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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The Two-Way
10:54 pm
Wed February 25, 2015

Dentists Have No Right To Limit Who Can Whiten Your Teeth, Justices Say

Want to get your teeth whitened? You may soon have more options. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that a state board of dentistry unfairly drove competitors out of business by trying to block non-dentists from providing whitening services.
Vince Bucci Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the North Carolina dental board does not have the authority to regulate teeth-whitening services. By a 6-to-3 vote, the court said that the state board, composed mainly of dentists, violated the nation's antitrust laws by regulating the activity of competitors.

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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
4:38 pm
Mon February 23, 2015

Supreme Court Considers Visa Case For Foreign Spouses

U.S. Supreme Court police stand on the plaza in front of the courthouse in January. The court heard arguments Monday about whether an American had a right to know why their foreign-national spouse had been refused entry into the country.
Jim Watson AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon February 23, 2015 6:40 pm

Many American citizens who are married to foreigners find that their futures together depend on the judgment of a U.S. embassy official half way around the world.

These difficult and sometimes heartbreaking decisions are generally not reviewable by any court. But on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case testing whether an American citizen has the right to know why a foreign spouse has been denied an immigration visa.

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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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Law
5:16 pm
Mon February 9, 2015

Supreme Court Refuses To Let Alabama Bar Same-Sex Marriages

Originally published on Mon February 9, 2015 6:27 pm

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

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The Two-Way
6:14 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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The Two-Way
6:48 pm
Wed January 21, 2015

Shouts Of Protest At Supreme Court On 'Citizens United' Anniversary

A demonstrator rallies outside the U.S. Chamber of Commerce against the Supreme Court's decision in favor of Citizens United five years ago. Eight protesters at the Supreme Court were arrested and charged.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu January 22, 2015 4:26 am

Overturned chairs and shouts of protest briefly shattered the formality and calm of the U.S. Supreme Court this morning.

The session had just begun when protesters in the back of the chamber began yelling things like, "One person, one vote," "We are the 99 percent," "Money is not speech," and "Overturn Citizens United." This last was a reference to the Court's 2010 decision, issued on this day five years ago. That decision struck down limits on corporate and union campaign spending, uncorking a flood of campaign cash.

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Law
5:17 am
Wed January 21, 2015

Supreme Court Rules On 2 Prisoner Rights Cases

Originally published on Wed January 21, 2015 4:10 pm

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

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

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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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