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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2:30pm

Tue December 6, 2011
It's All Politics

Judicial Wars Flare As Senate Blocks Obama Nominee

Originally published on Tue December 6, 2011 4:23 pm

Caitlin J. Halligan, then a lawyer for New York State, and attorney David Boies spoke in the Court of Appeals in Albany in 2005. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans blocked Halligan's nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
Jim McKnight AP

Senate Republicans have blocked the nomination of Caitlin Halligan to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. A Senate majority of 54 voted to break the filibuster, but that number falls short of the 60 votes needed under Senate rules.

Although Halligan won bipartisan praise from legal and law enforcement groups, Republicans portrayed her as a left-wing activist for positions she took while representing the state of New York as its chief appellate lawyer.

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10:01pm

Tue November 29, 2011
Law

High Court To Hear HIV-Positive Pilot's Privacy Case

Originally published on Wed November 30, 2011 10:07 am

People wait to enter outside the U.S. Supreme Court in March. The court hears arguments Wednesday in a case testing whether the federal government is liable for damages when it violates the Privacy Act by disclosing that an individual is HIV-positive.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case testing whether the federal government is liable for damages when it violates the Privacy Act by disclosing that an individual is HIV-positive. The government does not dispute that it broke the law, but it asserts that the Privacy Act authorizes damage suits only for violations that cause economic harm, not for emotional harm.

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10:01pm

Thu November 24, 2011
Law

From South Africa, Lessons In 'Soft Vengeance'

South African Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs, seen here in Johannesburg in 2009, resisted the impulse to take revenge on the bomber who cost him his right arm.
Denis Farrell AP

Sometimes in the life of a reporter, you meet a person so extraordinary, so interesting, that you want to share that experience with others. Such is the case with Albie Sachs, whom I met while on vacation in South Africa.

Sachs has led a remarkable life, moving from freedom fighter to founding father.

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3:29pm

Thu November 10, 2011
Politics

Newly Released Testimony Is Vintage Nixon

President Richard Nixon in the Oval Office on Feb. 19, 1970.
National Archives Getty Images

The National Archives has released President Nixon's long-secret grand jury testimony in the Watergate scandal. Nixon gave the testimony, spanning 298 pages, in 1975 after he had been named an unindicted co-conspirator, resigned and been pardoned for criminal abuses of government power.

From the get-go, the testimony is vintage Nixon — manipulative, self-pitying, and as unrevealing as possible.

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1:14pm

Tue November 8, 2011
Law

Justices Weigh Technology And Privacy In GPS Case

The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case about whether GPS monitoring devices like this one may be affixed to suspects' cars without a warrant from a judge.
Yasir Afifi AP

Justices grappled Tuesday with a question that pits the use of modern technology in law enforcement against individual privacy interests. At issue is a case testing whether police must obtain a warrant before putting a GPS tracking device on a car to monitor a suspect's movements.

10:01pm

Mon November 7, 2011
Law

Do Police Need Warrants For GPS Tracking Devices?

Originally published on Tue November 8, 2011 9:52 am

The Supreme Court considers whether GPS monitoring devices like this one may be affixed to suspects' cars without a warrant from a judge.
Yasir Afifi AP

The U.S. Supreme Court, an institution steeped in tradition, steps into the turbulent world of new technology Tuesday. At issue before the court is whether police must get a warrant from a judge before they can attach a GPS tracking device to a car so they can monitor a suspect's every movement for an indefinite period of time.

The case could have enormous implications for privacy rights in the information age.

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1:23pm

Mon November 7, 2011
Law

Can Passports List 'Jerusalem, Israel' As Birthplace?

The United States Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a case that combines the Middle East conflict with the dueling foreign policy roles of Congress and the president. Specifically, the question was whether Congress can force the executive branch to list Israel as the birthplace for United States citizens born in Jerusalem.

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10:01pm

Sun November 6, 2011
Law

Court Weighs President's Power To Recognize Nations

The Supreme Court will consider the question of whether U.S. citizens may list "Jerusalem, Israel" as their birthplace on passports.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

The United States Supreme Court steps into a test of the president's foreign policy powers on Monday. It is a test that combines the Middle East conflict with the dueling roles of Congress and the executive branch, plus an added dash of interest over presidential signing statements. At issue in the case is whether Congress can force the executive branch to list Israel as the birthplace for United States citizens born in Jerusalem.

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3:19am

Tue November 1, 2011
Law

Supreme Court To Weigh Case Of False Testimony

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case that sounds more like a John Grisham novel than a Supreme Court case.

The issue is whether police investigators have total immunity from being sued for giving false testimony before a grand jury. The case has all the elements of a spooky saga, involving power, influence and money — all used to silence the critics of Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, the largest hospital in Albany, Ga.

