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
5:53 pm
Wed October 10, 2012

Supreme Court Questions UT's Affirmative Action Plan

Abigail Fisher, the Texan involved in the University of Texas affirmative action case, talks to reporters outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Wednesday.
Susan Walsh AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 6:25 pm

Affirmative action in higher education appeared to take a potentially lethal hit on Wednesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments testing the constitutionality of a race-conscious admission program at the University of Texas, Austin.

Read more
Law
2:14 am
Wed October 10, 2012

Justices Return To Affirmative Action In Higher Ed

Students walk through the University of Texas, Austin, campus near the school's iconic tower on Sept. 27.
Eric Gay AP

Originally published on Wed October 10, 2012 5:48 am

The U.S. Supreme Court returns on Wednesday to the emotional issue of affirmative action in higher education. The court will once again hear oral arguments on the issue, this time in a case from the University of Texas.

Over the past 35 years, the court has twice ruled that race may be one of many factors in determining college admissions, as long as there are no racial quotas. Now, just nine years after its last decision, the justices seem poised to outright reverse or cut back on the previous rulings.

Read more
Law
2:29 am
Mon October 1, 2012

High Court Preps For Another Headline-Making Term

The U.S. Supreme Court is embarking on a new term beginning Monday that could be as consequential as the last one, with the prospect of major rulings on affirmative action, gay marriage and voting rights.
Alex Brandon AP

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 8:30 am

It would be hard to beat last June's cataclysmic, cacophonous end of the Supreme Court term and the decision upholding the Obama health care law. But while all the media focus is on the upcoming elections, the U.S. Supreme Court is about to begin yet another headline-making term, with decisions expected on affirmative action in higher education, same-sex marriage, the Voting Rights Act and a lot of privacy issues.

Read more
It's All Politics
5:50 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Interviewing Scalia: Verbal Wrestling Match With A Master

Nina Totenberg interviews Justice Antonin Scalia at the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 1:31 pm

I've gotten a lot of email about my interview with Justice Antonin Scalia on Tuesday. People seem to have liked the story because they could see the justice as a human being — combative, funny, engaging and charming.

That's why I and so many other folks always enjoy spending time with him.

So, take this exchange from our interview. Only part of it was in my piece on air, or even the longer piece on the Web.

Read more
Law
3:44 am
Wed July 25, 2012

Justice Scalia Disputes Accuracy Of 'Leak'

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia spoke with NPR on Tuesday at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 6:02 pm

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, influential conservative and pugilistic dissenter, is challenging everything from a recent leak about Supreme Court deliberations, to conventional wisdom about the court and its history.

In a new book co-authored with Bryan Garner, Scalia spells out his judicial philosophy, and on Tuesday, the always voluble, charming and combative justice sat for a wide-ranging interview — about the book, his relationships on the court, and the recent leak alleging anger among the justices over the recent health care decision.

Read more
The Two-Way
1:20 pm
Sun July 22, 2012

Obama's Judicial Nominees Face Slowed Confirmation Process

Originally published on Sun July 22, 2012 1:33 pm

We are all used to judicial nomination fights, but what has been remarkable in the Obama administration has been the molasses-like confirmation process for noncontroversial nominees, especially federal district court nominees.

Read more
Law
3:06 pm
Mon July 16, 2012

Even Scalia's Dissenting Opinions Get Major Scrutiny

Justice Antonin Scalia testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Oct. 5, 2011.
Alex Wong Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 16, 2012 9:01 pm

As legal observers have sifted through the ashes and the tea leaves of the recent Supreme Court term, one justice has stood out for his dissents.

Justice Antonin Scalia was the first name on the joint dissent filed by four justices in the health care case. But it was Scalia's dissent in the Arizona immigration case, written for himself alone, that drew particular attention, and especially harsh criticism.

