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

Law
5:00 pm
Mon November 26, 2012

Who's A Supervisor When It Comes To Harassment?

The U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 8:31 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that asks the justices to define who is a "supervisor" when the issue is harassment in the workplace. The definition is important because employers are automatically liable for damages in most cases in which a supervisor harasses a subordinate.

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The Two-Way
5:16 am
Mon November 26, 2012

Supreme Court To Look At Who Is A 'Supervisor' In Harassment Cases

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 9:44 am

The U.S. Supreme Court this week takes up the question of who qualifies as a supervisor when the issue is harassment in the workplace. The court's answer to that question could significantly restrict employer liability in racial and sexual harassment cases, or, in the view of some business organizations, it could result in frivolous litigation.

The facts of the particular case before the court Monday are, to say the least, in dispute.

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Law
5:54 pm
Wed October 31, 2012

Drug-Sniffing Dogs Take Center Stage At High Court

Miami-Dade Detective Douglas Bartelt and narcotics detector canine Franky give a demonstration in Miami in 2011.
Alan Diaz AP

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 6:53 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases Wednesday testing what, if any, limits there are to the police using drug-sniffing dogs. By the close of two hours of argument, it looked very much as though the court would rule against the use of drug-sniffing dogs without a warrant in one case, but not the other.

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Law
4:25 am
Wed October 31, 2012

Can Drug-Sniffing Dog Prompt Home Search?

Miami-Dade narcotics detector canine Franky, who came out of retirement to give a demonstration, sniffs marijuana in Miami in 2011. Franky's supersensitive nose is at the heart of a question being put to the U.S. Supreme Court: Does a police K-9's sniff outside a house give officers the right to get a search warrant for illegal drugs?
Alan Diaz AP

Originally published on Wed October 31, 2012 8:52 am

You can already hear all the likely jokes at the Supreme Court, about the justices going to the dogs. But the issue being argued Wednesday is deadly serious: whether police can take a trained drug-detection dog up to a house to smell for drugs inside, and if the dog alerts, use that to justify a search of the home.

In the case before the court, the four-legged cop was named Franky, and as a result of his nose, his human police partner charged Joelis Jardines with trafficking in more than 25 pounds of marijuana.

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Law
4:24 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Despite Hurricane, Justices Hear Surveillance Case

Originally published on Mon October 29, 2012 6:22 pm

The rest of the government may have been shut down for the hurricane, but not the U.S. Supreme Court.

The justices were in court Monday to consider a challenge to the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA. The new law broadly expanded the government's ability to conduct large-scale monitoring of international phone calls and emails to and from people in the United States.

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It's All Politics
3:38 pm
Mon October 29, 2012

Supreme Court Soldiers On, Despite Sandy

Originally published on Mon October 29, 2012 6:34 pm

While the rest of the federal government shut down Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court was open for business as usual — at least long enough to hear two cases argued.

It is hardly the first time that the high court was the macho guy in town, staying open when the rest of the government was closed. The reason appears to be tradition, albeit a modern tradition.

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Law
4:08 pm
Sun October 28, 2012

Surveillance Act Criticized, But Can It Be Fought?

Originally published on Mon October 29, 2012 5:14 am

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday considers whether to allow a challenge to a federal law that provides for large-scale electronic surveillance of international phone calls and emails. The case is not a direct test of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Rather, it is a test of whether the law can even be challenged in court at all.

How FISA Came To Be

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Remembrances
1:48 pm
Sun October 14, 2012

Arlen Specter, Senator Who Gave No Quarter, Dies

Specter campaigns with President George W. Bush in 2004 at the Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania. Specter spent most of his political career as a moderate Republican. He supported Bush, but later criticized the then-president's warrantless wiretapping program, saying it overstepped civil liberties.
Luke Frazza AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 10:16 am

Former Sen. Arlen Specter, one of the most influential senators of the last half-century, died Sunday from complications of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. He was 82.

The five-term senator, a moderate Republican-turned-Democrat, was a key member of the Judiciary Committee and a major player in the confirmation proceedings of 14 Supreme Court nominees. But he was consistently a thorn for leaders of both political parties and their presidents.

