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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Law
12:01 am
Wed February 22, 2012

Can 'I Won The Medal Of Honor' Get You Jailed?

The Medal of Honor is held by a military honor guard at the White House last September, when President Obama awarded the medal to Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, 23, from Greensburg, Ky., for his actions in Afghanistan. The Supreme Court is now deciding if those who falsely claim to have won such military awards can be prosecuted for lying.
Charles Dharapak AP

Originally published on Wed February 22, 2012 8:03 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case about lies, big and small, and when those lies can be a crime under the Constitution's guarantee of free speech. At issue is the constitutionality of a law making it a crime to lie about being the recipient of military medals.

At the center of the case is Xavier Alvarez, a man nobody disputes is a liar. He lied about being an ex-professional hockey player. He lied about being an engineer. He lied about rescuing the American ambassador during the Iranian hostage crisis. He even lied about being a retired Marine.

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Law
4:14 pm
Tue February 21, 2012

Supreme Court Wades Into Affirmative Action Issue

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the 2003 Supreme Court opinion on affirmative action in college admissions. The newly energized conservative majority on the court could now change course.
Kevin Lamarque Reuters/Landov

The U.S. Supreme Court said Tuesday that it will revisit the divisive issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court agreed to hear arguments next fall in a case that challenges the affirmative action program at the University of Texas. By re-entering the fray after more than 30 years of settled law on the issue, the newly energized conservative court majority has signaled that it may be willing to unsettle much of that law.

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The Two-Way
11:48 am
Tue February 21, 2012

High Court Will Weigh Discount Fees In Quicken Mortgage Case

Originally published on Tue February 21, 2012 12:35 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case testing whether it is illegal for mortgage lenders to tack on fees to closing costs for services that were not provided. The case was brought by three Louisiana couples who claim their lender violated a 1974 federal law aimed at preventing abusive practices in real estate closings.

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The Two-Way
4:04 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Robbed By Man Armed With Machete

Originally published on Mon February 13, 2012 7:14 pm

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer has been the victim of an armed robbery, but is unharmed.

Breyer, his wife, Joanna, and a friend were at the Breyer vacation home on the Caribbean island of Nevis when a man broke in with a machete and confronted them. The intruder fled with about $1,000 in cash. A Supreme Court spokeswoman said no one was hurt, and that the robbery was reported to local authorities. The FBI is said to be aiding in the investigation.

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Law
3:00 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

High Court Rules In Favor Of Death Row Inmate

Originally published on Wed January 18, 2012 8:00 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has given an Alabama death row inmate another chance to fight his execution. By a 7-to-2 vote, the court ruled Wednesday that convicted murderer Cory Maples, "through no fault of his own," was denied the right to appeal because he was abandoned by his lawyers.

Maples was convicted in 1997 of murdering two friends and was sentenced to death. There is no doubt that he committed the crime; the doubt is whether he could have avoided the death penalty if he had been properly represented at trial.

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Law
3:02 pm
Tue January 17, 2012

High Court Lets Stand Trio Of First Amendment Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a trio of cases involving free speech and religion.

In the first set of cases, the court declined to address the burgeoning legal debate over what powers school officials have to censor students who are at home, working on their personal computers, when they create parodies or personal attacks involving school officials or fellow students.

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Law
12:01 am
Tue January 10, 2012

Supreme Court To Consider FCC Indecency Case

Singer Cher accepts a lifetime achievement award at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas during the Billboard Music Awards show in 2002. Her use of an obscenity in her acceptance speech led the FCC to fine broadcaster Fox.
Joe Cavaretta AP

Originally published on Tue January 10, 2012 5:58 pm

Dirty words return to the usually staid Supreme Court Tuesday. For a second time in three years, the justices are hearing arguments about a Federal Communications Commission regulation adopted during the Bush administration that allows the agency to punish broadcasters with stiff fines for the fleeting use of vulgar language.

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Law
12:01 am
Mon January 9, 2012

Texas Redrawn: Voting Rights, States' Power In Court

The Texas State Capitol in Austin. The Lone Star State is gaining four additional congressional seats because of its booming population, but its redistricting plans are in limbo.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Mon January 9, 2012 3:10 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a tangle of Texas redistricting cases, with repercussions beyond the Lone Star State. Consolidated into one test, the cases pit the Voting Rights Act and its protections for minority voters against state legislative powers — with an overlaying sheen of sheer political calculus.

The case has been called a puzzle of three courts, a reference to the interplay between two lower courts and the Supreme Court.

A Chance To Redraw

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Law
5:00 am
Sat January 7, 2012

When Property Rights, Environmental Laws Collide

Chantell and Mike Sackett say the EPA violated their right to due process when it said they were building a house on a wetland. The Supreme Court will hear the case on Monday.
Jessica Robinson Northwest News Network

Originally published on Sat January 7, 2012 10:20 am

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a case near and dear to EPA haters.

It would seem to be a David-and-Goliath case that pits a middle-class American couple trying to build their dream home against the Environmental Protection Agency. But the couple, Michael and Chantell Sackett, is backed by a veritable who's who in American mining, oil, utilities, manufacturing and real estate development, as well as groups opposed to government regulation.

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Law
3:49 pm
Mon December 12, 2011

High Court To Wade Into Immigration Debate

A U.S. Border Patrol agent patrols along the U.S.-Mexico border in Naco, Ariz., in September. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal challenge to Arizona's tough new law on illegal immigration.
Joshua Lott Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon December 12, 2011 6:33 pm

The United States Supreme Court added another red-hot rocket to its docket on Monday, all but ensuring that it will resolve a major immigration case just weeks before the major parties hold their conventions next summer.

The court agreed to hear a challenge to a controversial Arizona law that targets people suspected of being illegal immigrants. This is a setback for the Obama administration, which had urged the justices to wait for the lower courts to thoroughly examine the constitutionality of the issues in the case.

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