Massachusetts Whistleblower to Receive NEFAC’s Orfield Citizenship Award

Coalition to Recognize Jeanne Kempthorne for Defending Right to Know About Government

CONTACT Justin Silverman | 774.244.2365 |

The New England First Amendment Coalition will honor Jeanne Kempthorne, former assistant district attorney in Berkshire County (Mass.), with its 2021 Antonia Orfield Citizenship Award.

The Citizenship Award is given to an individual from one of the six New England states who has fought for information crucial to the public’s understanding of its community or what its government is doing — or not doing — on its behalf.

Kempthorne will be honored April 21 at NEFAC’s 11th annual New England First Amendment Awards for resigning in protest from her position as general counsel to the Berkshire County district attorney after being ordered not to release public records that were clearly public.

Kempthorne’s resignation came last year after the Berkshire Eagle filed a public records request for communications between the District Attorney’s Office and officials at Bard College at Simon’s Rock concerning a student’s claim that she had been racially attacked on campus.

Kempthorne said she could find no legal reason to justify holding back the emails and fought the district attorney’s contention that they not be released. She released the public documents and later resigned in protest saying the office placed political concerns above the publics’ right to know about government.

Previous recipients of the Citizenship Award are Cook v. Raimondo Student Activists (2020); David Saad (2019); the Hyde Square Task Force (2018); Donna Green (2017); Michael Champa (2016); Harriet Cady (2015); Kit Savage (2014); and David Lang (2013).

The awards ceremony will be online at 7 p.m. on April 21. Tickets can be purchased here. All proceeds will benefit civics education in New England.

Yamiche Alcindor, the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, will receive NEFAC’s 2021 Stephen Hamblett First Amendment Award. The Bangor Daily News will receive the Michael Donoghue Freedom of Information Award.

WBUR and Boston University are the program’s primary sponsors.

Other sponsors and supporters include The Boston Globe, Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Robertson Foundation, Morgan Lewis, Northeastern University, The University of Rhode Island, University of New Hampshire, The Tully Center for Free Speech, Emerson College, Northern Vermont University, Saint Michael’s CollegeFranklin Pierce University and The Day.

NEFAC was formed in 2006 to advance and protect the Five Freedoms of the First Amendment, including the principle of the public’s right to know. We’re a broad-based organization of people who believe in the power of an informed democratic society. Our members include lawyers, journalists, historians, academics and private citizens.

Our coalition is funded through contributions made by those who value the First Amendment and who strive to keep government accountable. Please make a donation here.

Major Supporters of NEFAC include Hearst Connecticut Media Group, Paul and Ann Sagan, The Boston Globe, WBUR, Boston University and the Robertson Foundation.