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
3:35 am
Fri July 5, 2013

Whose Term Was It? A Look Back At The Supreme Court

Chief Justice John G. Roberts (left) and Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Mon July 8, 2013 1:03 pm

It would not be an exaggeration to call the recently completed Supreme Court term a lollapalooza. Day-by-day on the last week of the court term, the justices handed down one legal thunderbolt after another: same-sex marriage, voting rights, affirmative action. The end-of-term crush of opinions made so many headlines that other important decisions got little public notice.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
12:08 am
Sat June 29, 2013

Judge Who Struck Down Proposition 8 Knew Case Would Go Far

Judge Vaughn Walker struck down California's proposition banning gay marriage in 2010. The Supreme Court kept that ruling intact on Wednesday.
Elaine Thompson AP

Originally published on Sat June 29, 2013 9:25 pm

When the Supreme Court issued its decision clearing the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California, former District Judge Vaughn Walker had worked up a sweat.

"I was at the gym on the treadmill, and the television was on. So I was working up a sweat for reasons other than Proposition 8," says Walker, who now has a private practice.

Read more
Law
5:25 am
Wed June 26, 2013

Supreme Court Frees 9 States From Voting Laws Oversight

Originally published on Wed June 26, 2013 11:13 am

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene. Good morning.

The U.S. Supreme Court usually saves its biggest decisions for the last few days of a term, and this year is no different.

Read more
Law
3:07 am
Tue June 18, 2013

Why The FISA Court Is Not What It Used To Be

A copy of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order requiring Verizon to give the National Security Agency information about calls in its systems, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries.
AP

Originally published on Tue June 18, 2013 1:52 pm

The furor over recently exposed government surveillance programs has posed an abundance of political challenges for both President Obama and Congress. Relatively unmentioned in all of this, however, is the role of the courts — specifically, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, and how its role has changed since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Read more
Law
3:25 am
Fri June 7, 2013

Former Mass. Chief Justice On Life, Liberty And Gay Marriage

Chief Justice Margaret Marshall asks petitioner to explain a point during arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court in Boston in 2005.
George Rizer AP

Originally published on Fri June 7, 2013 1:56 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court, on the brink of issuing two same-sex-marriage decisions, is facing a question that Margaret Marshall had to resolve for her state a decade ago, as chief justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. Her decision became the first to legalize same-sex marriage in the United States.

Read more
Law
5:43 am
Tue June 4, 2013

Law Enforcement Celebrates Supreme Court's DNA Ruling

Originally published on Tue June 4, 2013 8:10 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The law enforcement community is celebrating a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows police to automatically take DNA samples from people they've arrested. The 5-to-4 decision allows police to send those samples to a national crime scene database, to see if they match DNA from unsolved crimes.

NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

Read more
Law
6:53 pm
Mon June 3, 2013

Supreme Court Rules DNA Can Be Taken After Arrest

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in a case that looked at whether police could take DNA samples from people who had been arrested but not yet convicted of a crime.
Alex Brandon AP

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that police can routinely take DNA samples from people who are arrested but not yet convicted of a crime, and see if the DNA matches any samples from unsolved crimes in a national database.

The 5-to-4 decision split the court's conservative and liberal blocs, with conservative Justice Antonin Scalia authoring a fiery dissent. Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws that provide for automatic DNA testing of arrestees.

Read more
The Two-Way
3:11 pm
Tue May 28, 2013

Supreme Court Declines Review Of Planned Parenthood Case

The Supreme Court declined to intervene in a case involving Medicaid payments to Planned Parenthood.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

In the first Planned Parenthood defunding case to reach the U.S. Supreme Court, the justices have refused to disturb a lower court decision that barred Indiana from stripping Medicaid payments to the organization.

