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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2:18am

Tue March 25, 2014
Health Care

Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Case Goes Before Supreme Court

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 9:23 am

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green says the company should not have to provide insurance coverage for IUDs and morning-after pills for its 13,000 employees.
Tony Gutierrez AP

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in the latest challenge to the Obama health care overhaul.

This time the issue is whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to provide some, or potentially all, contraceptive services in health plans offered to employees. It is a case that touches lots of hot-button issues.

In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers to provide basic preventive care for employees. That turned out to include all 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

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5:10pm

Thu March 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Lawrence Walsh, Who Investigated Iran-Contra Scandal, Dies At 102

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 5:20 pm

Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh speaks to reporters in 1989.
Rick Bowmer AP

Lawrence Walsh, the special prosecutor who investigated charges of wrongdoing and criminality by top Reagan administration officials in the Iran-Contra scandal, has died.

He was 102.

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5:07pm

Thu March 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Lawrence Walsh: His Judgment Came Not From Confidence But From Insecurity

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 6:36 am

Lawrence Walsh in 1988.
Bob Daugherty AP

In 2003 the American Bar Association published Lawrence Walsh's autobiography, The Gift of Insecurity; A Lawyer's Life. Walsh died Wednesday at age 102. The following is the foreword NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg wrote for the book.

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3:52pm

Tue March 4, 2014
Law

High Court Extends Whistleblower Protections

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 7:33 am

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a federal whistleblower law, enacted after the collapse of Enron Corporation, protects not just the employees of a public company, but also company contractors like lawyers, accountants, and investment funds.

Writing for the six-justice majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that in enacting the Sarbanes-Oxley law in 2002, Congress provided protection from retaliation for employees and contractors alike to ensure that they would not be intimidated into silence when they knew of corporate wrongdoing.

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2:35am

Mon March 3, 2014
Law

With Death Penalty, How Should States Define Mental Disability?

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 10:11 am

Twelve years after banning the execution of the "mentally retarded," the U.S. Supreme Court is examining the question of who qualifies as having mental retardation, for purposes of capital cases, and who does not.

In 2002, the high court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing "mentally retarded" people is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. But the justices left it to the states to define mental retardation.

Now the court is focusing on what limits, if any, there are to those definitions.

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1:21pm

Wed February 26, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Allows Stanford Ponzi Scheme Suits To Go Forward

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 2:16 pm

Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford, who conned investors in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, arrives in custody at the federal courthouse for an Aug. 2010 hearing in Houston.
David J. Phillip AP

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that investor lawsuits may go forward against investment advisors and others for allegedly helping Texas tycoon Allen Stanford in a massive fraud.

Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison for bilking investors in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. The investors who lost money are suing others involved in the scheme, contending that they also engaged in misleading conduct.

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3:35pm

Tue February 25, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Opens Door To Easier Police Searches

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 8:15 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police may search a home without a warrant if one person who lives there consents, even if another occupant has previously objected. The 6-3 decision would seem to seriously undercut a 2006 high court ruling that barred warrantless searches of a home where the occupants disagreed on giving consent.

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5:14pm

Tue February 18, 2014
The Salt

Justice Scalia And Jon Stewart Concur Chicago Pizza Isn't Pizza

Comedy Central's Jon Stewart has called Chicago-style pizza "tomato soup in a bread bowl."
iStockphoto

Justice Antonin Scalia and Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, are, gasp, in agreement!

Both have rendered scorching opinions on a major national controversy — pizza. Specifically, Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza.

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2:18am

Tue January 21, 2014
Law

A Union For Home Health Aides Brings New Questions To Supreme Court

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 11:40 am

One of the questions before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters/Landov

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in an Illinois case that could drive a stake through the heart of public employee unions.

At issue are two questions: whether states may recognize a union to represent health care workers who care for disabled adults in their homes instead of in state institutions; and whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from.

To understand why a growing number of states actually want to recognize unions to represent home health care workers, listen to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan:

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5:26pm

Fri January 17, 2014
The Two-Way

Supreme Court To Decide If Warrant Needed To Search Cellphone

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide if police can seize and look through a suspect's cellphone without getting a warrant. This photo shows women in Los Angeles using smartphones on Jan. 7.
Frederic J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court is delving into the technology-versus-privacy debate, agreeing to hear two cases that test whether police making an arrest may search cellphones without a warrant.

The court's announcement Friday that it would take the cases came just hours after President Obama outlined his proposals to address government retention of citizen phone data as part of his speech outlining reforms at the National Security Agency.

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3:56pm

Wed January 15, 2014
Law

Justices Appear Divided On Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 6:44 pm

Pro-life demonstrators stand outside the U.S. Supreme Court following oral arguments in the case dealing with a Massachusetts law imposing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics for demonstrations and protests.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a case testing laws that establish buffer zones to protect patients and staff going into abortion clinics. In 2000, the court upheld 8-foot buffer zones that move with individuals as they walk into clinics. But now the issue is back before a more conservative court, and the conservative chief justice appears to hold the outcome in his hands.

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2:02am

Wed January 15, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Considers Legality Of Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 9:28 am

Eleanor McCullen, lead plaintiff in the case before the Supreme Court, outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Boston.
Nick Fountain NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case testing the constitutionality of buffer zones at abortion clinics.

Fourteen years ago, the court upheld Colorado's 8-foot "floating" buffer zones around individuals to protect patients and staff entering and exiting these clinics. Since then, buffer zones have prevented demonstrators from closely approaching patients and staff without permission.

But the issue is back before a different and more conservative Supreme Court.

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2:08am

Mon January 13, 2014
Politics

Balance Of Power At Stake In High Court Case

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 11:18 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a big constitutional fight over the balance of power between the president and the Senate. President Obama has said he supports the move by Senate Democrats to make it harder for Republicans to block his nominees.
Evan Vucci AP

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a big constitutional fight over the balance of power between the president and the Senate.

At issue is whether the president's power to make temporary appointments during the Senate recess can be curtailed by the use of pro forma Senate sessions during which no business is conducted.

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2:18am

Tue December 3, 2013
Law

A Supreme Court Fight For The Rights Of (Frequent) Fliers

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 5:02 pm

Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg sued Northwest Airlines for what he says was unfair termination from its frequent-flier program. His case goes goes before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Paul Sancya AP

Do airline frequent fliers have any legal rights when they get into disputes over their club memberships?

That's the question before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, when the justices examine whether, and under what circumstances, frequent fliers can sue in these disputes.

Frequent-flier programs — famous for their free trips, upgrades and goodies — are also infamous for what some members view as arbitrary airline behavior.

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5:11pm

Tue November 26, 2013
Law

Supreme Court Takes Challenge To Obamacare Contraceptive Rule

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 5:55 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take another case involving the Affordable Care Act, this time a challenge to the provision that for-profit companies that provide health insurance must include contraceptive coverage in their plans offered to employees.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's Affordable Care Act will be back before the Supreme Court this spring. This time, the issue is whether for-profit corporations citing religious objections may refuse to provide contraceptive services in health insurance plans offered to employees.

In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers who offer health care services to provide a range of preventive care, including no-copay contraceptive services. Religious nonprofits were exempted from this requirement, but not for-profit corporations.

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