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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3:02am

Wed January 15, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Considers Legality Of Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 10:28 am

Eleanor McCullen, lead plaintiff in the case before the Supreme Court, outside the Planned Parenthood clinic in Boston.
Nick Fountain NPR

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case testing the constitutionality of buffer zones at abortion clinics.

Fourteen years ago, the court upheld Colorado's 8-foot "floating" buffer zones around individuals to protect patients and staff entering and exiting these clinics. Since then, buffer zones have prevented demonstrators from closely approaching patients and staff without permission.

But the issue is back before a different and more conservative Supreme Court.

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5:26pm

Mon January 13, 2014
Law

U.S. High Court Hears Arguments On Recess Appointments

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 8:53 pm

Supreme Court justices across the ideological spectrum voiced skepticism on Monday about the way President Obama and other presidents have made temporary recess appointments to fill executive branch vacancies.

Article II of the Constitution says: "The President shall have the power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate," and that these appointees shall serve until the end of the following year, or longer if they are confirmed.

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3:08am

Mon January 13, 2014
Politics

Balance Of Power At Stake In High Court Case

Originally published on Mon January 13, 2014 12:18 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a big constitutional fight over the balance of power between the president and the Senate. President Obama has said he supports the move by Senate Democrats to make it harder for Republicans to block his nominees.
Evan Vucci AP

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a big constitutional fight over the balance of power between the president and the Senate.

At issue is whether the president's power to make temporary appointments during the Senate recess can be curtailed by the use of pro forma Senate sessions during which no business is conducted.

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3:18am

Tue December 3, 2013
Law

A Supreme Court Fight For The Rights Of (Frequent) Fliers

Originally published on Tue December 3, 2013 6:02 pm

Rabbi S. Binyomin Ginsberg sued Northwest Airlines for what he says was unfair termination from its frequent-flier program. His case goes goes before the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Paul Sancya AP

Do airline frequent fliers have any legal rights when they get into disputes over their club memberships?

That's the question before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, when the justices examine whether, and under what circumstances, frequent fliers can sue in these disputes.

Frequent-flier programs — famous for their free trips, upgrades and goodies — are also infamous for what some members view as arbitrary airline behavior.

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5:56pm

Tue November 26, 2013
Law

Supreme Court Takes Challenge To Obamacare Contraceptive Rule

Originally published on Tue November 26, 2013 6:55 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take another case involving the Affordable Care Act, this time a challenge to the provision that for-profit companies that provide health insurance must include contraceptive coverage in their plans offered to employees.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

President Obama's Affordable Care Act will be back before the Supreme Court this spring. This time, the issue is whether for-profit corporations citing religious objections may refuse to provide contraceptive services in health insurance plans offered to employees.

In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers who offer health care services to provide a range of preventive care, including no-copay contraceptive services. Religious nonprofits were exempted from this requirement, but not for-profit corporations.

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3:01am

Wed November 6, 2013
Law

Supreme Court Case Puts Public Prayer Back In The Spotlight

Originally published on Wed November 6, 2013 10:00 am

The Supreme Court invokes "God" before every public session. Now the justices will weigh whether it is different, as a legal matter, for government meetings to include more explicitly sectarian prayers.
Evan Vucci AP

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case questioning the use of prayer at government meetings. But first, the marshal will ask "God" to "save the United States and this honorable court."

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5:59pm

Tue November 5, 2013
Law

Love Triangle Case Puts Chemical Weapons Treaty To The Test

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 6:43 pm

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the subject for debate was the reach of the Constitution's treaty power. But the justices' questions covered subjects from sarin gas to Halloween trick-or-treating. And the facts of the case sounded more like a soap opera.

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2:57am

Tue November 5, 2013
Law

A Toxic Love Triangle Heads To The Supreme Court

Originally published on Tue November 5, 2013 12:01 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments in a case that challenges the court's most famous treaty decision, written in 1920 by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday hears about a love triangle, complete with attempted poisonings and 24-hour surveillance by postal inspectors. Although it sounds like an episode of Law & Order (with a dash of Days of Our Lives), the case has global implications.

In 2005, Carol Anne Bond was a 34-year-old Philadelphia suburbanite living with her husband of 14 years. But when she found out that her best friend was pregnant and that her own husband was the father, she became enraged and began threatening her friend, by phone and in writing.

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6:03am

Wed October 16, 2013
The Two-Way

Justices To Hear Cases On Self-Incrimination, Freezing Assets

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 9:14 am

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases on Wednesday: Kansas v. Cheever and Kaley v. United States.
Mandel Ngan AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in two cases on Wednesday — one that focuses on the right against self-incrimination and another that looks at when prosecutors can seize defendants' assets.

What Counts As Self-Incrimination?

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2:48am

Tue October 15, 2013
Law

Supreme Court Returns To Affirmative Action In Michigan Case

Originally published on Mon October 28, 2013 10:12 am

People wait in line for the beginning of the Supreme Court's new term on Oct. 7.
Evan Vucci AP

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue of affirmative action again Tuesday, but this time the question is not whether race may be considered as a factor in college admissions. Instead, this case tests whether voters can ban affirmative action programs through a referendum.

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