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
3:03 am
Wed February 27, 2013

Supreme Court Weighs Future Of Voting Rights Act

The Supreme Court on Wednesday weighs the future of a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 8:48 am

Once again, race is front and center at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. And once again, the bull's eye is the 1965 Voting Rights Act, widely viewed as the most effective and successful civil rights legislation in American history. Upheld five times by the court, the law now appears to be on life support.

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Law
5:25 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Supreme Court Makes It Harder To Challenge Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act

U.S. Supreme Court Police officers stand on the steps in front of the court building in November.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 7:48 pm

A sharply divided Supreme Court has made it practically impossible for American citizens to challenge the constitutionality of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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Law
3:23 am
Tue February 26, 2013

Supreme Court Considers If Warrantless DNA Swab Violates Constitution

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a case about the collection of DNA evidence, and whether the Fourth Amendment prohibits police from obtaining DNA samples before conviction without a warrant.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 9:44 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in a case that could throw a monkey wrench into the widespread use of DNA testing — a case that pits modern technology against notions of personal privacy.

Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws that provide for automatic DNA collection from people at the time of their arrest. The question is whether it is unconstitutional to do that without a warrant, for the sole purpose of checking the DNA against a national DNA crime scene database.

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It's All Politics
5:13 am
Sat February 23, 2013

States Take Sides As Court Revisits Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon Johnson and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. discuss the Voting Rights Act in 1965. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments on whether a key part of the law is still needed nearly a half century after its passage.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments next week in a case that tests the constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the law considered the most effective civil rights statute in American history. At issue is whether a key provision of the statute has outlived its usefulness.

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Law
5:24 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Latest Supreme Court Decisions Give Police One Victory, One Loss

A Miami-Dade narcotics detector canine gives a demonstration in 2011. The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that courts should generally consider a drug dog's sniff as reliable if the dog has passed a certified training program that includes controlled performance tests.
Alan Diaz AP

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 7:17 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court handed police one victory and one loss on Tuesday. In one decision, the justices limited the power of police to detain people who are away from their homes when police conduct a search. And in a second case, the justices ruled that drug-sniffing dogs don't have to get every sniff right in order for a search to be valid.

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Law
3:17 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Prisoner's Handwritten Petition Prompts Justices To Weigh Government Immunity

The U.S. Supreme Court
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue February 19, 2013 12:33 pm

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright, the Supreme Court's landmark decision requiring the states to provide lawyers for poor people accused of committing crimes. Clarence Gideon, the defendant in that case, wrote his own petition to the high court in longhand, and Tuesday, the Supreme Court is hearing the case of another defendant who, in the longest of long shots, filed a handwritten petition from prison asking the justices for their help.

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Law
2:39 pm
Fri February 8, 2013

Obama Team To Make Important, If Symbolic, Choice On Gay Marriage

People wait in line to enter the Supreme Court as the term began in October.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Fri February 8, 2013 7:09 pm

The Obama administration faces tricky political and legal questions on the subject of gay marriage. By the end of this month, the federal government is expected to file not just one but two briefs in a pair of same-sex marriage cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

But it is the Proposition 8 case from California that poses the thornier questions for the administration — questions so difficult that the president himself is expected to make the final decision on what arguments the Justice Department will make in the Supreme Court.

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Books
3:51 pm
Wed January 30, 2013

Sotomayor's Memoir Already A Best-Seller

Originally published on Thu January 31, 2013 3:27 pm

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's memoir is riding high, topping the New York Times best-seller list in its first week of sales.

My Beloved World, Sotomayor's account of her path from the tenements of the Bronx to the U.S. Supreme Court, is on track to outdistance even the best-selling books of other justices.

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Inauguration 2013
12:27 am
Sun January 20, 2013

The Presidential Oath: Not Always Perfect, But It Gets The Job Done

Barack Obama takes the oath of office beside his wife Michelle and daughters Sasha, right, and Malia, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Jan. 20, 2009.
Chuck Kennedy AP

Originally published on Sun January 20, 2013 6:20 pm

President Obama takes the oath of office for a second term on Sunday and Monday. By the time he is through Monday, he and President Franklin D. Roosevelt will be the only two presidents to have taken the presidential oath four times — Roosevelt because he was elected four times, and Obama because he will have taken the oath twice the first time and twice the second.

Obama took the oath twice in 2009 because he and Chief Justice John Roberts messed it up a bit the first time and redid it a second time in private to quell any questions about Obama being president.

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Books
5:38 am
Sat January 19, 2013

For Justice Sotomayor, Books Unlocked Imagination

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 7:13 am

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has a new autobiography out about her life and her career in law. Earlier this week, we broadcast portions of her interview with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Today, Nina talks to the justice about the role that books have played in her life.

