November 12, 2019
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Federal judge in Maine appointed to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court

Courtesy of the U.S. District Court in Portland
Courtesy of the U.S. District Court in Portland
This portrait of U.S. District Judge George Singal was unveiled Friday at a ceremony at the Edward T. Gignoux Courthouse in Portland. It was a gift from the judge's law clerks and the federal bar.

U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal has been appointed to the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in Washington, D.C.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts announced the appointment Wednesday.

Singal’s seven-year term on the court is effective Sunday.

The court, established in 1978, considers applications submitted by the government for approval of electronic surveillance, physical searches, and other investigative actions for foreign intelligence purposes, according to information posted on its website. Most of the court’s work is conducted ex parte, without requiring all the parties to be present, as required by law, and due to the need to protect classified national security information.

The 11 federal judges assigned to the court serve seven-year terms. By law, three must live within 20 miles of Washington, D.C. The rest must be drawn from at least seven different judicial circuits. Judges typically sit for a week at a time on a rotating basis.

In a report to Congress dated April 25 the administrative office of the U.S. Court said that in 2018, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court denied 30 applications in full and 42 applications in part. The court modified the orders sought in an additional 261 applications and granted the orders sought without modifications for 1,318 applications.

Singal, 74, of Portland declined Wednesday to comment on the appointment.

He is the second federal judge from Maine to serve on the court. Conrad Cyr, served on the court from 1987 until 1994. He was a U.S. District Court judge when appointed but was elevated to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston in 1989.

Cyr died in July 28, 2016, at the age of 84.

Singal practiced law in Bangor for 30 years before being nominated by President Bill Clinton to fill 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. He took senior status in 2013 but continues to work full time.

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; he survived 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. While five months pregnant, Malka took her daughter over the Alps to Italy, where her son was born in a refugee camp in 1945 in Florence.

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 Mogul in Bangor.

 



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