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
2:35 am
Fri July 5, 2013

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

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

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

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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Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
11:08 pm
Fri June 28, 2013

Judge Who Struck Down Proposition 8 Knew Case Would Go Far

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

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

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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Law
4:43 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Supreme Court: Congress Has To Fix Broken Voting Rights Act

Supporters of the NAACP hold signs outside the Supreme Court building on Tuesday. The court ruled that Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which aimed at protecting minority voters, is unconstitutional.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Sat June 29, 2013 2:26 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday struck down the linchpin of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act, freeing nine mostly Southern states from federal oversight.

By a 5-to-4 vote, the court invalidated the formula — adopted most recently in 2006 — used to determine which states had to get federal approval for changes in their voting laws.

The decision provoked dismay and outrage in the civil rights community.

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The Two-Way
4:07 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Court Rulings Complicate Discrimination Suits For Employees

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 10:19 am

In two big employment law cases, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it harder for employees to bring discrimination suits over workplace harassment and retaliation.

The two 5-to-4 rulings frustrated Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg so much that she took the unusual step of reading a dissent from the bench addressing both cases. Her dissent apparently frustrated Justice Samuel Alito so much that he rolled his eyes as Ginsburg spoke.

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Law
3:05 pm
Thu June 27, 2013

Justices Seek 'Strict Scrutiny' In Affirmative Action Case

Students calling for diversity protest outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Oct 10, 2012.
Jose Luis Magana Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue June 25, 2013 11:59 am

The U.S. Supreme Court has surprised just about everyone with its decision on affirmative action in higher education. The surprise was an apparent compromise that leaves affirmative action programs in tact for now but subjects them to a more rigorous review by the courts.

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Law
10:08 pm
Sat June 22, 2013

Supreme Court: Provision In AIDS Law Violates Free Speech

People line up to enter the Supreme Court building on April 22, when the court heard arguments in the Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International case.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Thu June 20, 2013 8:18 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court, headed into its final days of the term, left all of its marquee cases undecided on Thursday. Still being hashed out in private by the justices are two same-sex-marriage cases, plus major tests of affirmative action in higher education and the Voting Rights Act. No more decisions are expected this week.

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Law
7:07 pm
Sat June 22, 2013

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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Law
2:07 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Why The FISA Court Is Not What It Used To Be

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

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

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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Shots - Health News
9:40 pm
Sun June 16, 2013

Supreme Court Gene Ruling Splits Hairs Over What's 'Natural'

A technician loads patient samples into a machine for testing at Myriad Genetics in Salt Lake City in 2002. The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Myriad cannot patent the BRCA genes, which are tested to check a woman's risk for breast and ovarian cancer.
Douglas C. Pizac AP

Originally published on Fri June 14, 2013 5:03 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that human genes cannot be patented, upending 30 years of patent awards granted by the U.S. Patent Office. The court's unanimous decision has enormous implications for the future of personalized medicine and in many ways is likely to shape the future of science and technology.

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Law
2:25 am
Fri June 7, 2013

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

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

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

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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