Read more
It's All Politics
6:40 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Srinivasan's Confirmation First For D.C. Circuit In 7 Years

Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill on April 10.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

For the first time in seven years, the U.S. Senate has confirmed a judge to sit on the important federal appeals court for the District of Columbia. The Senate unanimously confirmed Deputy Solicitor General Sri Srinivasan on Thursday for the seat previously held by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Read more
Law
6:12 pm
Thu May 23, 2013

Justice Sotomayor Takes Swing At Famed Baseball Case

Sotomayor is escorted onto the field by New York Yankees catcher Jorge Posada to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the New York Yankees game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 26, 2009.
Bill Kostroun AP

Originally published on Thu May 23, 2013 6:39 pm

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor's wicked, waggish sense of humor — and knowledge of baseball — were on full display Wednesday, when she presided over a re-enactment of Flood v. Kuhn, the 1972 case that unsuccessfully challenged baseball's antitrust exemption.

The event, put on by the Supreme Court Historical Society, took place in the court chamber, and as Sotomayor took her place at the center of the bench, normally the chief justice's chair, she remarked puckishly, "This is the first time I've sat here. It feels pretty good."

Read more
Law
6:16 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Supreme Court Sides With Monsanto In Seed Patent Case

A farmer holds Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" soybean seeds at his family farm in Bunceton, Mo.
Dan Gill AP

Originally published on Wed May 15, 2013 11:59 am

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Monday that when farmers use patented seed for more than one planting in violation of their licensing agreements, they are liable for damages.

Billed as David vs. Goliath, the case pitted an Indiana farmer against the agribusiness behemoth Monsanto.

Read more
Theater
5:37 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

'Show Boat' Steams On, Eternally American

When she's discovered to be a multiracial woman "passing" as white, the Cotton Blossom's star performer, Julie (Alyson Cambridge), is forced to leave the company.
Scott Suchman Washington National Opera

Originally published on Wed May 8, 2013 2:50 pm

It's been more than eight decades since Show Boat -- the seminal masterpiece of the American musical theater — premiered on a stage in Washington, D.C. Now the sprawling classic is back, in a lush production put on by the Washington National Opera.

Read more
Law
5:27 pm
Tue April 23, 2013

Justices Say U.S. Improperly Deported Man Over Marijuana

Originally published on Tue April 23, 2013 8:04 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that a longtime legal resident of the United States was improperly deported for possession of a small amount of marijuana. By a 7-2 vote, the justices said that it defies common sense to treat an offense like this as an "aggravated felony" justifying mandatory deportation.

Read more
The Two-Way
7:10 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Supreme Court Backs Warrants For Blood Tests In DUI Cases

Originally published on Wed April 17, 2013 8:10 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that police must generally obtain a warrant before subjecting a drunken-driving suspect to a blood test. The vote was 8-to-1, with Justice Clarence Thomas the lone dissenter.

Read more
Law
3:52 am
Tue April 16, 2013

Adoption Case Brings Rare Family Law Dispute To High Court

This October 2011 photo provided by Melanie Capobianco shows her adoptive daughter, Veronica, trick-or-treating in Charleston, S.C. The child has been the focus of a custody battle between her adoptive parents and her birth father.
Courtesy of Melanie Capobianco AP

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 2:04 pm

Take the usual agony of an adoption dispute. Add in the disgraceful U.S. history of ripping Indian children from their Native American families. Mix in a dose of initial fatherly abandonment. And there you have it — a poisonous and painful legal cocktail that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

At issue is the reach of the Indian Child Welfare Act, known as ICWA. The law was enacted in 1978 to protect Native American tribes from having their children almost literally stolen away and given to non-Indian adoptive or foster parents.

Read more
Shots - Health News
3:01 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Supreme Court Asks: Can Human Genes Be Patented?

Artist's representation of DNA.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue April 16, 2013 8:45 am

Same-sex marriage got huge headlines at the Supreme Court last month, but in the world of science and medicine, the case being argued on Monday is far more important. The lawsuit deals with a truly 21st century issue — whether human genes may be patented.

