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."

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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It's All Politics
4:14 am
Wed March 25, 2015

Obama Administration Emissions Rules Face Supreme Court Test

Steam from a coal-fired power plant is silhouetted against the sun near St. Marys, Kan. Industry groups say there should be a far more aggressive consideration of costs of regulation than the Obama administration took into account.
Charlie Riedel AP

Originally published on Wed March 25, 2015 7:20 pm

The Supreme Court hears a challenge Wednesday to Obama administration rules aimed at limiting the amount of mercury and other hazardous pollutants emitted from coal- and oil-fired utility plants. The regulations are being challenged by major industry groups like the National Mining Association and more than 20 states.

The regulations have been in the works for nearly two decades. Work on them began in the Clinton administration, got derailed in the George W. Bush administration, and then were revived and adopted in the Obama administration.

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It's All Politics
5:58 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Justices Debate Place Of Offensive Language On License Plates

R. James George Jr., attorney for Sons of Confederate Veterans, meets with reporters outside the Supreme Court Monday.
Molly Riley AP

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 6:58 pm

Nazis, jihadis, racial slurs and even "Mighty Fine Burgers" all made cameo appearances at the U.S. Supreme Court Monday as the justices tackled a case of great interest to America's auto-loving public. The question before the court: When, if ever, can the state veto the message on a specialty license plate?

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Law
4:08 am
Mon March 23, 2015

Is A Confederate Flag License Plate Free Speech?

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 5:58 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of great interest to America's auto-loving public: Whose speech is that on your specialty license plate? Specifically, when the government issues specialty tags at the behest of private groups or individuals, can it veto messages deemed offensive to others?

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It's All Politics
4:03 am
Mon March 23, 2015

Meet The Attorney Defending Confederate Flag License Plates

R. James George Jr.
Courtesy George Brothers Kincaid & Horton LLP

Originally published on Mon March 23, 2015 8:14 pm

Supreme Court advocates do not always play to type. To wit, R. James George Jr., arguing Monday for specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag.

Not what you might expect from a man who started his legal career as a law clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

When asked if he would have a license plate on his car honoring the Confederacy, George replies, "I would not generally do that."

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The Two-Way
2:29 pm
Fri March 20, 2015

#NPRreads: From Supreme Court Justice To The Notorious R.B.G.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

#NPRreads is a new feature we're testing out on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom will share pieces that have kept them reading. They'll share tidbits on Twitter using the #NPRreads hashtag, and on occasion we'll share a longer take here on the blog.

This week, we share with you four reads.

From Nina Totenberg, NPR's legal affairs correspondent:

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Shots - Health News
3:34 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Supreme Court Sends Birth Control Case Back To Appeals Court

University of Notre Dame contends that the act of signing a form opting out of the Affordable Care Act's birth control mandate makes the school complicit in providing coverage.
Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 9, 2015 5:48 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a federal appeals court to take a second look at the University of Notre Dame's challenge to the birth control mandate in Obamacare, and the rules for opting out of the required coverage.

The law allows religious charities and educational institutions to opt out of providing employee and student birth control coverage by signing a one-page form.

But Notre Dame contends that the act of signing that opt-out form makes it complicit in providing coverage that the Catholic university objects to on religious grounds.

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Shots - Health News
7:47 pm
Wed March 4, 2015

Justices Roberts And Kennedy Hold Key Votes In Health Law Case

Fans and foes of Obamacare jockeyed for position outside the Supreme Court Wednesday. Inside, the justices weighed arguments in the case of King v. Burwell, which challenges a key part of the federal health law.
Pete Marovich UPI/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 5, 2015 9:28 am

With yet another do-or-die test of Obamacare before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, the justices were sharply divided.

By the end of the argument, it was clear that the outcome will be determined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. The chief justice said almost nothing during the argument, and Kennedy sent mixed signals, seeming to give a slight edge to the administration's interpretation of the law.

Judging by the comments from the remaining justices, the challengers would need the votes of both Roberts and Kennedy to win.

