When UMass Law adjunct professor Judge Serge Georges postponed his Evidence class a couple of weeks ago, he told his students he had an important meeting he could not miss. They wondered if the sudden meeting had anything to do with vacancies on the MA Supreme Judicial Court, according to Kaelyn Hilliard, JD ’22, a student in the class.
Upon hearing the news on November 17 that MA Governor Charlie Baker nominated Georges to the state’s highest court, the law students realized their suspicions were correct.
Hilliard said she was “ecstatic.” She and her Evidence classmates immediately began messaging each other. When Georges entered class that evening, he was greeted with shouts of congratulations and applause.
According to Hilliard, Georges explained that he had to postpone class for a meeting to discuss his then-potential nomination. “Judge Georges told us that by postponing class that evening, we played a role in his nomination,” she said.
That generosity of spirit is just one reason why many of Georges’ UMass Law students and colleagues are thrilled about his historic nomination. Georges would become the second Black man to serve on the Supreme Judicial Court and the first Haitian-American.
“Judge Georges immediately embraced our mission as the Commonwealth's public law school. He is an inspiration to our UMass Law community, and I expect the entire Commonwealth will benefit greatly from his wisdom and his humanity,” said UMass Law Dean Eric Mitnick.
“Judge Georges is one of the most down-to-earth and compassionate people who radiates with positive energy. While he is lighthearted and funny, he is very serious about teaching the material. Judge Georges challenges me to think critically in every class, which will undoubtedly prepare me for the bar exam and make me become a better lawyer,” said Hilliard.
“Deeply humbled,” Georges hopes to continue teaching
“I am deeply humbled and am so grateful to the Governor and Lt. Governor for their faith in me,” said Georges. “I’ve been really overwhelmed by the number of cards, notes, calls, and emails of support, encouragement, and happiness from my friends and family that I am constantly on the brink of tears.”
Georges currently sits on the Dorchester Division of the Boston Municipal Court, one of the busiest in the Commonwealth. He presided over the Dorchester Drug Court from 2014-2018. Georges said he can bring the perspective of community courts to the diverse experience represented on the state's highest court.
He is a graduate of Boston College High School, Boston College, and Suffolk University Law School, where he also teaches. He has served as president of the MA Black Lawyers Association and on the board of governors for the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Lawyers.
He began teaching Trial Practice at UMass Law during the summer of 2019 and returned to teach the same course last summer. This semester, he is teaching Evidence and hopes to continue teaching after he assumes his new position.
“I feel a kinship with UMASS Law,” Georges said. “There is a sincere energy and commitment to the students by the administration that reminds me so much of my alma mater. The students are smart, work hard, and have good hearts, which makes it easy to want to teach here.”
The son of a retired Boston public school teacher, Georges said “teaching is in my DNA. Personally, I loved learning the law and becoming good at the craft and that is directly correlated to the great teachers that taught me. My overarching charter is to help my students understand what they are doing and why. Lawyers often see people when they are at their worst or most scared and confused. Being able to help someone through those moments, often when their lawyer is all they have, will be some of the most meaningful moments of a lawyer’s life.”
Assistant Dean of Students Julie Cahill recalls that when Georges spoke to incoming 1L students at orientation in 2017 and 2018, he made a significant and lasting impact.
“I am delighted that he has joined our adjunct faculty. He is as wonderful a person as he is a legal professional and a teacher,” said Cahill. “To say that I am thrilled that our students can learn from and be mentored by Judge Georges is an understatement. We wish him well on his nomination and his continued service to our courts and to the Commonwealth in his new role on the Supreme Judicial Court.”
One student who was impacted by Judge George’s remarks at her orientation dinner is Christina Suh, JD ’20.
“That evening, he informed the new students of our responsibility as a lawyer, to be an advocate for justice and those in need of legal assistance,” Suh said. “As the judge greeted the students after dinner, he once again repeated to me to be a strong advocate because our actions as lawyers will greatly impact the lives of victims going through trauma. His statement touched me personally as I was once in the position of a victim and decided to pursue law hoping to be an advocate for victims. That night, I wrote a thank-you note to the judge because his words spoke to me loudly and deeply as I was about to enter my new profession.
