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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6:05pm

Mon November 3, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Case Tests Status Of Jerusalem

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 6:23 pm

Menachem Zivotofsky and his father, Ari Zivotofsky, gather to speak to media outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Monday. The court is taking its second look at a dispute over the wording of U.S. passports for Americans born in Jerusalem, a case with potential foreign policy implications.
Carolyn Kaster AP

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on Monday in a case testing whether American citizens born in Jerusalem can list Israel as their place of birth on their passports. It might sound like an academic question, but the status of Jerusalem is at the heart of the Arab-Israeli conflict in the Middle East.

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3:21am

Mon November 3, 2014
Law

Supreme Court To Consider Case On Passports Of Jerusalem-Born Citizens

Originally published on Mon November 3, 2014 8:00 am

Ari Zivotofsky (center) walks with then 9-year-old son Menachem, outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Nov. 7, 2011. Their case, regarding the desire to have their son's U.S. passport list his place of birth as Israel, returns to the Supreme Court this Monday.
Evan Vucci AP

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday for a second time in a case that combines Middle East policy with the dueling foreign policy roles of the president and Congress. It's a political hot potato that asks what U.S. passports should say about the birthplace of American citizens born in Jerusalem.

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12:53am

Wed October 29, 2014
NPR Story

Can Authorities Cut Off Utilities And Pose As Repairmen To Search A Home?

Originally published on Wed October 29, 2014 8:50 am

Some legal cases do more than raise eyebrows — they push the legal envelope to change the law. Such is a federal case in Las Vegas now working its way through the courts. The question is whether federal agents can disrupt service to a house and then, masquerading as helpful technicians, gain entry to covertly search the premises in hopes of finding evidence that might later justify a search warrant.

The defendants in this case are not your everyday Americans. They are, in fact, Chinese gamblers who were staying in Las Vegas at Caesar's Palace earlier this year.

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4:20pm

Tue October 7, 2014
Law

Justices Skeptical Of Beard Rule In Inmate Religious Rights Case

Originally published on Wed October 8, 2014 2:24 pm

Attorney Douglas Laycock leaves the Supreme Court Tuesday after arguing before the court on behalf of Arkansas prison inmate Gregory Holt.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that pits the authority of prison officials against the religious rights of prison inmates. Specifically, the question is whether a federal law aimed at shoring up those religious rights requires the state of Arkansas to allow a Muslim prisoner to wear a half-inch beard.

Gregory Holt, convicted of stabbing his ex-girlfriend, argues that the tenets of his Muslim faith require him not to cut his beard. As a compromise, he asked Arkansas prison authorities for permission to at least wear a half-inch beard.

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5:06am

Tue October 7, 2014
Law

How Justice Sotomayor Is 'Busting' The Supreme Court's Steady Rhythms

Originally published on Tue October 7, 2014 11:07 am

Joan Biskupic, author of a new book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor, says she was "intrigued by the fact that ... the arc of her life was actually the same trajectory of the rise of Latinos in America."
Patrick Semansky AP

What do salsa dancing and the Supreme Court have to do with each other? A lot, according to author Joan Biskupic, whose new book about Justice Sonia Sotomayor is now out in bookstores.

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6:28pm

Mon October 6, 2014
The Two-Way

5 Questions About The Supreme Court And Gay Marriage In The U.S.

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 7:22 pm

Jennifer Hasler (left) and Karina Tittjung smile after picking up their marriage license at the Oklahoma County courthouse in Oklahoma City Monday. When the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the issue of gay marriage, it opened the door for gay men and women to marry in 11 states, including Virginia, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and Indiana.
Nick Oxford Reuters/Landov

On Monday, the Supreme Court surprised many when it refused to enter the contentious debate over gay marriage.

The court left intact decisions by three federal appeals courts that had struck down bans on gay marriage in parts of the South, West and Midwest. Attorneys general in five states asked the court to review those decisions and overrule them. But the court instead stepped back, leaving the lower court rulings intact.

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5:44pm

Mon October 6, 2014
Law

Should Short Beards Be Allowed Behind Bars?

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 6:30 pm

The Supreme Court will take up the case of Gregory Holt, who argues that Arkansas prisoners like himself should be allowed to wear short beards.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a major test of religious freedom. At issue is a law enacted by Congress in 2000 to shore up the religious rights of prisoners.

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11:37am

Mon October 6, 2014
Law

Supreme Court Declines To Take Up Gay-Marriage Appeals

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 12:32 pm

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

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

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5:09am

Mon October 6, 2014
Law

Supreme Court To Weigh Facebook Threats, Religious Freedom, Discrimination

Originally published on Mon October 6, 2014 12:32 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court opens a new term Monday, but so far the justices are keeping quiet about whether or when they will tackle the gay marriage question. Last week, the justices met behind closed doors to discuss pending cases, but when they released the list of new cases added to the calendar, same-sex marriage was nowhere to be seen.

But that really doesn't mean very much.

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3:17pm

Thu October 2, 2014
The Two-Way

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Gay-Marriage Cases ... For Now

Originally published on Thu October 2, 2014 3:42 pm

There was no word today from the U.S. Supreme Court on whether it would tackle the issue of gay marriage. The justices issued a list of cases they will hear in the new term, which begins on Monday, but same-sex marriage was notably absent.

The silence on the gay-marriage question was no surprise.

Although there are seven same-sex-marriage cases pending before the court, the justices like to thoroughly vet a big issue like this before they choose which cases to hear and when.

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6:42pm

Thu September 4, 2014
It's All Politics

Appeals Court Strikes Wisconsin And Indiana Same-Sex-Marriage Bans

Originally published on Thu September 4, 2014 7:18 pm

Supporters of gay marriage attend a rally at the federal plaza in Chicago on Aug. 25.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

The U.S. Court of Appeals covering much of the Midwest has become the third federal appeals court to strike down gay-marriage bans — this time in Wisconsin and Indiana.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Richard Posner, a Reagan appointee, said that Wisconsin and Indiana had given the court "no reasonable basis" for forbidding same-sex marriage. Indeed, he said, "The only rationale that the states put forward with any conviction is ... so full of holes that it cannot be taken seriously."

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5:31pm

Wed September 3, 2014
It's All Politics

Federal Judge Upholds Louisiana's Same-Sex-Marriage Ban

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 5:46 pm

A federal judge in New Orleans has upheld Louisiana's law banning same-sex marriage. The decision is the first break in a string of more than two dozen federal court rulings that have struck down same-sex-marriage bans in other states over the past year.

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3:41pm

Tue August 26, 2014
The Two-Way

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh Returns To Surgery Following Crash

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 6:53 pm

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

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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3:42pm

Wed August 20, 2014
The Two-Way

Same-Sex Marriages On Hold In Virginia After Supreme Court Weighs In

Originally published on Thu August 21, 2014 1:40 pm

Supporters and opponents of gay marriage demonstrate outside the federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., in May.
Steve Helber AP

The U.S. Supreme Court has stepped in to block a federal appeals court ruling that would have allowed gay marriages to begin in Virginia on Thursday.

The decision was widely expected and tells little about how the high court will ultimately rule on the issue. It merely preserves the status quo.

Indeed, while Virginia officials urged the Supreme Court to strike down the ban on gay marriage, they also urged the court to put a hold on the immediate issuing of marriage licenses.

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4:15pm

Thu July 24, 2014
Law

The Death Clerk, And Other Details Of Last-Minute Execution Appeals

Originally published on Thu July 24, 2014 6:22 pm

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

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Arizona's execution is the third botched or problematic execution this year. And it poses lots of legal questions. So we have NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg now to answer them. Hi.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi.

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