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.

Pages

News
4:16 pm
Wed April 2, 2014

Supreme Court Strikes Down Pillar Of Campaign Finance Limits

The Supreme Court
Evan Vucci AP

Originally published on Wed April 2, 2014 10:16 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again erased from the books a major provision of the nation's campaign finance law. By a 5-to-4 vote, the justices removed the cap on the total amount of money that donors can contribute to candidates and parties in each election. Prior to Wednesday's ruling, the aggregate limit was $123,000. Now there is no limit.

Read more
U.S.
4:56 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Protesters Want To Sue Secret Service: Do They Have The Right?

A 2004 case involving the Secret Service made its way to the Supreme Court Wednesday. Demonstrators want to sue for being moved away from then-President George W. Bush.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 8:24 pm

On a day when three of President Obama's Secret Service agents were put on leave for "disciplinary reasons," the agency came under scrutiny in the U.S. Supreme Court for a separate incident.

The court heard arguments in a case testing whether Secret Service agents can be sued for moving a group of protesters out of earshot of President George W. Bush in 2004.

Read more
News
4:16 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Justices Divide By Gender In Hobby Lobby Contraception Case

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 9:12 pm

There was a clear difference of opinion between male and female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The issue was whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to include contraception coverage in the basic health plan now mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

The female justices were clearly supportive of the contraception mandate, while a majority of the male justices were more skeptical.

Read more
Health Care
3:18 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Case Goes Before Supreme Court

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green says the company should not have to provide insurance coverage for IUDs and morning-after pills for its 13,000 employees.
Tony Gutierrez AP

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 10:23 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in the latest challenge to the Obama health care overhaul.

This time the issue is whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to provide some, or potentially all, contraceptive services in health plans offered to employees. It is a case that touches lots of hot-button issues.

In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers to provide basic preventive care for employees. That turned out to include all 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Read more
The Two-Way
5:43 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Lawrence Walsh: His Judgment Came Not From Confidence But From Insecurity

Lawrence Walsh in 1988.
Bob Daugherty AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 7:36 am

In 2003 the American Bar Association published Lawrence Walsh's autobiography, The Gift of Insecurity; A Lawyer's Life. Walsh died Wednesday at age 102. The following is the foreword NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg wrote for the book.

Read more
The Two-Way
5:43 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Lawrence Walsh, Who Investigated Iran-Contra Scandal, Dies At 102

Iran-Contra special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh speaks to reporters in 1989.
Rick Bowmer AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 6:20 pm

Lawrence Walsh, the special prosecutor who investigated charges of wrongdoing and criminality by top Reagan administration officials in the Iran-Contra scandal, has died.

He was 102.

Read more
Law
4:52 pm
Tue March 4, 2014

High Court Extends Whistleblower Protections

Originally published on Wed March 5, 2014 8:33 am

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a federal whistleblower law, enacted after the collapse of Enron Corporation, protects not just the employees of a public company, but also company contractors like lawyers, accountants, and investment funds.

Writing for the six-justice majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that in enacting the Sarbanes-Oxley law in 2002, Congress provided protection from retaliation for employees and contractors alike to ensure that they would not be intimidated into silence when they knew of corporate wrongdoing.

Read more
Law
3:35 am
Mon March 3, 2014

With Death Penalty, How Should States Define Mental Disability?

Originally published on Mon March 3, 2014 11:11 am

Twelve years after banning the execution of the "mentally retarded," the U.S. Supreme Court is examining the question of who qualifies as having mental retardation, for purposes of capital cases, and who does not.

In 2002, the high court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing "mentally retarded" people is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. But the justices left it to the states to define mental retardation.

Now the court is focusing on what limits, if any, there are to those definitions.

Read more
Law
2:21 pm
Wed February 26, 2014

Supreme Court Allows Stanford Ponzi Scheme Suits To Go Forward

Texas tycoon R. Allen Stanford, who conned investors in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, arrives in custody at the federal courthouse for an Aug. 2010 hearing in Houston.
David J. Phillip AP

Originally published on Wed February 26, 2014 3:16 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that investor lawsuits may go forward against investment advisors and others for allegedly helping Texas tycoon Allen Stanford in a massive fraud.

Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison for bilking investors in a $7 billion Ponzi scheme. The investors who lost money are suing others involved in the scheme, contending that they also engaged in misleading conduct.

Read more
Law
4:18 pm
Tue February 25, 2014

Supreme Court Opens Door To Easier Police Searches

Originally published on Tue February 25, 2014 9:15 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police may search a home without a warrant if one person who lives there consents, even if another occupant has previously objected. The 6-3 decision would seem to seriously undercut a 2006 high court ruling that barred warrantless searches of a home where the occupants disagreed on giving consent.

Read more
The Salt
6:14 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

Justice Scalia And Jon Stewart Concur Chicago Pizza Isn't Pizza

Comedy Central's Jon Stewart has called Chicago-style pizza "tomato soup in a bread bowl."
iStockphoto

Justice Antonin Scalia and Jon Stewart, host of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart on Comedy Central, are, gasp, in agreement!

Both have rendered scorching opinions on a major national controversy — pizza. Specifically, Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza.

Read more
Law
3:18 am
Tue January 21, 2014

A Union For Home Health Aides Brings New Questions To Supreme Court

One of the questions before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Tue January 21, 2014 12:40 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in an Illinois case that could drive a stake through the heart of public employee unions.

At issue are two questions: whether states may recognize a union to represent health care workers who care for disabled adults in their homes instead of in state institutions; and whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from.

To understand why a growing number of states actually want to recognize unions to represent home health care workers, listen to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan:

Read more
The Two-Way
6:04 pm
Fri January 17, 2014

Supreme Court To Decide If Warrant Needed To Search Cellphone

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide if police can seize and look through a suspect's cellphone without getting a warrant. This photo shows women in Los Angeles using smartphones on Jan. 7.
Frederic J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 17, 2014 6:26 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court is delving into the technology-versus-privacy debate, agreeing to hear two cases that test whether police making an arrest may search cellphones without a warrant.

The court's announcement Friday that it would take the cases came just hours after President Obama outlined his proposals to address government retention of citizen phone data as part of his speech outlining reforms at the National Security Agency.

Read more
Law
5:31 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Justices Appear Divided On Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

Pro-life demonstrators stand outside the U.S. Supreme Court following oral arguments in the case dealing with a Massachusetts law imposing a 35-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics for demonstrations and protests.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 7:44 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Wednesday in a case testing laws that establish buffer zones to protect patients and staff going into abortion clinics. In 2000, the court upheld 8-foot buffer zones that move with individuals as they walk into clinics. But now the issue is back before a more conservative court, and the conservative chief justice appears to hold the outcome in his hands.

Read more
Law
3:02 am
Wed January 15, 2014

Supreme Court Considers Legality Of Abortion Clinic Buffer Zones

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

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

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.

Read more

Pages