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
2:02 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Supreme Court Considers Legality Of Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

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

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

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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Politics
2:08 am
Mon January 13, 2014

Balance Of Power At Stake In High Court Case

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

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.

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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Law
4:19 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Supreme Court Bolsters Prosecutors' Use Of Psychiatric Exam

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Kansas Supreme Court should not have overturned the conviction and death sentence of a Kansas man.
Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Wed December 11, 2013 8:23 pm

A unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that when a criminal defendant claims he did not have the requisite intent to commit a crime, the state may put on contrary evidence derived from a state psychiatric exam.

In such circumstances, the court said, using the psychiatric evaluation does not violate the Constitution's privilege against self-incrimination.

The decision involves a brutal 2005 murder case from rural Kansas.

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Law
6:13 pm
Thu December 5, 2013

Military Protester Finds Skeptical Audience At Supreme Court

John Dennis Apel speaks outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday, after oral arguments in his case. The justices are considering whether Apel has the right to protest at a military base.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Wed December 4, 2013 5:54 pm

The First Amendment loomed large at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, as the justices considered a case testing the rights of protesters in public areas that are part of large military installations.

But the court, it seemed, was not in the mood for big constitutional questions.

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Law
2:18 am
Tue December 3, 2013

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

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

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

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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Law
4:56 pm
Tue November 26, 2013

Supreme Court Takes Challenge To Obamacare Contraceptive Rule

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

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

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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It's All Politics
6:11 pm
Thu November 21, 2013

Filibuster Changes Could Be Most Apparent In Federal Courts

On June 4, President Obama announces the nominations (from left) of Robert Wilkins, Cornelia Pillard and Patricia Ann Millet to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. In the past three weeks, Senate Republicans have blocked confirmation votes on all three.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Thu November 21, 2013 5:57 pm

President Obama and all future presidents have a freer hand today to make both executive and judicial appointments.

The Senate's historic vote on Tuesday eliminates a rule that until modern times had been used infrequently, and not always fairly. That unfairness, said Democrats, increased to an intolerable level during the Obama administration. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., observed, since the Senate created the filibuster rule in 1917, there have been 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees — and half of them have taken place during the Obama years.

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Law
12:36 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Supreme Court Questions Labor-Management 'Neutrality' Pacts

Originally published on Wed November 13, 2013 7:01 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court, which has been somewhat hostile to unions in recent years, on Wednesday examined a key union organizing tool. At issue: neutrality agreements, under which employers pledge to remain neutral during union organizing campaigns, and in exchange, the union promises not to picket, boycott or strike.

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Law
8:22 pm
Tue November 12, 2013

Government Takes A U-Turn On Warrantless Wiretaps

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli made a case before the Supreme Court last October based on information that he has discovered to be incorrect.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

Originally published on Thu October 24, 2013 5:39 pm

The Obama administration recently discovered that it unintentionally misled the Supreme Court last year in a warrantless wiretapping case involving U.S. citizens. Now, the Department of Justice is changing its policy to comply with the law and assurances it gave the high court.

The key figure in this saga is Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the government's chief advocate before the Supreme Court. Late last October, he argued before the court that human rights groups had no legal standing to challenge parts of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, commonly known as FISA.

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Law
2:01 am
Wed November 6, 2013

Supreme Court Case Puts Public Prayer Back In The Spotlight

The Supreme Court invokes "God" before every public session. Now the justices will weigh whether it is different, as a legal matter, for government meetings to include more explicitly sectarian prayers.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 9:00 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case questioning the use of prayer at government meetings. But first, the marshal will ask "God" to "save the United States and this honorable court."

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