Read more
Law
2:26 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Supreme Court Has A Term To Remember, Not Expect

The U.S. Supreme Court took on a number of high-profile cases this term, including the decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
Chip Somodevilla Getty Images

Originally published on Mon July 30, 2012 8:20 pm

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court have fled Washington, leaving in their wake a storm of historic headlines. In the last 10 days alone, the high court upheld the Obama health care law, struck down much of the Arizona immigration law and ruled unconstitutional mandatory sentences of life without parole for juveniles convicted of murder.

Chief Justice John Roberts is in Malta, a place that, as he pointed out, is "an impregnable island fortress." He puckishly observed that it "seemed like a good idea" to go there after the tumultuous end of the Supreme Court term.

Read more
It's All Politics
4:15 pm
Thu July 5, 2012

Federal Judge Richard Posner: The GOP Has Made Me Less Conservative

Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
John Gress Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 10:12 am

Judge Richard Posner, a conservative on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has long been one of the nation's most respected and admired legal thinkers on the right. But in an interview with NPR, he expressed exasperation at the modern Republican Party, and confessed that he has become "less conservative" as a result.

Read more
It's All Politics
6:06 pm
Tue July 3, 2012

Did Roberts Flip On The Health Care Decision?

Since the Supreme Court's health care ruling, there's been a lot of speculation about whether Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind during the course of deliberations.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Originally published on Wed July 4, 2012 1:00 pm

In the days since the Supreme Court's historic health care ruling, there has been a good deal of speculation about whether Chief Justice John Roberts changed his mind in the course of deliberations, deciding late in the game to uphold the constitutionality of most of the law.

Even before the decision was announced, conservative writers railed that liberals and the so-called mainstream media were trying to intimidate the chief justice.

Read more
Law
4:00 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Chief Justice Robert's Vote Saves Health Care Law

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 5:44 am

Transcript

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The Supreme Court's decision to uphold President Obama's health care law defied many predictions: the outcome, the legal grounds, and the makeup of the court majority. For Chief Justice John Roberts, his definitive court opinion was either a triumph of judicial restraint, or a sellout, depending on who you talk to.

Read more
Law
5:09 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Tight Court Decision Produces Explosion Of Emotion

This artist's rendering shows Chief Justice John Roberts (center) speaking at the Supreme Court on Thursday. From left are Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Samuel Alito and Elena Kagan. The court voted 5-4 to uphold President Obama's health care law.
Dana Verkouteren AP

Originally published on Fri June 29, 2012 9:45 am

  • NPR Special Coverage: The Health Care Decision

Shock, dismay, relief, confusion — all those emotions played out Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court announced its 5-to-4 decision to uphold almost all of President Obama's health care overhaul.

The ruling, with shifting majorities on different provisions and multiple dissents, covered close to 200 pages and provoked initial confusion. Both Fox News and CNN got it wrong, reporting at first that the individual mandate had been struck down. But when the dust cleared, the law labeled derisively by Republicans as "Obamacare" was largely intact.

Read more
Law
5:55 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Supreme Court Sides With Illinois In DNA Case

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 5:56 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court, headed into the homestretch of its term, once again weighed into the question of whether lab technicians must testify in criminal cases about test results. But in four separate opinions that spanned 92 pages, the justices were anything but clear.

Read more
Law
4:22 pm
Mon June 18, 2012

Baseball Legend Clemens Found Not Guilty Of Perjury

Former pitcher Roger Clemens, center, and his attorneys Rusty Hardin, right, and Michael Attanasio arrive on the courthouse steps after Clemens was found not guilty on all charges in his perjury trial at U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday.
Saul Loeb AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 6:52 pm

A federal jury acquitted pitching ace Roger Clemens of all charges on Monday. The jury found Clemens not guilty of lying to Congress and obstructing a congressional investigation into performance-enhancing drugs.

