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
4:27 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Justices Say U.S. Improperly Deported Man Over Marijuana

Originally published on Tue April 23, 2013 7:04 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a longtime legal resident of the United States was improperly deported for possession of a small amount of marijuana. By a 7-2 vote, the justices said that it defies common sense to treat an offense like this as an "aggravated felony" justifying mandatory deportation.

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Law
8:13 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Justices Weigh Speech Rights For Groups Getting U.S. Funds

People line up to enter the Supreme Court on Monday for arguments.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon April 22, 2013 8:52 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court grappled with a tough First Amendment issue on Monday that pits congressional priorities against free speech rights. At issue: what speech limitations may be placed on private groups that receive federal grant money to fight HIV/AIDS abroad.

The justices' questions revealed a court closely divided, and not along the usual liberal/conservative lines.

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Law
12:04 pm
Fri April 19, 2013

Supreme Court Curbs Lawsuits Over Foreign Abuses

Nigerian widow Esther Kiobel, a plaintiff in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum, cries as she speaks outside the Supreme Court in October 2012.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 7:37 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to human-rights advocates Wednesday, in a case that was closely watched globally by human-rights groups and foreign governments.

The court limited the reach of a 224-year-old federal law that in recent decades has been used to hold foreign corporations and individuals accountable in U.S. courts for human-rights abuses abroad.

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Law
10:44 am
Fri April 19, 2013

Emotions Run High As Supreme Court Hears Adoption Case

This October 2011 photo provided by Melanie Capobianco shows her adoptive daughter, Veronica, trick-or-treating in Charleston, S.C. The child has been the focus of a custody battle between her adoptive parents and her birth father.
Courtesy of Melanie Capobianco AP

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 7:42 pm

Emotions boiled over at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday as the justices heard arguments in a case testing the meaning and reach of the Indian Child Welfare Act, known as ICWA.

The 1978 law was enacted after Congress found that more than a third of all Native American children were being taken from their families and given to white adoptive and foster parents.

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Shots - Health News
5:42 pm
Thu April 18, 2013

Justices Appear Skeptical Of Patenting Human Genes

Medical geneticist Dr. Harry Ostrer (center) talks to the press outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. The court heard oral arguments on the highly charged question of whether human genes can be patented.
Mladen Antonov AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 7:44 am

In a case considered pivotal to the future of science and medicine, the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed skeptical Monday about a claim that human genes can be patented.

Contending that genes can be patented are the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, which see patents as the keys to new scientific exploration. On the other side are doctors, patients and many scientists, who see gene patents as an attempt to monopolize and block future exploration in the new universe of genetics.

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The Two-Way
6:10 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Supreme Court Backs Warrants For Blood Tests In DUI Cases

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 7:10 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police must generally obtain a warrant before subjecting a drunken-driving suspect to a blood test. The vote was 8-to-1, with Justice Clarence Thomas the lone dissenter.

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Law
2:52 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Adoption Case Brings Rare Family Law Dispute To High Court

This October 2011 photo provided by Melanie Capobianco shows her adoptive daughter, Veronica, trick-or-treating in Charleston, S.C. The child has been the focus of a custody battle between her adoptive parents and her birth father.
Courtesy of Melanie Capobianco AP

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 1:04 pm

Take the usual agony of an adoption dispute. Add in the disgraceful U.S. history of ripping Indian children from their Native American families. Mix in a dose of initial fatherly abandonment. And there you have it — a poisonous and painful legal cocktail that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

At issue is the reach of the Indian Child Welfare Act, known as ICWA. The law was enacted in 1978 to protect Native American tribes from having their children almost literally stolen away and given to non-Indian adoptive or foster parents.

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Shots - Health News
2:01 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Supreme Court Asks: Can Human Genes Be Patented?

Artist's representation of DNA.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 7:45 am

Same-sex marriage got huge headlines at the Supreme Court last month, but in the world of science and medicine, the case being argued on Monday is far more important. The lawsuit deals with a truly 21st century issue — whether human genes may be patented.

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The Two-Way
5:52 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Supreme Court Notes: Bugs, Pumps And Stolen Credit Card Numbers

Same-sex marriage supporters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg sends us some odds and ends from a very momentous week in the Supreme Court.

Hear all that sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and nose blowing during this week's same-sex oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court?

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Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
6:43 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Justices Cast Doubt On Federal Defense Of Marriage Act

This artist rendering shows Paul Clement (second from left) with Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. (seated, right), addressing the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Justices pictured are (from left) Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan.
Dana Verkouteren AP

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 7:51 am

In the wake of the Supreme Court arguments Wednesday on the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriage supporters have reason to be optimistic. Known as DOMA, the law bars federal benefits for legally married same-sex couples, even though those same benefits are automatically given to heterosexual married couples.

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