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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2:06am

Mon October 7, 2013
Law

Despite Shutdown, Supreme Court Opens Its Doors For New Term

Originally published on Mon October 7, 2013 10:09 am

The Supreme Court opens its new term this week.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

When the rest of the government shuts down for a blizzard, the U.S. Supreme Court soldiers on. And so it is that this week, with the rest of the government shut down in a political deep freeze, the high court, being deemed essential, is open for business.

It is, after all, not just any week for the justices. It is the opening of a new term.

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4:26pm

Tue July 30, 2013
Law

Citing Supreme Court, Judge Awards Benefits To Same-Sex Widow

Originally published on Tue July 30, 2013 4:35 pm

Another barrier to recognition of same-sex marriage appears to have fallen. On Monday a federal judge ordered a law firm to pay survivor's benefits to the widow in a same-sex marriage, and on Tuesday the law firm said it was happy to comply and would not appeal.

The decision is the latest in a series of court rulings equalizing benefits for legally married same-sex couples in the aftermath of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

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4:30pm

Wed July 24, 2013
Law

S.C. Court Orders 'Baby Veronica' Adoption Finalized

Originally published on Wed July 24, 2013 5:51 pm

The South Carolina Supreme Court has ordered finalization of the adoption of "Baby Veronica" by a couple living near Charleston, S.C.
Melanie Capobianco AP

Lawyers for the biological father of a Native American child are expected to make a last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, hoping to prevent the return of the child to her adoptive parents.

But the four-year legal saga is likely near an end.

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3:21pm

Wed July 10, 2013
Law

Scalia V. Ginsburg: Supreme Court Sparring, Put To Music

Originally published on Thu July 11, 2013 11:39 am

iStockphoto.com

On the day after the Supreme Court concluded its epic term in June, two of the supreme judicial antagonists, Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, met over a mutual love: opera.

When it comes to constitutional interpretation, the conservative Scalia and the liberal Ginsburg are leaders of the court's two opposing wings. To make matters yet more interesting, the two have been friends for decades, since long before Scalia was named to the court by President Reagan and Ginsburg by President Clinton.

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12:53pm

Mon July 8, 2013
The Two-Way

A 'Mea Culpa'

Nina Totenberg
Steve Barrett NPR

I have always believed in correcting mistakes, especially bad ones. In my wrap-up piece at the end of the Supreme Court term, I quoted Northwestern University law professor John McGinnis as one of several conservative scholars highly critical of the court's decision on the Voting Rights Act.

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2:35am

Fri July 5, 2013
Law

Whose Term Was It? A Look Back At The Supreme Court

Originally published on Mon July 8, 2013 12:03 pm

Chief Justice John G. Roberts (left) and Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

It would not be an exaggeration to call the recently completed Supreme Court term a lollapalooza. Day-by-day on the last week of the court term, the justices handed down one legal thunderbolt after another: same-sex marriage, voting rights, affirmative action. The end-of-term crush of opinions made so many headlines that other important decisions got little public notice.

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11:08pm

Fri June 28, 2013
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court

Judge Who Struck Down Proposition 8 Knew Case Would Go Far

Originally published on Sat June 29, 2013 8:25 pm

Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's proposition banning gay marriage in 2010. The Supreme Court kept that ruling intact on Wednesday.
Elaine Thompson AP

When the Supreme Court issued its decision clearing the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California, former District Judge Vaughn Walker had worked up a sweat.

"I was at the gym on the treadmill, and the television was on. So I was working up a sweat for reasons other than Proposition 8," says Walker, who now has a private practice.

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3:04am

Thu June 27, 2013
Law

Justices Rule On 2 Gay Marriage-Related Cases

Originally published on Thu June 27, 2013 4:06 am

In one case, a divided court struck down a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act, enabling same-sex couples in states that allow gay marriage to qualify for federal benefits. The court also ruled that plaintiffs in a gay marriage case from California lacked standing — it carved the way for gay marriages to resume in California.

3:41am

Tue June 25, 2013
Law

Supreme Court Sends Affirmative Action Case To Lower Court

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 10:10 am

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 surprised just about everyone yesterday with its decision on affirmative action in higher education. That surprise was an apparent compromise that leaves affirmative action programs intact for now but subjects them to a more rigorous review by the courts.

The vote was seven to one, as NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

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2:07am

Tue June 18, 2013
Law

Why The FISA Court Is Not What It Used To Be

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 12:52 pm

A copy of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order requiring Verizon to give the National Security Agency information about calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.
AP

The furor over recently exposed government surveillance programs has posed an abundance of political challenges for both President Obama and Congress. Relatively unmentioned in all of this, however, is the role of the courts — specifically, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, and how its role has changed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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6:51pm

Mon June 17, 2013
Law

Supreme Court Strikes Down Arizona Voting Law

Originally published on Mon June 17, 2013 7:27 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday struck down a state-mandated requirement that prospective voters in Arizona provide proof of citizenship to be able to register to vote in national elections. But some experts are concerned that the court may have inserted a few "poison pills" in its opinion that would damage voting-rights protections someday down the road.

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2:25am

Fri June 7, 2013
Law

Former Mass. Chief Justice On Life, Liberty And Gay Marriage

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 12:56 pm

Chief Justice Margaret Marshall asks petitioner to explain a point during arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court in Boston in 2005.
George Rizer AP

The U.S. Supreme Court, on the brink of issuing two same-sex-marriage decisions, is facing a question that Margaret Marshall had to resolve for her state a decade ago, as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Her decision became the first to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States.

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4:43am

Tue June 4, 2013
Law

Law Enforcement Celebrates Supreme Court's DNA Ruling

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 7:10 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The law enforcement community is celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows police to automatically take DNA samples from people they've arrested. The 5-to-4 decision allows police to send those samples to a national crime scene database, to see if they match DNA from unsolved crimes.

NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

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3:14pm

Mon June 3, 2013
Law

Supreme Court Rules DNA Can Be Taken After Arrest

Originally published on Mon June 3, 2013 5:53 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that looked at whether police could take DNA samples from people who had been arrested but not yet convicted of a crime.
Alex Brandon AP

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime, and see if the DNA matches any samples from unsolved crimes in a national database.

The 5-to-4 decision split the court's conservative and liberal blocs, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia authoring a fiery dissent. Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws that provide for automatic DNA testing of arrestees.

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2:11pm

Tue May 28, 2013
The Two-Way

Supreme Court Declines Review Of Planned Parenthood Case

The Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case involving Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

In the first Planned Parenthood defunding case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices have refused to disturb a lower court decision that barred Indiana from stripping Medicaid payments to the organization.

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