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 β€” anchored by Totenberg β€” 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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4:48pm

Thu September 4, 2014
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 5:18 pm

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

The U.S. Court of Appeals covering much of the Midwest has become the third federal appeals court to strike down gay-marriage bans β€” 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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3:46pm

Wed September 3, 2014
It's All Politics

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

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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1:49pm

Tue August 26, 2014
The Two-Way

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Returns To Surgery Following Crash

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 4:53 pm

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

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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2:10pm

Wed August 20, 2014
The Two-Way

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

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 11:40 am

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

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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2:15pm

Thu July 24, 2014
Law

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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4:10am

Wed July 23, 2014
Health Care

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/.

2:14pm

Tue July 22, 2014
Law

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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1:12pm

Sun July 6, 2014
Law

Rare Unanimity In Supreme Court Term, With Plenty Of Fireworks

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 1:10 pm

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

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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2:53pm

Mon June 30, 2014
Law

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 β€” the requirement that all insurance plans cover birth control β€” because it conflicted with a corporation owners' religious beliefs.

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11:32am

Mon June 30, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Ruling Affirms Hobby Lobby Victory

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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3:35am

Fri June 27, 2014
Law

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.

2:44pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Law

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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12:19pm

Thu June 26, 2014
Law

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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2:15pm

Wed June 25, 2014
Law

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 β€” get a warrant."

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10:48am

Wed June 25, 2014
Law

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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2:07pm

Mon June 23, 2014
Law

EPA Gets A Win From Supreme Court On Global Warming Emissions β€” 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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2:12pm

Thu June 19, 2014
Law

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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4:17pm

Mon June 16, 2014
Law

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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2:29pm

Mon June 16, 2014
Law

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 β€” 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/.

5:57pm

Thu June 12, 2014
The Two-Way

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 β€” then worth $300,000 β€” 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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