’s nominees, will hold a hearing on Wendlant’s confirmation Wednesday morning and is also expected to vote on Budd’s promotion to chief. The council could schedule a confirmation hearing for Georges when it meets Wednesday.

Judge Georges currently serves as vice-chair of the Board of Trustees for BC High. Last January, the school awarded him the James E. Cotter ’55 Courage Award, presented to a member of the school community in recognition of courage in the face of adversity, tenacious spirit, and force of will.

State House News Service contributed to this article.