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.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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."

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.

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

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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.

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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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?

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 — get a warrant."

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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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.

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.

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.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law may prohibit someone from buying a gun for another person — 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/.

A food fight at the U.S. Supreme Court ended in a unanimous decision on Thursday.

The justices ruled that POM Wonderful can go forward with a lawsuit alleging Coca-Cola Co. tricked consumers and stole business from POM with false and misleading juice labels.

The case centers on a product aimed at health-conscious consumers: pomegranate-blueberry juice.

Supreme Court Rules Against Homeowners In Superfund Case

Jun 9, 2014

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that a federal law seeking to improve accountability for environmental spills and pollution can be circumvented by certain kinds of state laws.

The federal Superfund law supersedes state statutes of limitations. Instead the federal law dictates that lawsuits alleging environmental injury need only be filed when individuals either first learn or should have learned that they have been harmed. But what the court gave with one hand, it took away with the other, ruling that rare state statutes of another sort can limit lawsuits in a different way.

A fractured U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that when parents wait years to win legal entry into the United States, their children may have to go to the back of the line when they turn 21. The court's decision came on a 5-to-4 vote, with the majority split into two camps.

Under the Immigration Act, citizens and lawful permanent residents may sponsor family members petitions' for visas and green cards. In most cases, those immigrating with a minor child stand in line with their children. But even after approval, the process of getting a visa can take as long as decades.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday dodged a major constitutional test of the Constitution's treaty power. Conservative activists had seen the case as a chance to limit the power of the president and Congress to make and enforce treaties. Instead, the case boiled down to, in Chief Justice John Roberts' words, "an act of revenge born of romantic jealousy."

Supreme Court Upholds Law Enforcement's Qualified Immunity

May 27, 2014

In two decisions handed down Tuesday, the Supreme Court made it more difficult for citizens to sue law enforcement officers for their conduct. Both decisions were unanimous.

The central issue in both was the doctrine of "qualified immunity," which shields public officials from being sued for actions that fall short of violating a clearly established statutory or constitutional right.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 12 years ago that the states could not execute the "mentally retarded." But the court left to the states the definition of what constitutes retardation.

On Tuesday, however, the justices, by a 5-to-4 vote, imposed some limits on those definitions. At issue, in a case from Florida, was how to evaluate IQ tests.

A federal judge in Pennsylvania has struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage as unconstitutional. The ruling is the latest in a growing cascade of federal and state court decisions declaring a right to marry for gay couples.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court last year struck down a federal law barring recognition of same-sex marriage, federal and state courts have been rife with challenges to state bans. On Tuesday, Judge John Jones III in Pennsylvania became the latest federal judge to strike down such a ban.

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a TKO to MGM Monday, giving the daughter of a deceased screenwriter a chance to prove in court that the critically acclaimed movie Raging Bull infringed the copyright of a screenplay written by her father.

At the center of the dispute is the iconic 1980 movie Raging Bull, directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert De Niro, who played the role of champion boxer Jake LaMotta.

All of us who write for a living know what it's like to completely forget something you wrote 13 years ago.

But when a Supreme Court justice pointedly cites the facts in a decision he wrote, and gets them exactly wrong, it is more than embarrassing. It makes for headlines among the legal cognoscenti.

I'm not sure I rank as one of the cognoscenti, but here's my headline for Justice Antonin Scalia's booboo: "Nino's No-No."

In a case that reaches into almost every American's pocket or purse, the U.S. Supreme Court struggled Tuesday to adapt modern technology to traditional legal rules. At issue was whether police can search cellphones without obtaining a warrant at the time of an arrest.

The courts have long allowed police to search people without a warrant when making an arrest. But those searches have been limited by the amount of information individuals could carry on their persons.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in two cases testing whether police can search cellphones without a warrant at the time of an arrest, be it for a traffic violation or for a felony.

The Supreme Court has interpreted the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches to require that police obtain a search warrant from a neutral judge upon a showing that there is probable cause to believe a crime has been committed. The warrant is to specify where the search will be conducted and the evidence being sought.

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