Read more
The Two-Way
6:52 pm
Thu March 28, 2013

Supreme Court Notes: Bugs, Pumps And Stolen Credit Card Numbers

Same-sex marriage supporters demonstrate in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg sends us some odds and ends from a very momentous week in the Supreme Court.

Hear all that sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and nose blowing during this week's same-sex oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court?

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
7:41 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Justices Cast Doubt On Federal Defense Of Marriage Act

This artist rendering shows Paul Clement (second from left) with Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. (seated, right), addressing the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Justices pictured are (from left) Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Chief Justice John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan.
Dana Verkouteren AP

Originally published on Thu March 28, 2013 8:51 am

In the wake of the Supreme Court arguments Wednesday on the Defense of Marriage Act, same-sex marriage supporters have reason to be optimistic. Known as DOMA, the law bars federal benefits for legally married same-sex couples, even though those same benefits are automatically given to heterosexual married couples.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
5:58 pm
Wed March 27, 2013

Justice Kennedy May Be Deciding Vote In Defense Of Marriage Act Case

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in a case challenging whether the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) means the federal government can deny marriage benefits to same sex couples in states that allow gay marriage. Same-sex couples had reason to be optimistic afterward. Assuming the court can overcome procedural concerns, it looked as if a majority of justices was ready to strike down DOMA.

Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
8:04 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

At Arguments, Supreme Court Takes Halting Steps Into Gay Marriage Issue

People file into the Supreme Court on Tuesday for the court's hearing on California's Proposition 8, a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 5:58 pm

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, the moment had finally arrived. After four years of litigation in the lower courts, the Supreme Court was hearing a challenge to California's ban on same-sex marriage. But minutes into oral arguments, it became clear that the justices may not give either side the clear-cut victory it wants.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
7:49 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

DOMA Challenge Tests Federal Definition Of Marriage

A pro-gay-marriage protester stands in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the first of two days of oral arguments on challenges to laws that limit the definition of marriage to unions of a man and a woman.
Karen Bleier AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 1:15 pm

After weeks and months of public debate and speculation about the legal fate of same-sex marriage, the second round of arguments takes place at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
7:39 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

In First Of 2 Gay-Marriage Cases, Court Turns To Proposition 8

Snow covers flowers in front of the Supreme Court building on Monday in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, the justices hear oral arguments on the constitutionality of California's Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Tue March 26, 2013 9:57 am

Outside the Supreme Court, lines began forming nearly a week ago. By Monday, the line had snaked down the court steps and to the corner, with people braving freezing temperatures and snow in anticipation of the historic arguments on same-sex marriage on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The justices are first hearing a constitutional challenge to California's ban on same-sex marriage. A second day is devoted to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which denies federal benefits to same-sex couples married in the nine states where such unions are legal.

Read more
Law
5:05 pm
Mon March 25, 2013

Supreme Court To Examine State Ban On Affirmative Action

A scene outside the Supreme Court on Monday, as the justices announced they would hear another case involving affirmative action in higher education. Many of those waiting in line at the court in a late-season snowfall were hoping to attend oral arguments on gay-marriage cases being heard Tuesday and Wednesday.
Jose Luis Magana AP

Originally published on Wed March 27, 2013 5:59 pm

As the national spotlight turns to the U.S. Supreme Court this week with two historic arguments on same-sex marriage, the court on Monday made headlines on another high-profile issue: affirmative action.

Just 10 years ago a narrow court majority upheld affirmative action programs in higher education in an opinion written by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. But ever since O'Connor retired and was replaced by the more conservative Justice Samuel Alito, the court has been on a steady march to get rid of all race-conscious programs.

