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
4:58 pm
Wed October 8, 2014

Supreme Court Takes Up Case On Overtime For Standing In Line

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 9:58 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Law
4:22 pm
Tue October 7, 2014

Justices Skeptical Of Beard Rule In Inmate Religious Rights Case

Attorney Douglas Laycock leaves the Supreme Court Tuesday after arguing before the court on behalf of Arkansas prison inmate Gregory Holt.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 2:24 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that pits the authority of prison officials against the religious rights of prison inmates. Specifically, the question is whether a federal law aimed at shoring up those religious rights requires the state of Arkansas to allow a Muslim prisoner to wear a half-inch beard.

Gregory Holt, convicted of stabbing his ex-girlfriend, argues that the tenets of his Muslim faith require him not to cut his beard. As a compromise, he asked Arkansas prison authorities for permission to at least wear a half-inch beard.

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Law
5:06 am
Tue October 7, 2014

How Justice Sotomayor Is 'Busting' The Supreme Court's Steady Rhythms

Joan Biskupic, author of a new book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor, says she was "intrigued by the fact that ... the arc of her life was actually the same trajectory of the rise of Latinos in America."
Patrick Semansky AP

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 11:07 am

What do salsa dancing and the Supreme Court have to do with each other? A lot, according to author Joan Biskupic, whose new book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor is now out in bookstores.

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The Two-Way
6:28 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

5 Questions About The Supreme Court And Gay Marriage In The U.S.

Jennifer Hasler (left) and Karina Tittjung smile after picking up their marriage license at the Oklahoma County courthouse in Oklahoma City Monday. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the issue of gay marriage, it opened the door for gay men and women to marry in 11 states, including Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Nick Oxford Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 7:22 pm

On Monday, the Supreme Court surprised many when it refused to enter the contentious debate over gay marriage.

The court left intact decisions by three federal appeals courts that had struck down bans on gay marriage in parts of the South, West and Midwest. Attorneys general in five states asked the court to review those decisions and overrule them. But the court instead stepped back, leaving the lower court rulings intact.

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It's All Politics
5:41 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Stunning SCOTUS Move Widens Same-Sex Marriage To 30 States

Jennifer Melsop and Erika Turner, from Centreville, Va., embrace after they were officially pronounced married. Virginia began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples just hours after the Supreme Court's action.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 6:32 pm

In a stunning move, the U.S. Supreme Court Monday stepped out of the gay-marriage debate — at least for now. It refused to review lower court decisions that struck down state bans on same-sex marriage; but the decision not to decide will nevertheless have an immediate and dramatic effect, bringing the total number of states where gay marriage is legal up to 30.

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Law
4:27 pm
Mon October 6, 2014

Should Short Beards Be Allowed Behind Bars?

The Supreme Court will take up the case of Gregory Holt, who argues that Arkansas prisoners like himself should be allowed to wear short beards.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 6:30 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a major test of religious freedom. At issue is a law enacted by Congress in 2000 to shore up the religious rights of prisoners.

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Law
11:52 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Supreme Court Declines To Take Up Gay-Marriage Appeals

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 12:32 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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Law
5:09 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Supreme Court To Weigh Facebook Threats, Religious Freedom, Discrimination

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 12:32 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term Monday, but so far the justices are keeping quiet about whether or when they will tackle the gay marriage question. Last week, the justices met behind closed doors to discuss pending cases, but when they released the list of new cases added to the calendar, same-sex marriage was nowhere to be seen.

But that really doesn't mean very much.

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The Two-Way
3:07 pm
Thu October 2, 2014

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Gay-Marriage Cases ... For Now

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 3:42 pm

There was no word today from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it would tackle the issue of gay marriage. The justices issued a list of cases they will hear in the new term, which begins on Monday, but same-sex marriage was notably absent.

The silence on the gay-marriage question was no surprise.

Although there are seven same-sex-marriage cases pending before the court, the justices like to thoroughly vet a big issue like this before they choose which cases to hear and when.

