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."

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
Mon February 9, 2015

Supreme Court Won't Stop Gay Marriages In Alabama

The Rev. Charles Perry of Unity Church, in Birmingham, Ala., marries Curtis Stephens, center, and his partner of 30 years, Pat Helms, Monday at the Jefferson County Courthouse. Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the marriages in the state.
Hal Yeager AP

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 6:59 am

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to step in and stop gay marriages from taking place in Alabama. The move sent the strongest signal to date that the justices are on the verge of legalizing gay marriage nationwide. Within hours of the high-court ruling, same-sex marriages began taking place in Alabama, despite an eleventh-hour show of defiance by the state's chief justice.

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The Two-Way
5:23 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Supreme Court Agrees To Rule On Constitutionality Of Execution Drug Cocktail

Bottles of the sedative midazolam, which is at issue in the Oklahoma death row prisoners' lawsuit. The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the drug is effective at preventing unconstitutional suffering.
AP

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to review Oklahoma's method of execution by lethal injection. The justices agreed to hear the Oklahoma case a week after refusing to halt another execution that used the same drug formula.

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The Two-Way
5:48 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Shouts Of Protest At Supreme Court On 'Citizens United' Anniversary

A demonstrator rallies outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against the Supreme Court's decision in favor of Citizens United five years ago. Eight protesters at the Supreme Court were arrested and charged.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 3:26 am

Overturned chairs and shouts of protest briefly shattered the formality and calm of the U.S. Supreme Court this morning.

The session had just begun when protesters in the back of the chamber began yelling things like, "One person, one vote," "We are the 99 percent," "Money is not speech," and "Overturn Citizens United." This last was a reference to the Court's 2010 decision, issued on this day five years ago. That decision struck down limits on corporate and union campaign spending, uncorking a flood of campaign cash.

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Law
3:28 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Supreme Court Examines Gray Area In Judicial Campaigning

Thirty-nine states elect some or all of their judges, and 30 of them bar personal solicitations in order to preserve judicial impartiality.
Keith Srakocic AP

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 10:25 am

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that tests whether states may ban judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

For most of the last decade, the Supreme Court's conservative majority has systematically dismantled federal and state campaign finance laws enacted to limit corruption and the appearance of corruption in the legislative and executive branches of government. Tuesday's case is the first challenge targeted specifically at the judicial branch.

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The Two-Way
2:30 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Supreme Court Rules For Muslim Inmate In Prison Beard Case

This undated photo provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows prison inmate Gregory Holt.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 12:22 pm

In a closely watched religious rights case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that an Arkansas prisoner must be allowed to grow a half-inch beard in accordance with his religion.

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Law
12:03 am
Tue January 20, 2015

Should Judicial Candidates Be Allowed To Solicit Campaign Money?

Judge Adrian Adams is helped with his robe by his daughters during a robing ceremony Friday in Gretna, La. Adams won a race for 24th Judicial District Court in November behind a campaign that raised a modest $22,350, including several four-figure donations from attorneys and law firms. Louisiana law, like Florida law, bars judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.
Brett Duke The Times-Picayune/Landov

Originally published on Tue January 20, 2015 7:56 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case testing whether states, in the name of preserving judicial impartiality, may bar judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

There was a time when judicial elections were a pretty tame affair, with relatively little money spent, and candidates in most states limited in how they could campaign. Not anymore.

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Law
3:32 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Supreme Court To Decide Whether States Can Ban Same-Sex Marriage

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 5:32 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Two-Way
11:55 am
Tue January 13, 2015

Rough Morning Commute? Justice Scalia Was Right There With You

The morning after an incident shut down a major subway line in Washington, D.C., traffic snafus made lots of drivers late, including Justice Antonin Scalia, pictured in 2013.
Josh Reynolds AP

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 12:40 pm

A Washington, D.C., suburbanite had trouble getting to work Tuesday, leaving a key task to the boss.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, two unanimous opinions, both written by Justice Antonin Scalia, were handed down, but Scalia was missing in action. Chief Justice John Roberts summarized the opinions from the bench because Scalia was ... stuck in traffic.

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Law
3:18 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

In Battle Over Church Signs, Is Ariz. Town Being 'A Little Unreasonable'?

Political signs in Gilbert, Ariz. are permitted to be larger and stay up longer than "directional" signs like those pointing residents to local church services.
Bruce Ellefson ADF

Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 5:21 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday wrestled with what the constitutional rules should be for local governments seeking to limit sign clutter on public property.

Sign regulation is a thorn in the side of local governments. Too little regulation and they get sued for traffic safety problems, sign clutter, and degraded property values. Too much regulation and they get sued for First Amendment violations. So like Goldilocks, local governments, work hard to get it "just right."

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Law
2:26 am
Mon January 12, 2015

Supreme Court Sees The Signs — But Can They Stay?

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case that looks at how municipal governments may regulate where and when signs are posted.
Rick Bowmer AP

Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 12:00 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case of enormous importance to the nation's sign-lovers and to cities and towns all over the country.

The case pits a small religious group against the suburban town of Gilbert, Ariz. At issue is how municipal governments may regulate where and when signs are posted.

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Law
2:16 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds North Carolina Traffic Stop

In 2009, Nicholas Heien and a friend were traveling down a North Carolina highway when they were pulled over for having a broken tail light. A subsequent search of the car found a plastic bag containing cocaine.
iStockPhoto

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 4:20 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that police officers don't necessarily violate a person's constitutional rights when they stop a car based on a mistaken understanding of the law. The ruling prompted a lone dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who warned that the court's decision could exacerbate public suspicion of police in some communities.

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Law
3:16 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Employers Are Not Required To Pay For Security Time

The court's ruling came Tuesday in a case involving Amazon warehouses and a temp agency, Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. Hourly workers were required to wait in line for an average of 25 minutes after they clocked out.
Ross Franklin AP

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 4:03 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that companies do not have to pay workers for time spent in anti-theft security screening at the end of a shift.

The decision is a major victory for retail enterprises and manufacturing businesses that could have been on the hook for billions of dollars in back pay for time spent in security screenings.

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Law
5:00 pm
Wed December 3, 2014

Pregnancy Discrimination Act In The Spotlight At Supreme Court

Supporters of Peggy Young attend a rally outside the Supreme Court Wednesday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Thu December 4, 2014 9:34 am

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court tussled over the meaning of the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act Wednesday. The issue is whether the law allows companies to suspend pregnant workers, while allowing other workers with temporary disabilities to remain on the job.

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Law
3:20 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Did UPS Discriminate Against A Pregnant Worker By Letting Her Go?

When Peggy Young, a UPS truck driver, told the company she was pregnant, she lost her job. The Supreme Court will hear her case Wednesday, putting pregnancy discrimination in the national spotlight.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 1:00 pm

Women's reproductive rights are once again before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. Only this time, pregnancy discrimination is the issue and pro-life and pro-choice groups are on the same side, opposed by business groups.

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Law
3:01 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Is A Threat Posted On Facebook Really A Threat?

At his trial, Elonis argued that he was only exercising his First Amendment free speech rights, which he also says he wrote on his Facebook page.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 7:17 am

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of increasing importance in the age of social media and the Internet: What constitutes a threat on Facebook?

Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, and an FBI agent. After his wife left him, taking the couple's two children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page.

There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,

And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess,

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