Read more
Law
3:15 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Supreme Court Hears 'Pay To Delay' Pharmaceutical Case

The Supreme Court takes up a case Monday about whether brand-name drug manufacturers can pay generic drug manufacturers to keep generics off the market.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 9:39 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case worth billions of dollars to pharmaceutical companies and American consumers. The issue is whether brand-name drug manufacturers may pay generic drug manufacturers to keep generics off the market. These payments — a form of settlement in patent litigation — began to blossom about a decade ago when the courts, for the first time, appeared to bless them.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
5:33 am
Sun March 24, 2013

Former Bush Aide Pushes 'Conservative Case' For Gay Marriage

Ken Mehlman, then chairman of the Republican National Committee, speaks during a meeting at the Capitol Hilton in January 2006 in Washington, D.C.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Sun March 24, 2013 8:05 am

One hundred thirty-one prominent Republicans have signed a pro-same-sex marriage legal brief that is clearly at odds with the House GOP leadership and the party's platform in the most recent election. Because of the prominence of the signers, the brief stands out among the more than 150 friend-of-the-court briefs filed in two same-sex marriage cases to be argued at the U.S. Supreme Court this week.

The man who rounded up the group is Ken Mehlman, the former political director for the George W. Bush White House.

Read more
Same-Sex Marriage And The Supreme Court
4:37 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Meet The 83-Year-Old Taking On The U.S. Over Same-Sex Marriage

Edith Windsor in her New York City apartment in December 2012. Next week, the U.S. Supreme Court hears her challenge to the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.
Richard Drew AP

Originally published on Thu March 21, 2013 8:34 pm

The tiny dynamo asking the U.S. Supreme Court to turn the world upside down looks nothing like a fearless pioneer. At age 83, Edith Windsor dresses in classic, tailored clothes, usually with a long string of pearls, and she sports a well-coiffed, shoulder-length flip. She looks, for all the world, like a proper New York City lady.

Proper she may be, and a lady, but Windsor, who likes to be called Edie, is making history, challenging the federal Defense of Marriage Act, known as DOMA. The law bans federal recognition and benefits for legally married same-sex couples.

Read more
The Two-Way
3:46 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Supreme Court OKs Discounted Resale Of 'Gray Market' Goods

People stand in line outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Tue March 19, 2013 7:51 pm

The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that U.S. companies that make and sell products abroad cannot prevent those items from being resold in the U.S.

The 6-3 decision — likely worth billions, even trillions of dollars — could have repercussions that extend from U.S. trade policy to local yard sales.

Read more
Law
4:43 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Supreme Court Tests Limits Of Voter Registration Law

Arizona Attorney General Thomas Horne talks with reporters outside the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments in the case challenging Arizona's voter registration law on Monday.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 6:57 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case that seeks to redefine a federal law aimed at streamlining the nation's voter registration process.

Congress enacted the law 20 years ago after it found that 40 percent of eligible voters were not registered to vote. Under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, people can register by mail to vote in federal elections using a standard federal form. The form, among other things, asks prospective voters whether they are U.S. citizens and requires them to sign to the statement, under penalty of perjury.

Read more
Law
3:19 am
Mon March 18, 2013

Can States Go Beyond Federal Law On Voter Registration?

A voter fills out her ballot during early voting before the 2012 presidential election at the Gila County Recorder's Office in Globe, Ariz., on Oct. 26.
Joshua Lott Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 12:38 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case that could upend the federal effort to spur and streamline voter registration.

At issue is an Arizona law that requires prospective voters to provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote. A federal appeals court ruled last year that the state law must fall because it conflicts with federal law.

Read more
It's All Politics
6:35 pm
Fri March 1, 2013

In Voting Rights Arguments, Chief Justice Misconstrued Census Data

Chief Justice John Roberts, shown here during a presentation last June in Pennsylvania, questioned the U.S. solicitor general about voting statistics during this week's arguments on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
Ann Wilkins AP

Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 7:20 pm

At the voting rights argument in the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Chief Justice John Roberts tore into Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, grilling him on his knowledge of voting statistics.

Read more

Pages