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It's All Politics
6:27 pm
Thu September 4, 2014

Appeals Court Strikes Wisconsin And Indiana Same-Sex-Marriage Bans

Supporters of gay marriage attend a rally at the federal plaza in Chicago on Aug. 25.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 7:18 pm

The U.S. Court of Appeals covering much of the Midwest has become the third federal appeals court to strike down gay-marriage bans — this time in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, said that Wisconsin and Indiana had given the court "no reasonable basis" for forbidding same-sex marriage. Indeed, he said, "The only rationale that the states put forward with any conviction is ... so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously."

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It's All Politics
4:31 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Federal Judge Upholds Louisiana's Same-Sex-Marriage Ban

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 5:46 pm

A federal judge in New Orleans has upheld Louisiana's law banning same-sex marriage. The decision is the first break in a string of more than two dozen federal court rulings that have struck down same-sex-marriage bans in other states over the past year.

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The Two-Way
3:49 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Returns To Surgery Following Crash

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh speaks during a news conference in 2012.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 6:53 pm

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was returned to surgery at a New Hampshire hospital on Tuesday, after suffering serious injuries in what police say was a one-car crash Monday, according to the Burlington Free Press. The newspaper also reports that Freeh is under armed guard.

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Law
3:35 pm
Wed August 20, 2014

Same-Sex Marriages On Hold In Virginia After Supreme Court Weighs In

Supporters and opponents of gay marriage demonstrate outside the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., in May.
Steve Helber AP

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 1:40 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in to block a federal appeals court ruling that would have allowed gay marriages to begin in Virginia on Thursday.

The decision was widely expected and tells little about how the high court will ultimately rule on the issue. It merely preserves the status quo.

Indeed, while Virginia officials urged the Supreme Court to strike down the ban on gay marriage, they also urged the court to put a hold on the immediate issuing of marriage licenses.

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Law
5:00 am
Mon July 28, 2014

When Did Companies Become People? Excavating The Legal Evolution

Volunteers at the Lincoln Memorial help roll up a giant banner printed with the Preamble to the Constitution during an October 2010 demonstration against the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 28, 2014 1:52 pm

Are corporations people? The U.S. Supreme Court says they are, at least for some purposes. And in the past four years, the high court has dramatically expanded corporate rights.

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Law
4:15 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

The Death Clerk, And Other Details Of Last-Minute Execution Appeals

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 6:22 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Arizona's execution is the third botched or problematic execution this year. And it poses lots of legal questions. So we have NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg now to answer them. Hi.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi.

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Health Care
6:10 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Conflicting Obamacare Rulings Set Stage For Supreme Court Face-Off

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 7:51 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Law
4:14 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Obama's Health Care Law Has A Confusing Day In Court

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 8:17 pm

Another wild legal ride for Obamacare on Tuesday: Two U.S. Court of Appeals panels issued conflicting decisions on an issue with the potential to gut the health care overhaul.

The two rulings could lead to another U.S. Supreme Court showdown over the controversial law, all because of what one of the law's opponents initially called "a glitch."

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Law
3:12 pm
Sun July 6, 2014

Rare Unanimity In Supreme Court Term, With Plenty Of Fireworks

The recent Supreme Court term resulted in an unusual number of unanimous decisions — but that doesn't mean there wasn't disagreement.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 3:10 pm

The nation greets the coming of July each year with fireworks on the National Mall and, days earlier, explosive decisions at the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the Mall fireworks dissipate within moments, the court's decisions will have repercussions for decades. Indeed, no sooner was the ink dry on this term's contraception decision than the court's three female justices accused their male colleagues of reneging.

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Law
5:21 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Supreme Court Wraps Up Term Issuing 2 Major Decisions

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 2:24 pm

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 has wrapped up its latest term, issuing two important decisions. One is a setback for the Affordable Care Act and a victory for some for-profit companies.

GREENE: The other decision is a major defeat for public employee unions. We'll hear reaction to both decisions in a few minutes. We begin our coverage with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg.

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Law
9:09 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Deals A Blow To Public Employee Unions

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 8:30 am

Public employee unions suffered a major defeat at the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, with worse probably to come soon.

The court's 5-4 decision will in the short run undercut the financing for some public employee unions by allowing people who don't join the union and don't pay any fees to get the same benefits as those who do pay union dues.

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