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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The Two-Way
4:32 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Court Rejects Challenge To Obamacare Rules On Contraceptives

Originally published on Sat November 15, 2014 9:49 am

A federal appeals court in Washington has rejected a challenge to Obamacare regulations that allow religious nonprofits to opt out of providing birth control coverage.

The Catholic Archbishop of Washington and nonprofits affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church challenged the regulations, contending they do not go far enough.

The regulations at issue were adopted by the Obama administration to accommodate religious nonprofits that object to including birth control in their health insurance plans.

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Law
11:03 pm
Tue November 11, 2014

Supreme Court Case Seeks Source Of Alabama Gerrymandering

The question before the Supreme Court Wednesday is: Did Alabama's Republican-dominated Legislature rely predominantly on race or on partisanship when it was redrawing its districts?
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Wed November 12, 2014 8:10 am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday takes up the thorny question of what kind of gerrymandering is acceptable, and what kind is not. The court is being asked to decide whether a 2010 state legislative redistricting in Alabama overloaded some districts with black Democrats on the basis of race or party.

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Law
3:54 pm
Fri November 7, 2014

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear New Health Law Challenge

A counselor for the health care law speaks with taxi driver David Bilewu, a 39-year-old Nigerian immigrant in Chicago. Illinois set up its exchange through a federal partnership.
M. Spencer Green AP

Originally published on Fri November 7, 2014 7:11 pm

In a rare and unexpected move, the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a new challenge to the Obama health care overhaul, dealing the White House yet another blow this week. Health care experts say an adverse ruling would be catastrophic for the health insurance program that the president has fought to enact and preserve.

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Law
4:44 pm
Thu November 6, 2014

Federal Appeals Court Upholds State Gay Marriage Bans

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 5:33 pm

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Law
6:10 am
Thu November 6, 2014

How Does Destroying Fish Compare To Shredding Documents, Legally?

Originally published on Thu November 6, 2014 1:50 pm

Fish and crime were the subjects of the day at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. The case involved a commercial fisherman convicted of obstructing justice by deep-sixing a crate of undersized fish to avoid a federal fine.

The reaction from the justices? They seemed to think the law used in the prosecution stinks from the head.

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Law
2:34 am
Wed November 5, 2014

The Supreme Court Takes Up The Case Of The Missing Fish

Robel Phillipos, center, departs federal court Oct. 28 in Boston with defense attorney Derege Demissie, right, after he was convicted on two counts of lying about being in the dorm room of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days after the bombing in 2013, while two other friends removed a backpack containing fireworks and other potential evidence.
Stephan Savoia AP

Originally published on Wed November 5, 2014 11:18 am

Usually when a fisherman tells a fish story, he makes the fish as big as he can carry. But on Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears a case about a fisherman convicted of deep-sixing some fish altogether so no one could accurately check their size.

The question before the justices is whether his conviction, based on a law passed after a scandal that destroyed energy firm Enron and resulted in criminal convictions for accounting firm Arthur Andersen, should get the hook.

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Law
5:05 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Supreme Court Case Tests Status Of Jerusalem

Menachem Zivotofsky and his father, Ari Zivotofsky, gather to speak to media outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday. The court is taking its second look at a dispute over the wording of U.S. passports for Americans born in Jerusalem, a case with potential foreign policy implications.
Carolyn Kaster AP

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 5:23 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a case testing whether American citizens born in Jerusalem can list Israel as their place of birth on their passports. It might sound like an academic question, but the status of Jerusalem is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.

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Law
2:21 am
Mon November 3, 2014

Supreme Court To Consider Case On Passports Of Jerusalem-Born Citizens

Ari Zivotofsky (center) walks with then 9-year-old son Menachem, outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Nov. 7, 2011. Their case, regarding the desire to have their son's U.S. passport list his place of birth as Israel, returns to the Supreme Court this Monday.
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 7:00 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday for a second time in a case that combines Middle East policy with the dueling foreign policy roles of the president and Congress. It's a political hot potato that asks what U.S. passports should say about the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem.

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Music News
5:26 am
Thu October 30, 2014

A Violin Concerto Back From Beyond The Grave

Robert Schumann wrote his Violin Concerto in 1853.
Josef Kriehuber Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Thu October 30, 2014 1:40 pm

Classical music meets Halloween and the paranormal Thursday night when the National Symphony Orchestra plays the Schumann Violin Concerto, a work buried for nearly a century and recovered — or so the story goes — by a message from the beyond.

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NPR Story
11:53 pm
Tue October 28, 2014

Can Authorities Cut Off Utilities And Pose As Repairmen To Search A Home?

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 7:50 am

Some legal cases do more than raise eyebrows — they push the legal envelope to change the law. Such is a federal case in Las Vegas now working its way through the courts. The question is whether federal agents can disrupt service to a house and then, masquerading as helpful technicians, gain entry to covertly search the premises in hopes of finding evidence that might later justify a search warrant.

The defendants in this case are not your everyday Americans. They are, in fact, Chinese gamblers who were staying in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace earlier this year.

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It's All Politics
5:45 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Justice Ginsburg Revises Texas Voter ID Dissent, Then Announces It

In her revised dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg clarified that photo ID cards issued by the Veterans' Affairs are "an acceptable form of photo identification for voting in Texas."
Cliff Owen AP

Once again the U.S. Supreme Court is correcting its own record, but Wednesday marks the first time that the court has called attention to its own mistake with a public announcement. And it was the erring justice herself, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who asked the court's public information office to announce the error.

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Law
8:43 pm
Tue October 14, 2014

Supreme Court Hears Arguments In Teeth Whitening Case

Originally published on Tue October 14, 2014 6:43 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case with potential repercussions for thousands of state licensing boards. The subject was teeth whitening. Yes, you read that right. Teeth whitening. Specifically, whether a state regulatory board composed mainly of private dentists violated the nation's antitrust laws when it barred nondentists from offering teeth-whitening services at a lower price.

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It's All Politics
5:48 pm
Tue October 7, 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 5:32 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
3:20 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 1:24 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
4:06 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 10:07 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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