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.

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The Two-Way
1:32 pm
Tue August 26, 2014

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Returns To Surgery Following Crash

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh speaks during a news conference in 2012.
Matt Rourke AP

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 3:53 pm

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh was returned to surgery at a New Hampshire hospital on Tuesday, after suffering serious injuries in what police say was a one-car crash Monday, according to the Burlington Free Press. The newspaper also reports that Freeh is under armed guard.

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Law
9:30 am
Mon July 7, 2014

Rare Unanimity In Supreme Court Term, With Plenty Of Fireworks

The recent Supreme Court term resulted in an unusual number of unanimous decisions — but that doesn't mean there wasn't disagreement.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 12:10 pm

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.

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Law
4:13 pm
Mon June 16, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Against Gun 'Straw Purchases'

Originally published on Wed June 18, 2014 12:59 pm

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.

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The Two-Way
4:55 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

Supreme Court: Inherited IRAs Not Protected From Bankruptcy

Originally published on Thu June 12, 2014 5:19 pm

The Supreme Court has ruled that individual retirement accounts (IRAs) that Americans inherit are not protected in bankruptcy proceedings.

When Heidi Heffron-Clark declared bankruptcy in October 2010, she and her husband claimed the IRA she inherited from her mother — then worth $300,000 — qualified as "retirement funds," meaning the couple could not be required to use it to pay debts they owed creditors.

But an inherited IRA differs in big ways from the type of IRA someone builds over the course of a working lifetime.

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The Salt
3:48 pm
Thu June 12, 2014

POM Wonderful Wins A Round In Food Fight With Coca-Cola

POM sued Coca-Cola, claiming that it was losing sales because the label and advertising for its Minute Maid pomegranate-blueberry drink were misleading consumers into believing they were getting a juice combination consisting mainly of pomegranate and blueberry juices when, in fact, the juice was more than 99 percent apple and grape juices, which are far cheaper.
Courtesy of the Coca-Cola Co.

Originally published on Fri June 13, 2014 9:47 am

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.

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Law
3:50 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Supreme Court Rules Against Homeowners In Superfund Case

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 3:20 pm

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.

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Law
2:30 pm
Mon June 9, 2014

Supreme Court: At 21, Some Children Must Start Visa Process Over

Originally published on Mon June 9, 2014 3:42 pm

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.

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Law
10:11 am
Tue June 3, 2014

Supreme Court: Case Involved Romantic Jealousy, Not Chemical Weapons

Originally published on Mon June 2, 2014 4:19 pm

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."

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Law
9:23 pm
Tue April 22, 2014

Supreme Court Gives Police New Power To Rely On Anonymous Tips

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 4:40 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police can stop and search a driver based solely on an anonymous 911 tip.

The 5-4 decision split the court's two most conservative justices, with Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the majority and Justice Antonin Scalia penning the dissent.

In August 2008, an anonymous 911 caller in California phoned in a report that a pickup truck had run her off the road. The caller gave the location of the incident, plus the make and model of the truck and the license plate number.

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Law
9:22 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Supreme Court Case Could Change How You Watch TV

An economic model is being challenged in the Supreme Court on Tuesday in a battle between broadcast television networks and the startup Aereo Inc. The issues focus on copyright law, but the outcome could alter broadcasting in the U.S.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 22, 2014 6:42 am

Bruce Springsteen may have been ahead of his times with his song "57 Channels (And Nothin' On)," released in 1992. These days there are hundreds of channels, and whether you like it or not, you get most of them in your basic cable package. On Tuesday, that economic model is being challenged in the Supreme Court in a high-stakes legal battle between the broadcast television networks and a tiny startup, or at least tiny by broadcast standards.

The issues focus on copyright law, but the outcome could alter the face of broadcasting in the United States.

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Law
4:39 pm
Mon April 7, 2014

Group Goes Online To Find Affirmative Action Plaintiffs

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 5:18 pm

A group opposed to affirmative action in higher education is taking the unprecedented step of looking for plaintiffs online.

The Project on Fair Representation is advertising for college applicants willing to challenge Harvard University, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

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The Two-Way
7:11 am
Thu March 27, 2014

High Court Considers Definition Of Domestic Violence In Gun Case

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 5:52 pm

Law enforcement, domestic violence organizations and gun control groups won an important victory in the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday.

The justices ruled unanimously that people convicted of minor domestic violence offenses are barred under federal law from possessing a gun, even though some states do not require proof of physical force for conviction on domestic violence charges.

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Law
6:28 pm
Tue March 25, 2014

Justices Divide By Gender In Hobby Lobby Contraception Case

Originally published on Tue March 25, 2014 6:12 pm

There was a clear difference of opinion between male and female justices at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. The issue was whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to include contraception coverage in the basic health plan now mandated under the Affordable Care Act.

The female justices were clearly supportive of the contraception mandate, while a majority of the male justices were more skeptical.

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Health Care
6:04 am
Tue March 25, 2014

Hobby Lobby Contraceptive Case Goes Before Supreme Court

Hobby Lobby President Steve Green says the company should not have to provide insurance coverage for IUDs and morning-after pills for its 13,000 employees.
Tony Gutierrez AP

Originally published on Wed March 26, 2014 7:23 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in the latest challenge to the Obama health care overhaul.

This time the issue is whether for-profit corporations, citing religious objections, may refuse to provide some, or potentially all, contraceptive services in health plans offered to employees. It is a case that touches lots of hot-button issues.

In enacting the ACA, Congress required large employers to provide basic preventive care for employees. That turned out to include all 20 contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

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The Two-Way
2:57 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Lawrence Walsh: His Judgment Came Not From Confidence But From Insecurity

Lawrence Walsh in 1988.
Bob Daugherty AP

Originally published on Fri March 21, 2014 4:36 am

In 2003 the American Bar Association published Lawrence Walsh's autobiography, The Gift of Insecurity; A Lawyer's Life. Walsh died Wednesday at age 102. The following is the foreword NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg wrote for the book.

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