The award is named after the late publisher of The Providence Journal and given each year to an individual who has promoted, defended or advocated for the First Amendment.
“During Judge Gertner’s career, she has done all these things,” said Justin Silverman, NEFAC’s executive director. “She has shown great respect for the press, has written several decisions reaffirming First Amendment freedoms and has been an advocate for open government.”
In 2000, Gertner testified about the need for more transparency in federal courts, saying that the concept of a public proceeding necessitates a courtroom open to television cameras. She also expressed support for courtroom cameras during a 2007 hearing.
Gertner used the press to speak publicly about her cases – rarely done by active judges – and to provide another level of transparency within the judicial system. She did this though it carried great professional risk, in one case leading to calls for her recusal.
“For First Amendment and right-to-know advocates throughout New England, these are actions worth celebrating,” Silverman said. “Judge Gertner has been a long-time advocate of civil rights and has been a friend of the press. In previous years, we have honored the work of three journalists and a media executive. While Judge Gertner’s legal background may distinguish her from previous honorees, her First Amendment bona fides certainly put her in the same class.”
Previous Hamblett Award recipients include Anthony Lewis, the late author and columnist for The New York Times; Martin Baron, Washington Post executive editor and former Boston Globe editor; Philip Balboni, GlobalPost co-founder and CEO; and James Risen, investigative reporter for The New York Times.
NEFAC will honor Gertner from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 20 at the Seaport Hotel, 1 Seaport Lane in Boston. Tickets can be purchased here.
Gertner joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 2011. In 1994, President Clinton appointed Gertner to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, where she served until September 2011. Gertner was one of very few women trial lawyers in the early 1970s, and built a career as a self-described “revolutionary” and “radical lawyer” fighting for fair sentencing and against discrimination. She was the second woman to have received the Thurgood Marshall Award from the American Bar Association, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, in 2008. She has served as a panelist, lecturer, and keynote speaker throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia on topics of civil rights, civil liberties, employment, criminal justice and procedural issues. Her autobiography, “In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate,” was published in April 2011.