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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It's All Politics
4:07 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 5:18 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
3:03 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

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

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 3:46 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
1:49 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 4:53 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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The Two-Way
2:10 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 11:40 am

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
3:00 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 11:52 am

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
2:15 pm
Thu July 24, 2014

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

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 4:22 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
4:10 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Conflicting Obamacare Rulings Set Stage For Supreme Court Face-Off

Originally published on Wed July 23, 2014 5:51 am

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

Law
2:14 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

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

Originally published on Tue July 22, 2014 6:17 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
1:12 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 1:10 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
3:21 am
Tue July 1, 2014

Supreme Court Wraps Up Term Issuing 2 Major Decisions

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 12:24 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
7:09 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Deals A Blow To Public Employee Unions

Originally published on Tue July 1, 2014 6:30 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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Law
3:03 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

High Court Allows Some Companies To Opt Out Of Contraceptives Mandate

Originally published on Mon June 30, 2014 5:07 pm

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a for-profit corporation can refuse to comply with a general government mandate because doing so would violate the corporation's asserted religious beliefs.

By a 5-4 vote, the court struck an important part of President Obama's health care law — the requirement that all insurance plans cover birth control — because it conflicted with a corporation owners' religious beliefs.

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Law
11:32 am
Mon June 30, 2014

Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Hobby Lobby Victory

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Law
3:35 am
Fri June 27, 2014

High Court Strikes Down Abortion Clinic 'Buffer Zone' Law

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 5:59 am

The Supreme Court eased restrictions on protesters at clinics that perform abortions. The court invalidated a Massachusetts law that created a 35 foot buffer outside abortion clinics in the state.

Law
2:20 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Takeaways From Supreme Court Rulings On Buffer Zones, Recess Picks

Originally published on Fri June 27, 2014 11:19 am

The U.S. Supreme Court issued two major rulings on Thursday: one that narrows protections for patients and employees outside abortion clinics, and another that narrows the president's power to fill top government positions temporarily without the Senate's consent.

Both rulings were technically unanimous because all nine justices agreed on the bottom-line outcome, but in fact both were 5-to-4 rulings with fiery disagreements expressed by the minority.

Here are summaries of the two cases and the arguments for and against them.

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Law
12:19 pm
Thu June 26, 2014

Supreme Court Rules On Obama Appointments, Abortion Protests

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Supreme Court has issued rulings in two controversial cases. The court invalidated several appointments President Obama made while the Senate was in recess, or appeared to be, anyway. And the court also limited the power of a state to define buffer zones around abortion clinics. A lot to talk about here, let's dive right in with NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Hi, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi.

INSKEEP: OK, so these decisions appear to be, to you, anyway, compromises - why is that?

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Law
3:08 am
Thu June 26, 2014

Federal Court Rules Against Utah's Ban On Gay Marriage

Originally published on Thu June 26, 2014 12:19 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning from member station WLRN in Miami. I'm David Greene.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep. As soon as next year, the United States Supreme Court could be asked to rule on gay marriage. The court could review a ruling by a federal appeals court. That court struck down Utah's ban on gay marriage. NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

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Law
2:15 pm
Wed June 25, 2014

High Court Ruling On Search Warrants Is Broader Than Cellphones

Originally published on Wed June 25, 2014 7:30 pm

Bold. Landmark. Sweeping. Those were the words experts on all sides used Wednesday to describe the U.S. Supreme Court's unanimous ruling that police must obtain a warrant before searching a cellphone at the time of an arrest.

The decision came in two cases where law enforcement used information obtained from a cellphone without a warrant to win a conviction.

Writing for the unanimous court, Chief Justice John Roberts said that the answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cellphone at the time of an arrest is "simple — get a warrant."

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Law
10:48 am
Wed June 25, 2014

Supreme Court Rules On Aereo, Cellphone Searches

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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Law
2:43 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

EPA Gets A Win From Supreme Court On Global Warming Emissions — Mostly

Originally published on Mon June 23, 2014 6:07 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court gave the Environmental Protection Agency the green light to regulate greenhouse gases that are emitted from new and modified utility plants and factories on Monday.

Greenhouse gases are blamed for global warming, and the court's 7-2 decision gave the EPA most of what it wanted. But in a separate 5-4 vote, the justices rejected the agency's broad assertion of regulatory power under one section of the Clean Air Act.

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Law
2:12 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

From Supreme Court, Firm Support For Employee In Retaliation Case

Originally published on Thu June 19, 2014 6:20 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that public employees cannot be fired in retaliation for testifying truthfully on matters of public corruption or public concern. The unanimous decision came in the case of Edward Lane, who was fired after he testified that an Alabama state legislator was a no-show employee being paid by the taxpayers for no work.