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Law
6:30 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Round 2: Health Care Law Faces The Supreme Court Again

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act celebrate outside the Supreme Court in 2012, after a divided court upheld the law as constitutional by a 5-to-4 vote. The latest battle, which the Supreme Court hears Wednesday, is over whether people who buy insurance through federally run exchanges are eligible for subsidies.
David Goldman AP

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 7:52 am

Round 2 in the legal battle over Obamacare hits the Supreme Court's intellectual boxing ring Wednesday.

In one corner is the Obama administration, backed by the nation's hospitals, insurance companies, physician associations and other groups like Catholic Charities and the American Cancer Society.

In the other corner are conservative groups, backed by politicians who fought in Congress to prevent the bill from being adopted.

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The Two-Way
5:26 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

Should Hotel Owners Be Forced To Hand Over Guest Records To Police?

When lawyer Thomas Goldstein contended that innkeepers keep guest information anyway to stay in touch with their customers, Justice Scalia cut in: "Motel 6 does this? Jeez, I've never received anything from them!"
iStockPhoto

Originally published on Wed March 4, 2015 11:46 am

Hypotheticals about hunting lodges and Motel 6 saved the oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday from being strangled by legal weeds.

At issue was a Los Angeles ordinance that requires hotel and motel owners to record various pieces of information about their guests — drivers license, credit card and automobile tags, for instance. The hotel owners don't dispute they have to do that; what they do dispute is the part of the law that requires proprietors to make this information available to any member of the Los Angeles Police Department upon demand.

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Law
4:58 pm
Mon March 2, 2015

Supreme Court Seems Divided Over Independent Redistricting Commissions

Arizona commission attorney Mary O'Grady (left) and Stephen Miller, a city council member, point to a possible redistricted map in 2011.
Ross D. Franklin AP

Originally published on Tue March 3, 2015 12:49 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed closely divided Monday as it heard arguments testing how far states may go to prevent political parties from drawing congressional district lines to maximize partisan advantage.

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Law
4:03 am
Mon March 2, 2015

Supreme Court To Weigh Power Of Redistricting Commissions

Arizona state Sen. Andy Biggs flips through redistricting maps during a special legislative committee hearing to discuss the state commission's proposed maps in 2011.
Ross D. Franklin AP

Originally published on Mon March 2, 2015 5:06 pm

Take a look at a congressional district map, and it can look like a madman's jigsaw puzzle. The reason is, in part, that the district lines are drawn by state legislators seeking to maximize partisan advantage. It's a process that critics say is responsible for much that's wrong with Washington.

That's why some states have tried setting up independent commissions to draw the map. Arizona voters created such a commission in 2000. But when the commission chair displeased the governor and state Senate, they tried, unsuccessfully, to remove her.

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Law
5:50 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

High Court Leans Toward Religious Protection In Headscarf Case

Samantha Elauf outside the Supreme Court Wednesday.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 8:46 pm

At the U.S. Supreme Court, you know that it's going to be a hot argument when the usually straight-faced Justice Samuel Alito begins a question this way: "Let's say four people show up for a job interview ... this is going to sound like a joke, but it's not."

The issue before the court on Wednesday was whether retailer Abercrombie & Fitch violated the federal law banning religious discrimination when it rejected a highly rated job applicant because she wore a Muslim headscarf.

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Law
4:22 pm
Fri February 13, 2015

Justices Ginsburg And Scalia: A Perfect Match Except For Their Views On The Law

Originally published on Sat February 14, 2015 7:19 am

My assignment Thursday night was pretty clear. As the moderator of the sold-out event, let the audience get a good look at the jousting, good-humored friendship between Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.

On the high court these two are the leading voices of conservatism and liberalism. In their written opinions, even the footnotes can be ferocious. But they are also true and longtime friends. As Scalia said of Ginsburg, "what's not to like — except her views on the law."

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The Two-Way
5:32 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Supreme Court Won't Stop Gay Marriages In Alabama

The Rev. Charles Perry of Unity Church, in Birmingham, Ala., marries Curtis Stephens, center, and his partner of 30 years, Pat Helms, Monday at the Jefferson County Courthouse. Alabama began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples Monday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block the marriages in the state.
Hal Yeager AP

Originally published on Tue February 10, 2015 7:59 am

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to step in and stop gay marriages from taking place in Alabama. The move sent the strongest signal to date that the justices are on the verge of legalizing gay marriage nationwide. Within hours of the high-court ruling, same-sex marriages began taking place in Alabama, despite an eleventh-hour show of defiance by the state's chief justice.