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Law
7:21 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Supreme Court Questions UT's Affirmative Action Plan

Abigail Fisher, the Texan involved in the University of Texas affirmative action case, talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 7:25 pm

Affirmative action in higher education appeared to take a potentially lethal hit on Wednesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments testing the constitutionality of a race-conscious admission program at the University of Texas, Austin.

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Law
3:14 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Justices Return To Affirmative Action In Higher Ed

Students walk through the University of Texas, Austin, campus near the school's iconic tower on Sept. 27.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 6:48 am

The U.S. Supreme Court returns on Wednesday to the emotional issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court will once again hear oral arguments on the issue, this time in a case from the University of Texas.

Over the past 35 years, the court has twice ruled that race may be one of many factors in determining college admissions, as long as there are no racial quotas. Now, just nine years after its last decision, the justices seem poised to outright reverse or cut back on the previous rulings.

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Law
3:29 am
Mon October 1, 2012

High Court Preps For Another Headline-Making Term

The U.S. Supreme Court is embarking on a new term beginning Monday that could be as consequential as the last one, with the prospect of major rulings on affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 9:30 am

It would be hard to beat last June's cataclysmic, cacophonous end of the Supreme Court term and the decision upholding the Obama health care law. But while all the media focus is on the upcoming elections, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to begin yet another headline-making term, with decisions expected on affirmative action in higher education, same-sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act and a lot of privacy issues.

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Law
4:12 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

When Pronouncing A Case Is Harder Than 'Roe V. Wade'

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 6:03 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block. Now, a story about Supreme Court cases and how you pronounce their names. Some are easy enough, like Roe V. Wade, but others aren't so clear cut. Is it Bachy or Bachy, Padilla or Padilla? Many a case name has been mangled, so as we hear from NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg, law professor Eugene Fidell set out to set the record straight.

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It's All Politics
6:56 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Interviewing Scalia: Verbal Wrestling Match With A Master

Nina Totenberg interviews Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 2:31 pm

I've gotten a lot of email about my interview with Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday. People seem to have liked the story because they could see the justice as a human being — combative, funny, engaging and charming.

That's why I and so many other folks always enjoy spending time with him.

So, take this exchange from our interview. Only part of it was in my piece on air, or even the longer piece on the Web.

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Law
4:44 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Justice Scalia Disputes Accuracy Of 'Leak'

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke with NPR on Tuesday at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 7:02 pm

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, influential conservative and pugilistic dissenter, is challenging everything from a recent leak about Supreme Court deliberations, to conventional wisdom about the court and its history.

In a new book co-authored with Bryan Garner, Scalia spells out his judicial philosophy, and on Tuesday, the always voluble, charming and combative justice sat for a wide-ranging interview — about the book, his relationships on the court, and the recent leak alleging anger among the justices over the recent health care decision.

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The Two-Way
2:33 pm
Sun July 22, 2012

Obama's Judicial Nominees Face Slowed Confirmation Process

We are all used to judicial nomination fights, but what has been remarkable in the Obama administration has been the molasses-like confirmation process for noncontroversial nominees, especially federal district court nominees.

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Law
4:06 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Even Scalia's Dissenting Opinions Get Major Scrutiny

Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 5, 2011.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 16, 2012 10:01 pm

As legal observers have sifted through the ashes and the tea leaves of the recent Supreme Court term, one justice has stood out for his dissents.

Justice Antonin Scalia was the first name on the joint dissent filed by four justices in the health care case. But it was Scalia's dissent in the Arizona immigration case, written for himself alone, that drew particular attention, and especially harsh criticism.

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Law
3:26 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Supreme Court Has A Term To Remember, Not Expect

The U.S. Supreme Court took on a number of high-profile cases this term, including the decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 9:20 pm

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have fled Washington, leaving in their wake a storm of historic headlines. In the last 10 days alone, the high court upheld the Obama health care law, struck down much of the Arizona immigration law and ruled unconstitutional mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of murder.