“The following year, the judge invited me to join him at the orientation dinner as he spoke again to the new incoming 1L students," said Suh. “I was thrilled and honored to join the dinner, but I was more excited when he became my Trial Practice professor that same year. The judge was a tough instructor, but he had a way of connecting with the students as he conveyed the meticulous soft skills of how to present in court during a trial. At the end of the semester, I told him that one day I hope to make him proud as I represent in court,” said Suh. She will become an assistant prosecutor in the special victims unit at the Hudson County prosecutor’s office in New Jersey upon passing the bar exam.
UMass Law students applaud Georges’ nomination
UMass Law students are thrilled with the nomination of a professor who has made a profound impact on them.
Gregory J. O’Neill, JD ’21, a student in Georges’ Trial Practice class last summer, said his initial reaction was that Governor Baker “couldn't have picked a better candidate. In his class, I was impressed with both his passion and respect for the law. He is undoubtedly smart, but it was his humility, thoughtfulness, and generosity that made him such a great teacher.
“Even in a virtual world he made the material come to life with his feedback and willingness to engage with us,” added O’Neill, a Public Interest Law Fellow and an editor of the UMass Law Review. “Given his teaching style, and from what he told us about his career path and background, the SJC will be lucky to have a judge, and a person, like Judge Georges.”
Manasseh Konadu, JD ’22, a student in Judge Georges’ evening Evidence class first met him two summers ago as a Lindsay Fellow at the Federal District Court of Massachusetts. “I had met many judges before him, but none that looked like me or could associate with my upbringing. I turned my head to lay eyes on a man that I instantly looked up to, both figuratively and literally. He shared with us a story that to this day has shaped the type of lawyer that I want to become. Judge Georges treats everyone with respect. He has a great sense of humor coupled with an unmatched level of humility. It is my great honor to know and learn from this man. "
Jennifer Giabbai, JD ’20 will earn her degree from UMass Law next month and was a student of Judge Georges during his first semester at the law school. “Having Judge Georges as a professor for Trial Practice was a turning point in my law school career,” she said. “The chance to experience his ‘keeping it real’ approach to teaching combined with his enthusiasm for the law is a gift to any law student."
“Judge Georges gave me the tools and the confidence to use my voice and advocate on either side of the aisle in a way that I never thought possible,” added Giabbai. “I could not be more grateful for the opportunity to have been taught and supported by Judge Georges during my law school career. His impact on the Massachusetts judicial system will be nothing short of extraordinary.”
Upon hearing the news, UMass Law student ambassador, Nicholas LaFlamme, JD ’21, posted his reaction on social media: “Having Judge Georges for Trial Practice was extremely beneficial for my current work as an intern prosecutor for Bristol County. His style and demeanor [are] really inspiring and informative. Judge Georges has an exemplary passion for law that was felt through all his lectures and I hope he is awarded this opportunity and [I] am proud to have been a student of his.”
“Judge Georges is a role model and an inspiration to me and so many of my classmates at UMass Law,” added Hilliard. “We are so proud of Judge Georges and wish him the best of luck in his Supreme Judicial Court nomination process.”
Nomination proceeds to Governor’s Council for approval
With Georges’ nomination, Governor Baker will have nominated every member of the MA Supreme Judicial Court, the first time since the Commonwealth’s first governor, John Hancock, established the court in 1781.
Georges’ nomination proceeds to the Governor’s Council for approval with a nomination hearing scheduled for December 2. Following the hearing, a date will be set to vote on the nomination. With the council’s advice and consent, Judge Georges will be sworn in shortly thereafter and become Justice Georges.
Watch the video of Governor Baker’s announcement of Judge Serge Georges’ nomination to the MA Supreme Judicial Court.