Nina Totenberg

Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.

Totenberg's coverage of the Supreme Court and legal affairs has won her widespread recognition. Newsweek says, "The mainstays [of NPR] are Morning Edition and All Things Considered. But the creme de la creme is Nina Totenberg." She is also a regular panelist on Inside Washington, a weekly syndicated public affairs television program produced in the nation's capital.

In 1991, her ground-breaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill's charges. NPR received the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage — anchored by Totenberg — of both the original hearings and the inquiry into Anita Hill's allegations, and for Totenberg's reports and exclusive interview with Hill.

That same coverage earned Totenberg additional awards, among them: the Long Island University George Polk Award for excellence in journalism; the Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists for investigative reporting; the Carr Van Anda Award from the Scripps School of Journalism; and the prestigious Joan S. Barone Award for excellence in Washington-based national affairs/public policy reporting, which also acknowledged her coverage of Justice Thurgood Marshall's retirement.

Totenberg was named Broadcaster of the Year and honored with the 1998 Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcasting from the National Press Foundation. She is the first radio journalist to receive the award. She is also the recipient of the American Judicature Society's first-ever award honoring a career body of work in the field of journalism and the law. In 1988, Totenberg won the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Silver Baton for her coverage of Supreme Court nominations. The jurors of the award stated, "Ms. Totenberg broke the story of Judge (Douglas) Ginsburg's use of marijuana, raising issues of changing social values and credibility with careful perspective under deadline pressure."

Totenberg has been honored seven times by the American Bar Association for continued excellence in legal reporting and has received a number of honorary degrees. On a lighter note, in 1992 and 1988 Esquire magazine named her one of the "Women We Love".

A frequent contributor to major newspapers and periodicals, she has published articles in The New York Times Magazine, The Harvard Law Review, The Christian Science Monitor, Parade Magazine, New York Magazine, and others.

Before joining NPR in 1975, Totenberg served as Washington editor of New Times Magazine, and before that she was the legal affairs correspondent for the National Observer.

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Law
1:58 am
Wed October 29, 2014

Can Authorities Cut Off Utilities And Pose As Repairmen To Search A Home?

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 6:50 am

Some legal cases do more than raise eyebrows — they push the legal envelope to change the law. Such is a federal case in Las Vegas now working its way through the courts. The question is whether federal agents can disrupt service to a house and then, masquerading as helpful technicians, gain entry to covertly search the premises in hopes of finding evidence that might later justify a search warrant.

The defendants in this case are not your everyday Americans. They are, in fact, Chinese gamblers who were staying in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace earlier this year.

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Law
2:22 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Justices Skeptical Of Beard Rule In Inmate Religious Rights Case

Attorney Douglas Laycock leaves the Supreme Court Tuesday after arguing before the court on behalf of Arkansas prison inmate Gregory Holt.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 12:24 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that pits the authority of prison officials against the religious rights of prison inmates. Specifically, the question is whether a federal law aimed at shoring up those religious rights requires the state of Arkansas to allow a Muslim prisoner to wear a half-inch beard.

Gregory Holt, convicted of stabbing his ex-girlfriend, argues that the tenets of his Muslim faith require him not to cut his beard. As a compromise, he asked Arkansas prison authorities for permission to at least wear a half-inch beard.

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Law
3:06 am
Tue October 7, 2014

How Justice Sotomayor Is 'Busting' The Supreme Court's Steady Rhythms

Joan Biskupic, author of a new book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor, says she was "intrigued by the fact that ... the arc of her life was actually the same trajectory of the rise of Latinos in America."
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 9:07 am

What do salsa dancing and the Supreme Court have to do with each other? A lot, according to author Joan Biskupic, whose new book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor is now out in bookstores.

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The Two-Way
4:28 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

5 Questions About The Supreme Court And Gay Marriage In The U.S.

Jennifer Hasler (left) and Karina Tittjung smile after picking up their marriage license at the Oklahoma County courthouse in Oklahoma City Monday. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the issue of gay marriage, it opened the door for gay men and women to marry in 11 states, including Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Nick Oxford Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 5:22 pm

On Monday, the Supreme Court surprised many when it refused to enter the contentious debate over gay marriage.

The court left intact decisions by three federal appeals courts that had struck down bans on gay marriage in parts of the South, West and Midwest. Attorneys general in five states asked the court to review those decisions and overrule them. But the court instead stepped back, leaving the lower court rulings intact.

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Law
3:15 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Should Short Beards Be Allowed Behind Bars?