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3:40pm

Mon October 31, 2011
The Two-Way

Supreme Court Reinstates Conviction Of Grandmother In Shaken Baby Case

Originally published on Mon October 31, 2011 5:05 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again rebuked the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in California. This time, the court, by a 6-to-3 vote, reinstated the conviction of a California grandmother for shaking her baby grandson to death. The court's unsigned opinion, provoked a strong dissent from three of the justices, who accused the court majority of using a "tragic case" to "teach the Ninth Circut a lesson."

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3:31pm

Mon October 31, 2011
Law

Supreme Court Hears Plea Bargain Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in two cases testing whether a lawyer's mishandling of a plea bargain offer should be sufficient reason for a defendant to get a second chance to accept the offer.

Both cases involve defendants who got prison terms much longer than they would have under plea bargains offered by the prosecutor. In one case, the defendant's lawyer never told his client about the offer. In the other, the defense lawyer advised against taking the offer based on a clearly erroneous understanding of state law.

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3:27pm

Mon October 31, 2011
The Two-Way

High Court Lets Stand Ruling Ordering Removal Of Crosses In Utah

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 6:40 am

The United States Supreme Court has let stand a lower court ruling that ordered the removal of 12-foot high crosses placed along highways in Utah to commemorate state troopers killed in the line of duty.

The court acted without comment, but Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a 19-page dissent.

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3:29am

Mon October 31, 2011
Law

High Court Considers When Bad Lawyers Taint A Case

The Supreme Court hears two cases about ineffective lawyers on Monday.

J. Scott Applewhite AP

On television, most criminal cases are tried before a jury. But in reality, more than 90 percent of all criminal cases in the United States never get to trial; they are resolved with a plea bargain. For the state, these bargains save money and resources, and they often include agreements that the defendant will help prosecutors make other cases. But plea bargains have also been criticized as a boon for real criminals who have information to bargain with, while little guys, with nothing to trade, can get mauled by the system.

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4:18pm

Wed October 12, 2011
Law

Supreme Court Weighs Legality Of Strip Searches

The United States Supreme Court wrestled on Wednesday with a case testing whether some 700,000 people arrested each year on minor charges can be subject to automatic strip searches when taken to jail. Specifically, the issue the justices grappled with was whether jail authorities need some reasonable suspicion to conduct that kind of a search.

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10:01pm

Tue October 11, 2011
Law

Should Minor Offenders Be Subject To Strip Searches?

Originally published on Wed October 12, 2011 3:14 pm

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court hears arguments for a case testing whether prison guards may constitutionally strip search even minor traffic offenders when they are arrested and taken to jail.

iStockphoto.com

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case testing whether prison guards may constitutionally strip-search even minor traffic offenders when they are arrested and taken to jail.

For decades, most courts did not allow such blanket strip searches, but in recent years, the pendulum has swung the other way.

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10:01pm

Mon October 10, 2011
Law

Thomas Confirmation Hearings Had Ripple Effect

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:20 am

Clarence Thomas took his oath of office on Oct. 23, 1991.

J. David Ake AFP/Getty Images

Twenty years ago Tuesday, the nation was spellbound by a political and sexual drama that played out before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Following an NPR report, the committee was forced to hold a second round of confirmation hearings to examine allegations it had previously ignored about Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

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10:01pm

Tue October 4, 2011
Law

Do Civil Rights Laws Apply To Parochial Schools?

Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

The United States Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a major case testing the rights of teachers in religious schools. At rock bottom, the issue is who is a minister and when, if ever, that individual is exempt from the nation's civil rights laws.

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10:01pm

Mon October 3, 2011
Author Interviews

Stevens Chronicles 'Five Chiefs' Of The Supreme Court

John Paul Stevens, shown in 2003, served on the Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010.

Mark Wilson Getty Images

Supreme Court justices don't usually tell tales out of school, and retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens pretty much adheres to that tradition in his new book, Five Chiefs. But in an interview, the 91-year-old justice showed a little leg, as it were, when asked about recent controversies over Supreme Court ethics.

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10:01pm

Sun October 2, 2011
Law

In New Term, Supreme Court To Tackle Divisive Issues

Originally published on Tue October 4, 2011 5:19 am

Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

If the U.S. Supreme Court term opening Monday were a Broadway show, all eyes would be on the stars waiting in the wings.

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3:40pm

Fri September 2, 2011
The Two-Way

Federal Judge Rules Roger Clemens Will Face New Trial

Originally published on Fri September 2, 2011 3:54 pm

One-time baseball pitching star Roger Clemens is not off the hook.

A federal judge ruled Friday that Clemens must stand trial a second time for allegedly lying to a Congressional committee about steroid use. In July, Judge Reggie Walton declared a mistrial due to prosecutorial misconduct.

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