PORTLAND, Maine — A portrait of U.S. District Judge George Singal was unveiled Friday during a ceremony at the Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse.
Singal, 69, of Portland was confirmed as a federal judge by the U.S. Senate in July 2000 after being nominated by President Bill Clinton two months earlier. He assumed senior status two years ago but has continued to work full time.
The judge said in a telephone interview before the unveiling that “it has been a humbling experience to be part of the illustrious court we have in Maine.”
The portrait, painted by Kyle R. Keith, a Jacksonville, Florida, artist whose portraits of judges hang in U.S. courthouses in New York, was a gift from members of the federal bar but the brainchild of Singal’s long-time law clerk, Jennifer Lyons of Portland.
She described Singal as “both a teacher and a student of the law.”
“For me and for all those lucky enough to work with Judge Singal, his frequent use of the phrase ‘educate me’ in all of its variations holds many lessons, two of which seemed especially worth sharing today,” Lyons said in prepared remarks.
Those lessons are: Have no fear of asking the humble open-ended question and a lawyer is never done learning.
“His requests to be educated are not simply the techniques of a great trial lawyer,” Lyons said. “He genuinely wants to be educated by the person he is posing that request to. He genuinely believes that his own education is never complete.”
The 19 law clerks who have worked for Singal over the past 15 years presented a donation at Friday’s ceremony to the Maine Bar Foundation to support the Maine State High School Mock Trial Program. Nearly all of them came to Portland for the ceremony, Singal said.
“The relationship between a law clerk and a judge is very close,” the judge said. “Hopefully, I’ve been part of their legal education and they certainly have been part of mine.”
Singal practiced law in Bangor for 30 years before filling the post left vacant by the death of U.S. District Judge Morton Brody in March 2000. In 2003, he moved his chambers to Portland.
The judge’s family endured a harrowing saga in Europe during World War II, according to a report published in 2000. His parents, Malka and Louis Singal, and his older sister, Judith, left their Polish village in 1939 when the Germans invaded, and joined a band of roaming resistance fighters, surviving in the woods for about five years.
In 1944, after the Russians advanced to Germany and liberated the group of resistance fighters, the Singals returned home, only to have the family patriarch, Louis Singal, die. Five months pregnant, Malka took her daughter over the Alps to Italy, where her son was born in a refugee camp in 1945.
At naturalization ceremonies, Singal, a naturalized citizen himself, often told new citizens how proud his mother was when she was called for jury duty decades after becoming an American.
He attended the University of Maine and, after graduation from Harvard Law School in 1970, joined the firm of Gross, Minsky and Singal in Bangor.
Singal’s portrait will hang in Courtroom 1 of the federal courthouse in Portland.