The Supreme Court will take up the case of Gregory Holt, who argues that Arkansas prisoners like himself should be allowed to wear short beards.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 4:30 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a major test of religious freedom. At issue is a law enacted by Congress in 2000 to shore up the religious rights of prisoners.

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Law
9:52 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Supreme Court Declines To Take Up Gay-Marriage Appeals

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 10:32 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Law
3:09 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Supreme Court To Weigh Facebook Threats, Religious Freedom, Discrimination

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 10:32 am

The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term Monday, but so far the justices are keeping quiet about whether or when they will tackle the gay marriage question. Last week, the justices met behind closed doors to discuss pending cases, but when they released the list of new cases added to the calendar, same-sex marriage was nowhere to be seen.

But that really doesn't mean very much.

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The Two-Way
1:42 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Gay-Marriage Cases ... For Now

There was no word today from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it would tackle the issue of gay marriage. The justices issued a list of cases they will hear in the new term, which begins on Monday, but same-sex marriage was notably absent.

The silence on the gay-marriage question was no surprise.

Although there are seven same-sex-marriage cases pending before the court, the justices like to thoroughly vet a big issue like this before they choose which cases to hear and when.

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It's All Politics
4:48 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Appeals Court Strikes Wisconsin And Indiana Same-Sex-Marriage Bans

Supporters of gay marriage attend a rally at the federal plaza in Chicago on Aug. 25.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 5:18 pm

The U.S. Court of Appeals covering much of the Midwest has become the third federal appeals court to strike down gay-marriage bans — this time in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, said that Wisconsin and Indiana had given the court "no reasonable basis" for forbidding same-sex marriage. Indeed, he said, "The only rationale that the states put forward with any conviction is ... so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously."

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It's All Politics
3:03 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Federal Judge Upholds Louisiana's Same-Sex-Marriage Ban

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 3:46 pm

A federal judge in New Orleans has upheld Louisiana's law banning same-sex marriage. The decision is the first break in a string of more than two dozen federal court rulings that have struck down same-sex-marriage bans in other states over the past year.

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The Two-Way
1:49 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Returns To Surgery Following Crash

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh speaks during a news conference in 2012.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 4:53 pm

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was returned to surgery at a New Hampshire hospital on Tuesday, after suffering serious injuries in what police say was a one-car crash Monday, according to the Burlington Free Press. The newspaper also reports that Freeh is under armed guard.

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The Two-Way
2:10 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Same-Sex Marriages On Hold In Virginia After Supreme Court Weighs In

Supporters and opponents of gay marriage demonstrate outside the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., in May.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 11:40 am

The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in to block a federal appeals court ruling that would have allowed gay marriages to begin in Virginia on Thursday.

The decision was widely expected and tells little about how the high court will ultimately rule on the issue. It merely preserves the status quo.

Indeed, while Virginia officials urged the Supreme Court to strike down the ban on gay marriage, they also urged the court to put a hold on the immediate issuing of marriage licenses.

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Law
3:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

When Did Companies Become People? Excavating The Legal Evolution

Volunteers at the Lincoln Memorial help roll up a giant banner printed with the Preamble to the Constitution during an October 2010 demonstration against the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 11:52 am

Are corporations people? The U.S. Supreme Court says they are, at least for some purposes. And in the past four years, the high court has dramatically expanded corporate rights.

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Law
2:15 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

The Death Clerk, And Other Details Of Last-Minute Execution Appeals

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 4:22 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Arizona's execution is the third botched or problematic execution this year. And it poses lots of legal questions. So we have NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg now to answer them. Hi.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi.

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Health Care
4:10 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Conflicting Obamacare Rulings Set Stage For Supreme Court Face-Off

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 5:51 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Law
2:14 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Obama's Health Care Law Has A Confusing Day In Court

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 6:17 pm

Another wild legal ride for Obamacare on Tuesday: Two U.S. Court of Appeals panels issued conflicting decisions on an issue with the potential to gut the health care overhaul.

The two rulings could lead to another U.S. Supreme Court showdown over the controversial law, all because of what one of the law's opponents initially called "a glitch."

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Law
1:12 pm
Sun July 6, 2014

Rare Unanimity In Supreme Court Term, With Plenty Of Fireworks

The recent Supreme Court term resulted in an unusual number of unanimous decisions — but that doesn't mean there wasn't disagreement.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 1:10 pm

The nation greets the coming of July each year with fireworks on the National Mall and, days earlier, explosive decisions at the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the Mall fireworks dissipate within moments, the court's decisions will have repercussions for decades. Indeed, no sooner was the ink dry on this term's contraception decision than the court's three female justices accused their male colleagues of reneging.