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Law
5:47 pm
Tue January 15, 2013

Supreme Court: Floating Home Still A Man's Castle

Fane Lozman's floating home is docked at a marina in Riviera Beach, Fla., in this undated photo from court documents.
Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue January 15, 2013 7:54 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a Florida man's floating home was a house, not a boat, and that therefore, the city marina where he kept it docked could not seize the structure under federal maritime law. The case could affect thousands of houseboat owners nationwide.

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The Sotomayor Interview
7:01 am
Sat January 12, 2013

Sotomayor Opens Up About Childhood, Marriage In 'Beloved World'

Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor applauds during a reception in her honor at the White House.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 4:35 pm

Over the course of time, Supreme Court justices have written 225 books. Few reveal much about the justices themselves, but Justice Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography, My Beloved World, is a searingly candid memoir about her life growing up in the tenements of the Bronx, going to Princeton and Yale Law School, becoming a prosecutor and a private corporate lawyer and, at age 38, becoming a federal judge.

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The Sotomayor Interview
7:00 am
Sat January 12, 2013

A Justice Deliberates: Sotomayor On Love, Health And Family

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor spoke with NPR in December at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Mon January 14, 2013 3:27 pm

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor readily concedes that she was the beneficiary of affirmative action in higher education, and she doesn't really know why her view is so different from that of her colleague, Justice Clarence Thomas.

"As much as I know Clarence, admire him and have grown to appreciate him," she says, "I have never ever focused on the negative of things. I always look at the positive. And I know one thing: If affirmative action opened the doors for me at Princeton, once I got in, I did the work. I proved myself worthy. So, I don't look at how the door opened."

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Law
5:21 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Supreme Court Weighs Warrantless Blood Tests In Drunken-Driving Cases

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 7:53 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case testing whether the police must get a warrant before ordering blood to be drawn from an unwilling drunken-driving suspect.

The court has long held that, except in emergency situations, warrants are required when government officials order bodily intrusions like a blood draw. But in Wednesday's case, the state of Missouri and the Obama administration contended that warrants should not be required before administering blood tests to suspected drunken drivers.

The Case

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Law
6:26 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Can Police Force Drunken Driving Suspects To Take Blood Tests?

A photographic screen hangs in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, which is undergoing renovations. On Wednesday, the justices will hear arguments in a case that asks whether police without a warrant can administer a blood test to a suspected drunken driver.
Greg E. Mathieson MAI/Landov

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 1:32 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case testing whether police must get a warrant before forcing a drunken driving suspect to have his blood drawn.

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Remembrances
1:48 pm
Sun October 14, 2012

Arlen Specter, Senator Who Gave No Quarter, Dies

Specter campaigns with President George W. Bush in 2004 at the Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania. Specter spent most of his political career as a moderate Republican. He supported Bush, but later criticized the then-president's warrantless wiretapping program, saying it overstepped civil liberties.
Luke Frazza AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 10:16 am

Former Sen. Arlen Specter, one of the most influential senators of the last half-century, died Sunday from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 82.

The five-term senator, a moderate Republican-turned-Democrat, was a key member of the Judiciary Committee and a major player in the confirmation proceedings of 14 Supreme Court nominees. But he was consistently a thorn for leaders of both political parties and their presidents.

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Law
7:21 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Supreme Court Questions UT's Affirmative Action Plan

Abigail Fisher, the Texan involved in the University of Texas affirmative action case, talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 7:25 pm

Affirmative action in higher education appeared to take a potentially lethal hit on Wednesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments testing the constitutionality of a race-conscious admission program at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Law
3:14 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Justices Return To Affirmative Action In Higher Ed

Students walk through the University of Texas, Austin, campus near the school's iconic tower on Sept. 27.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 6:48 am

The U.S. Supreme Court returns on Wednesday to the emotional issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court will once again hear oral arguments on the issue, this time in a case from the University of Texas.

Over the past 35 years, the court has twice ruled that race may be one of many factors in determining college admissions, as long as there are no racial quotas. Now, just nine years after its last decision, the justices seem poised to outright reverse or cut back on the previous rulings.

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Law
3:29 am
Mon October 1, 2012

High Court Preps For Another Headline-Making Term

The U.S. Supreme Court is embarking on a new term beginning Monday that could be as consequential as the last one, with the prospect of major rulings on affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 9:30 am

It would be hard to beat last June's cataclysmic, cacophonous end of the Supreme Court term and the decision upholding the Obama health care law. But while all the media focus is on the upcoming elections, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to begin yet another headline-making term, with decisions expected on affirmative action in higher education, same-sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act and a lot of privacy issues.

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