Read more
The Two-Way
12:55 pm
Mon June 11, 2012

Defense Rests In Roger Clemens Perjury Trial

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens, accompanied by his attorney Rusty Hardin, left, arrives at federal court in Washington on Monday.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

The defense has rested in the Roger Clemens perjury trial, without Clemens testifying. The last defense witness was the former Yankees security director, Gerald Laveroni, who told the jury the prosecution's star witness cannot be believed.

Laveroni worked for the Yankees from 2000 to 2010 overlapping with the time when Clemens pitched for the Yankees and his chief accuser, Brian Mcnamee, served as a trainer.

Asked how much credibility McNamee had, Laveroni replied, "Zero."

Read more
Judging The Health Care Law
3:34 am
Mon June 11, 2012

Health Care Decision Hinges On A Crucial Clause

For more than 200 years, the Supreme Court has interpreted the meaning of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Its latest test is the case challenging the Obama health care law.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 10:12 am

All of Washington is breathlessly awaiting the Supreme Court's imminent decision on the Obama health care overhaul. Rumors circulate almost daily that the decision is ready for release. As usual, those rumors are perpetrated by people who know nothing, but the decision is expected by the end of this month.

Read more
The Two-Way
5:44 pm
Mon June 4, 2012

High Court Rules 'Equal Protection' Doesn't Extend To Municipal Taxpayers

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the Constitution's guarantee to equal protection of the law does not extend to taxpayers who paid more for a sewer hookup than their neighbors.

The case centered on what essentially amounted to an amnesty program for some taxpayers when Indianapolis switched from one payment system to another.

Read more
It's All Politics
2:33 pm
Mon June 4, 2012

Supreme Court Backs Secret Service Agents In Dick Cheney Case

Vice President Dick Cheney speaks at a 2006 Republican rally in Idaho.
Jason Hunt AP

Originally published on Mon June 4, 2012 5:36 pm

In a case involving then-Vice President Dick Cheney's Secret Service detail, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that agents accused of a politically motivated arrest are immune from suit. But the court's unanimous ruling did little more than resolve this particular case.

The decision stems from an incident in 2006 in the Colorado resort town of Beaver Creek, where Cheney was shaking hands at a shopping mall. Steven Howards got in line and when his turn came, he told the vice president that the Bush administration's Iraq policies were "disgusting."

Read more
Law
6:08 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

Court: No Benefits For Kids Conceived After Dad Died

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 7:21 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that that a Florida man's children, conceived after his death through in vitro fertilization, are not entitled to Social Security survivors benefits. More than 100 similar cases are pending before the Social Security Administration, but Monday's ruling is unlikely to resolve most of them.

Read more
Law
7:18 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

Clemens' Former Trainer Admits Changing Testimony

Brian McNamee, Roger Clemens' one-time trainer, leaves federal court in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.
Jacquelyn Martin AP

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 3:49 pm

The prosecution's star witness underwent a withering cross-examination on Thursday at Roger Clemens' perjury trial. Clemens, a seven-time Cy Young Award winner, is charged with lying to Congress when he testified that he never used performance-enhancing drugs. Brian McNamee, his one-time trainer, is the only witness who has firsthand evidence that contradicts the baseball-pitching ace.

Earlier this week, guided by the prosecution, McNamee testified in agonizing and repetitive detail about how he injected Clemens with steroids and human growth hormone between 1998 and 2001.

Read more
Deceptive Cadence
3:03 am
Sat May 12, 2012

Roman Totenberg: A Musical Life Remembered

At 101, Roman Totenberg was teaching students up to the very end of his life.
Suzanne Kreiter The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 3:54 pm

[Roman Totenberg was a child prodigy who became a violin virtuoso, as well as a master teacher who passed along his command of craft and his love of music — and life — to thousands. He was also the man you wanted to sit next to at the table because he was so funny. Totenberg died this week at the age of 101, surrounded by loving family, friends and students. We asked his daughter, Nina Totenberg, for this remembrance. — Scott Simon]

Read more
Remembrances
4:36 pm
Tue May 8, 2012

Roman Totenberg's Remarkable Life And Death

Totenberg teaches student Letitia Hom in his classroom at Boston University. Totenberg made his debut as a soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic at age 11.
David L. Ryan The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 12:20 pm

My father, world-renowned virtuoso violinist and teacher Roman Totenberg, whose professional career spanned nine decades and four continents, died early Tuesday morning at the age of 101.