Chief Justice John Roberts is in Malta, a place that, as he pointed out, is "an impregnable island fortress." He puckishly observed that it "seemed like a good idea" to go there after the tumultuous end of the Supreme Court term.

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It's All Politics
5:35 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Federal Judge Richard Posner: The GOP Has Made Me Less Conservative

Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
John Gress Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 11:12 am

Judge Richard Posner, a conservative on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has long been one of the nation's most respected and admired legal thinkers on the right. But in an interview with NPR, he expressed exasperation at the modern Republican Party, and confessed that he has become "less conservative" as a result.

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It's All Politics
7:06 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Did Roberts Flip On The Health Care Decision?

Since the Supreme Court's health care ruling, there's been a lot of speculation about whether Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind during the course of deliberations.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 2:00 pm

In the days since the Supreme Court's historic health care ruling, there has been a good deal of speculation about whether Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind in the course of deliberations, deciding late in the game to uphold the constitutionality of most of the law.

Even before the decision was announced, conservative writers railed that liberals and the so-called mainstream media were trying to intimidate the chief justice.

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Law
5:00 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Chief Justice Robert's Vote Saves Health Care Law

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 6:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's health care law defied many predictions: the outcome, the legal grounds, and the makeup of the court majority. For Chief Justice John Roberts, his definitive court opinion was either a triumph of judicial restraint, or a sellout, depending on who you talk to.

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Law
6:09 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Tight Court Decision Produces Explosion Of Emotion

This artist's rendering shows Chief Justice John Roberts (center) speaking at the Supreme Court on Thursday. From left are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. The court voted 5-4 to uphold President Obama's health care law.
Dana Verkouteren AP

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 10:45 am

  • NPR Special Coverage: The Health Care Decision

Shock, dismay, relief, confusion — all those emotions played out Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-to-4 decision to uphold almost all of President Obama's health care overhaul.

The ruling, with shifting majorities on different provisions and multiple dissents, covered close to 200 pages and provoked initial confusion. Both Fox News and CNN got it wrong, reporting at first that the individual mandate had been struck down. But when the dust cleared, the law labeled derisively by Republicans as "Obamacare" was largely intact.

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Law
4:58 am
Tue June 26, 2012

Justices Uphold Arizona's Show Me Your Papers Provision

Originally published on Tue June 26, 2012 8:25 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

News junkies yesterday had one of those classic moments involving the Supreme Court. The High Court ruled on Arizona's immigration law.

INSKEEP: And there was a period of frantic uncertainty as reporters and analysts tried to figure out what the ruling meant. Now it is clear the Court has given a mixed verdict to Arizona's law, casting doubt on copycat laws in other states.

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Law
6:29 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Supreme Court Sides With Illinois In DNA Case

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 6:56 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court, headed into the homestretch of its term, once again weighed into the question of whether lab technicians must testify in criminal cases about test results. But in four separate opinions that spanned 92 pages, the justices were anything but clear.

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Law
5:06 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Baseball Legend Clemens Found Not Guilty Of Perjury

Former pitcher Roger Clemens, center, and his attorneys Rusty Hardin, right, and Michael Attanasio arrive on the courthouse steps after Clemens was found not guilty on all charges in his perjury trial at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 7:52 pm

A federal jury acquitted pitching ace Roger Clemens of all charges on Monday. The jury found Clemens not guilty of lying to Congress and obstructing a congressional investigation into performance-enhancing drugs.

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The Two-Way
1:50 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Defense Rests In Roger Clemens Perjury Trial

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, accompanied by his attorney Rusty Hardin, left, arrives at federal court in Washington on Monday.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

Originally published on Mon June 11, 2012 1:55 pm

The defense has rested in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, without Clemens testifying. The last defense witness was the former Yankees security director, Gerald Laveroni, who told the jury the prosecution's star witness cannot be believed.

Laveroni worked for the Yankees from 2000 to 2010 overlapping with the time when Clemens pitched for the Yankees and his chief accuser, Brian Mcnamee, served as a trainer.

Asked how much credibility McNamee had, Laveroni replied, "Zero."

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