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Law
4:04 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Against Gun 'Straw Purchases'

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 1:59 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a major victory to gun control advocates on Monday. The 5-4 ruling allows strict enforcement of the federal ban on gun "straw purchases," or one person buying a gun for another.

The federal law on background checks requires federally licensed gun dealers to verify the identity of buyers and submit their names to a federal database to weed out felons, those with a history of mental illness and others barred from gun ownership.

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Law
2:29 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

By Slim Margin, Supreme Court Preserves Key Gun Control Law

Originally published on Mon June 16, 2014 4:04 pm

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law may prohibit someone from buying a gun for another person — whether or not the other person is legally allowed to purchase a gun. The narrow decision maintains the status quo on "straw" purchases of guns.

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

The Two-Way
5:57 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Supreme Court: Inherited IRAs Not Protected From Bankruptcy

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 6:19 pm

The Supreme Court has ruled that individual retirement accounts (IRAs) that Americans inherit are not protected in bankruptcy proceedings.

When Heidi Heffron-Clark declared bankruptcy in October 2010, she and her husband claimed the IRA she inherited from her mother — then worth $300,000 — qualified as "retirement funds," meaning the couple could not be required to use it to pay debts they owed creditors.

But an inherited IRA differs in big ways from the type of IRA someone builds over the course of a working lifetime.

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The Salt
4:43 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

POM Wonderful Wins A Round In Food Fight With Coca-Cola

POM sued Coca-Cola, claiming that it was losing sales because the label and advertising for its Minute Maid pomegranate-blueberry drink were misleading consumers into believing they were getting a juice combination consisting mainly of pomegranate and blueberry juices when, in fact, the juice was more than 99 percent apple and grape juices, which are far cheaper.
Courtesy of the Coca-Cola Co.

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 10:47 am

A food fight at the U.S. Supreme Court ended in a unanimous decision on Thursday.

The justices ruled that POM Wonderful can go forward with a lawsuit alleging Coca-Cola Co. tricked consumers and stole business from POM with false and misleading juice labels.

The case centers on a product aimed at health-conscious consumers: pomegranate-blueberry juice.

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Law
4:20 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Against Homeowners In Superfund Case

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a federal law seeking to improve accountability for environmental spills and pollution can be circumvented by certain kinds of state laws.

The federal Superfund law supersedes state statutes of limitations. Instead the federal law dictates that lawsuits alleging environmental injury need only be filed when individuals either first learn or should have learned that they have been harmed. But what the court gave with one hand, it took away with the other, ruling that rare state statutes of another sort can limit lawsuits in a different way.

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Law
2:43 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Supreme Court: At 21, Some Children Must Start Visa Process Over

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 4:42 pm

A fractured U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that when parents wait years to win legal entry into the United States, their children may have to go to the back of the line when they turn 21. The court's decision came on a 5-to-4 vote, with the majority split into two camps.

Under the Immigration Act, citizens and lawful permanent residents may sponsor family members petitions' for visas and green cards. In most cases, those immigrating with a minor child stand in line with their children. But even after approval, the process of getting a visa can take as long as decades.

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Law
2:22 pm
Mon June 2, 2014

Supreme Court: Case Involved Romantic Jealousy, Not Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 5:19 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dodged a major constitutional test of the Constitution's treaty power. Conservative activists had seen the case as a chance to limit the power of the president and Congress to make and enforce treaties. Instead, the case boiled down to, in Chief Justice John Roberts' words, "an act of revenge born of romantic jealousy."

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Law
4:27 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds Law Enforcement's Qualified Immunity

Originally published on Tue May 27, 2014 5:01 pm

In two decisions handed down Tuesday, the Supreme Court made it more difficult for citizens to sue law enforcement officers for their conduct. Both decisions were unanimous.

The central issue in both was the doctrine of "qualified immunity," which shields public officials from being sued for actions that fall short of violating a clearly established statutory or constitutional right.

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Law
2:44 pm
Tue May 27, 2014

A Divided High Court Strikes Down IQ Rules In Fla. Death Penalty

Originally published on Tue June 10, 2014 7:53 am

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 12 years ago that the states could not execute the "mentally retarded." But the court left to the states the definition of what constitutes retardation.

On Tuesday, however, the justices, by a 5-to-4 vote, imposed some limits on those definitions. At issue, in a case from Florida, was how to evaluate IQ tests.

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