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Law
3:21 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Supreme Court Wraps Up Term Issuing 2 Major Decisions

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 12:24 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The U.S Supreme Court has wrapped up its latest term, issuing two important decisions. One is a setback for the Affordable Care Act and a victory for some for-profit companies.

GREENE: The other decision is a major defeat for public employee unions. We'll hear reaction to both decisions in a few minutes. We begin our coverage with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

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Law
7:09 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Deals A Blow To Public Employee Unions

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 6:30 am

Public employee unions suffered a major defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, with worse probably to come soon.

The court's 5-4 decision will in the short run undercut the financing for some public employee unions by allowing people who don't join the union and don't pay any fees to get the same benefits as those who do pay union dues.

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Law
3:03 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

High Court Allows Some Companies To Opt Out Of Contraceptives Mandate

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 5:07 pm

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a for-profit corporation can refuse to comply with a general government mandate because doing so would violate the corporation's asserted religious beliefs.

By a 5-4 vote, the court struck an important part of President Obama's health care law — the requirement that all insurance plans cover birth control — because it conflicted with a corporation owners' religious beliefs.

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Law
11:32 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Hobby Lobby Victory

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Law
3:35 am
Fri June 27, 2014

High Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic 'Buffer Zone' Law

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 5:59 am

The Supreme Court eased restrictions on protesters at clinics that perform abortions. The court invalidated a Massachusetts law that created a 35 foot buffer outside abortion clinics in the state.

Law
2:20 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Takeaways From Supreme Court Rulings On Buffer Zones, Recess Picks

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 11:19 am

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two major rulings on Thursday: one that narrows protections for patients and employees outside abortion clinics, and another that narrows the president's power to fill top government positions temporarily without the Senate's consent.

Both rulings were technically unanimous because all nine justices agreed on the bottom-line outcome, but in fact both were 5-to-4 rulings with fiery disagreements expressed by the minority.

Here are summaries of the two cases and the arguments for and against them.

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Law
12:19 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Supreme Court Rules On Obama Appointments, Abortion Protests

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Supreme Court has issued rulings in two controversial cases. The court invalidated several appointments President Obama made while the Senate was in recess, or appeared to be, anyway. And the court also limited the power of a state to define buffer zones around abortion clinics. A lot to talk about here, let's dive right in with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Hi, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi.

INSKEEP: OK, so these decisions appear to be, to you, anyway, compromises - why is that?

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Law
2:15 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

High Court Ruling On Search Warrants Is Broader Than Cellphones

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 7:30 pm

Bold. Landmark. Sweeping. Those were the words experts on all sides used Wednesday to describe the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that police must obtain a warrant before searching a cellphone at the time of an arrest.

The decision came in two cases where law enforcement used information obtained from a cellphone without a warrant to win a conviction.

Writing for the unanimous court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cellphone at the time of an arrest is "simple — get a warrant."

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Law
10:48 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Supreme Court Rules On Aereo, Cellphone Searches

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Law
2:43 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

EPA Gets A Win From Supreme Court On Global Warming Emissions — Mostly

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 6:07 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court gave the Environmental Protection Agency the green light to regulate greenhouse gases that are emitted from new and modified utility plants and factories on Monday.

Greenhouse gases are blamed for global warming, and the court's 7-2 decision gave the EPA most of what it wanted. But in a separate 5-4 vote, the justices rejected the agency's broad assertion of regulatory power under one section of the Clean Air Act.

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Law
2:12 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

From Supreme Court, Firm Support For Employee In Retaliation Case

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 6:20 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that public employees cannot be fired in retaliation for testifying truthfully on matters of public corruption or public concern. The unanimous decision came in the case of Edward Lane, who was fired after he testified that an Alabama state legislator was a no-show employee being paid by the taxpayers for no work.

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Law
4:17 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Against Gun 'Straw Purchases'

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 1:59 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a major victory to gun control advocates on Monday. The 5-4 ruling allows strict enforcement of the federal ban on gun "straw purchases," or one person buying a gun for another.

The federal law on background checks requires federally licensed gun dealers to verify the identity of buyers and submit their names to a federal database to weed out felons, those with a history of mental illness and others barred from gun ownership.

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Law
2:29 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

By Slim Margin, Supreme Court Preserves Key Gun Control Law

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 4:04 pm

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law may prohibit someone from buying a gun for another person — whether or not the other person is legally allowed to purchase a gun. The narrow decision maintains the status quo on "straw" purchases of guns.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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