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The Two-Way
6:22 pm
Fri January 23, 2015

Supreme Court Agrees To Rule On Constitutionality Of Execution Drug Cocktail

Bottles of the sedative midazolam, which is at issue in the Oklahoma death row prisoners' lawsuit. The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the drug is effective at preventing unconstitutional suffering.
AP

Originally published on Fri January 23, 2015 6:23 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to review Oklahoma's method of execution by lethal injection. The justices agreed to hear the Oklahoma case a week after refusing to halt another execution that used the same drug formula.

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Law
4:28 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Supreme Court Examines Gray Area In Judicial Campaigning

Thirty-nine states elect some or all of their judges, and 30 of them bar personal solicitations in order to preserve judicial impartiality.
Keith Srakocic AP

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 11:25 am

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that tests whether states may ban judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

For most of the last decade, the Supreme Court's conservative majority has systematically dismantled federal and state campaign finance laws enacted to limit corruption and the appearance of corruption in the legislative and executive branches of government. Tuesday's case is the first challenge targeted specifically at the judicial branch.

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The Two-Way
3:30 pm
Tue January 20, 2015

Supreme Court Rules For Muslim Inmate In Prison Beard Case

This undated photo provided by the Arkansas Department of Correction shows prison inmate Gregory Holt.
AP

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 1:22 pm

In a closely watched religious rights case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that an Arkansas prisoner must be allowed to grow a half-inch beard in accordance with his religion.

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Law
1:03 am
Tue January 20, 2015

Should Judicial Candidates Be Allowed To Solicit Campaign Money?

Judge Adrian Adams is helped with his robe by his daughters during a robing ceremony Friday in Gretna, La. Adams won a race for 24th Judicial District Court in November behind a campaign that raised a modest $22,350, including several four-figure donations from attorneys and law firms. Louisiana law, like Florida law, bars judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.
Brett Duke The Times-Picayune/Landov

Originally published on Tue January 20, 2015 8:56 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case testing whether states, in the name of preserving judicial impartiality, may bar judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

There was a time when judicial elections were a pretty tame affair, with relatively little money spent, and candidates in most states limited in how they could campaign. Not anymore.

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Law
4:32 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

Supreme Court To Decide Whether States Can Ban Same-Sex Marriage

Originally published on Fri January 16, 2015 6:32 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The Two-Way
12:55 pm
Tue January 13, 2015

Rough Morning Commute? Justice Scalia Was Right There With You

The morning after an incident shut down a major subway line in Washington, D.C., traffic snafus made lots of drivers late, including Justice Antonin Scalia, pictured in 2013.
Josh Reynolds AP

Originally published on Tue January 13, 2015 1:40 pm

A Washington, D.C., suburbanite had trouble getting to work Tuesday, leaving a key task to the boss.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, two unanimous opinions, both written by Justice Antonin Scalia, were handed down, but Scalia was missing in action. Chief Justice John Roberts summarized the opinions from the bench because Scalia was ... stuck in traffic.

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Law
4:18 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

In Battle Over Church Signs, Is Ariz. Town Being 'A Little Unreasonable'?

Political signs in Gilbert, Ariz. are permitted to be larger and stay up longer than "directional" signs like those pointing residents to local church services.
Bruce Ellefson ADF

Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 6:21 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday wrestled with what the constitutional rules should be for local governments seeking to limit sign clutter on public property.

Sign regulation is a thorn in the side of local governments. Too little regulation and they get sued for traffic safety problems, sign clutter, and degraded property values. Too much regulation and they get sued for First Amendment violations. So like Goldilocks, local governments, work hard to get it "just right."

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Law
3:26 am
Mon January 12, 2015

Supreme Court Sees The Signs — But Can They Stay?

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case that looks at how municipal governments may regulate where and when signs are posted.
Rick Bowmer AP

Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 1:00 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case of enormous importance to the nation's sign-lovers and to cities and towns all over the country.