His death was as remarkable as his life. He made his debut as a soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic at age 11, performed his last concert when he was in his mid-90s, and was still teaching, literally, on his deathbed. This week, as word flew around the musical world that he was in renal failure, former students flocked to his home in Newton, Mass., to see the beloved "maestro."

Read more
Law
5:26 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Key Clemens Witness Leaves Prosecutors Scrambling

Andy Pettitte leaves the courthouse after testifying Wednesday in the perjury and obstruction trial of former teammate Roger Clemens in Washington, D.C.
Win McNamee Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 9:44 am

The prosecution at the perjury trial of baseball great Roger Clemens suffered another major setback Wednesday. One of its key witnesses, pitcher Andy Pettitte, conceded that he may have misunderstood his former teammate as saying he used human growth hormone (HGH).

Clemens is charged with lying to Congress when he testified before a House committee that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.

Read more
Law
7:19 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

Teammate Testifies Against Clemens In Perjury Trial

Andy Pettitte leaves the federal court in Washington, D.C., Tuesday. Pettitte took the stand in the retrial of Roger Clemens on charges that Clemens lied when he told Congress in 2008 that he had never used steroids or human growth hormone.
Manuel Balce Ceneta AP

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 9:44 am

If the prosecution at the Roger Clemens perjury trial hoped for a dramatic showdown on Tuesday, the day was a big disappointment. The prosecution's star witness, Clemens' friend and onetime pitching ace Andy Pettitte, provided as much, if not more, ammunition for the defense.

Clemens is charged with lying to Congress when he testified that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs.

Read more
Law
7:25 pm
Wed April 25, 2012

Immigration Brings High Drama To The High Court

This artist rendering shows Solicitor General Donald Verrilli speaking before the Supreme Court. Verrilli argued Wednesday that Arizona's immigration law steps into federal territory.
Dana Verkouteren AP

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 7:53 am

A majority of U.S. Supreme Court justices signaled Wednesday that they will uphold at least part of Arizona's controversial immigration law. Four provisions of the law were blocked by a federal appeals court last year, and while even some of the court's conservatives expressed skepticism about some of those provisions, a majority seemed willing to unblock the so-called "show me your papers" provisions.

Read more
Law
5:47 pm
Tue April 24, 2012

Controversial Arizona Law Reaches Supreme Court

Maricopa County sheriff's deputies check the shoes of a suspect arrested during a crime suppression sweep in Phoenix in 2010. Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration and crime sweep came after hundreds of immigrant-rights supporters delayed the effort with a rally at a downtown jail, in opposition to Arizona's immigration law SB 1070.
Ross D. Franklin AP

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 7:10 am

The U.S. Supreme Court takes up yet another incendiary election issue Wednesday when it hears arguments on a controversial Arizona law that targets illegal immigrants.

As with last month's test of the Obama health care overhaul, the case pits the federal government's assertion of power against some states, and with some exceptions, it pits Democrats against Republicans.

Read more
The Two-Way
6:09 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Prosecutor Accuses Clemens Of 'Deceit,' 'Dishonesty'

Former all-star baseball pitcher Roger Clemens leaves the U.S. District Court on Monday after the first day of his perjury and obstruction trial in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 5:49 am

The retrial of baseball great Roger Clemens began in earnest Monday after a week of jury selection. Clemens is charged with lying in 2008 to a congressional committee when he denied ever using steroids or human growth hormone.

He will be judged by a jury of 10 women and 6 men — 12 jurors and 4 alternates — who will decide whether Clemens lied under oath about using the drugs when he testified before a congressional committee investigating the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball.

Read more

Pages