The case pits a small religious group against the suburban town of Gilbert, Ariz. At issue is how municipal governments may regulate where and when signs are posted.

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Law
5:06 am
Mon December 29, 2014

Supreme Court To Hear Case Against Obamacare In 2015

Originally published on Mon December 29, 2014 9:11 am

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

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

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Law
3:16 pm
Mon December 15, 2014

Supreme Court Upholds North Carolina Traffic Stop

In 2009, Nicholas Heien and a friend were traveling down a North Carolina highway when they were pulled over for having a broken tail light. A subsequent search of the car found a plastic bag containing cocaine.
iStockPhoto

Originally published on Mon December 15, 2014 5:20 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that police officers don't necessarily violate a person's constitutional rights when they stop a car based on a mistaken understanding of the law. The ruling prompted a lone dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who warned that the court's decision could exacerbate public suspicion of police in some communities.

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Law
4:16 pm
Tue December 9, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Employers Are Not Required To Pay For Security Time

The court's ruling came Tuesday in a case involving Amazon warehouses and a temp agency, Integrity Staffing Solutions Inc. Hourly workers were required to wait in line for an average of 25 minutes after they clocked out.
Ross Franklin AP

Originally published on Tue December 9, 2014 5:03 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that companies do not have to pay workers for time spent in anti-theft security screening at the end of a shift.

The decision is a major victory for retail enterprises and manufacturing businesses that could have been on the hook for billions of dollars in back pay for time spent in security screenings.

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Law
4:14 am
Wed December 3, 2014

Did UPS Discriminate Against A Pregnant Worker By Letting Her Go?

When Peggy Young, a UPS truck driver, told the company she was pregnant, she lost her job. The Supreme Court will hear her case Wednesday, putting pregnancy discrimination in the national spotlight.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Wed December 3, 2014 2:00 pm

Women's reproductive rights are once again before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday. Only this time, pregnancy discrimination is the issue and pro-life and pro-choice groups are on the same side, opposed by business groups.

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Law
4:24 pm
Mon December 1, 2014

Justices Struggle To Find Line Between Threats, Free Speech Online

John P. Elwood, attorney for Anthony D. Elonis, speaks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday. Elonis says he was just kidding when he posted a series of graphically violent rap lyrics on Facebook about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a kindergarten class and attacking an FBI agent.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 7:37 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court struggled Monday with conflicting notions of where to draw the line between free speech and criminal threats in the Internet age. At issue was the conviction of a Pennsylvania man for making threats against his estranged wife and an FBI agent.

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Law
4:01 am
Mon December 1, 2014

Is A Threat Posted On Facebook Really A Threat?

At his trial, Elonis argued that he was only exercising his First Amendment free speech rights, which he also says he wrote on his Facebook page.
iStockphoto

Originally published on Mon December 1, 2014 8:17 am

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of increasing importance in the age of social media and the Internet: What constitutes a threat on Facebook?

Anthony Elonis was convicted of making threats against his estranged wife, and an FBI agent. After his wife left him, taking the couple's two children with her, Elonis began posting about her on his Facebook page.

There's one way to love ya, but a thousand ways to kill ya,

And I'm not going to rest until your body is a mess,

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It's All Politics
2:05 pm
Wed November 26, 2014

Justice Ginsburg Recovering After Heart Stent Implant

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her court chamber, in July.
Cliff Owen AP

Originally published on Wed November 26, 2014 2:55 pm

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a heart stent implanted Wednesday to clear a blocked right coronary artery, but she was expected to be back on the bench when the court reconvenes on Monday.

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The Two-Way
5:32 pm
Fri November 14, 2014

Court Rejects Challenge To Obamacare Rules On Contraceptives

Originally published on Sat November 15, 2014 10:49 am

A federal appeals court in Washington has rejected a challenge to Obamacare regulations that allow religious nonprofits to opt out of providing birth control coverage.

The Catholic Archbishop of Washington and nonprofits affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church challenged the regulations, contending they do not go far enough.

The regulations at issue were adopted by the Obama administration to accommodate religious nonprofits that object to including birth control in their health insurance plans.

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