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
7:09 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 6:49 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.

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The Two-Way
3:15 pm
Wed April 18, 2012

Organizations Can't Be Sued For Torture, High Court Rules

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that organizations cannot be sued for the torture under the Torture Victim Protection Act.

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Law
3:20 am
Mon April 16, 2012

Clemens Faces Trial (Again) Over Doping Testimony

Former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens stops to sign a baseball as he leaves the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., on July 14, 2011, after a judge declared a mistrial in his perjury trial.
Jonathan Ernst Reuters /Landov

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 9:06 am

Baseball star Roger Clemens goes on trial for a second time Monday on charges that he lied to a congressional committee about using steroids and human growth hormone. His trial on perjury and obstruction charges last summer ended abruptly when prosecutors mistakenly showed the jury evidence that the judge had ruled inadmissible.

Clemens won a record seven Cy Young awards during his storied pitching career, but prosecutors contend that he used steroids and human growth hormone to prolong that career.

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NPR Story
3:00 pm
Wed March 28, 2012

For Health Care, Will One Part's End Be The End-All?

Linda Dorr (left) and Keli Carender chant along with other demonstrators in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
John Rose NPR

Originally published on Thu March 29, 2012 9:11 am

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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Law
4:00 am
Wed March 28, 2012

Justices Hear Arguments Over Heart Of Health Law

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

It's the third and final day for the U.S. Supreme Court to consider the Obama health care overhaul. The justices hear arguments today on what parts could remain in effect if the court rules the individual mandate of the health care law is unconstitutional. After yesterday's arguments, that seemed more likely than most experts had expected.

NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:01 am
Tue March 27, 2012

Justices Tackle The Big Question: Can Congress Force You To Buy Insurance?

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider whether Congress can require people to buy health insurance.
Adam Cole NPR

Originally published on Wed June 27, 2012 4:25 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court gets to the heart of the health care arguments Tuesday. Almost exactly two years after Congress passed the Obama health care overhaul, the justices are hearing legal arguments testing the constitutionality of the so-called health care mandate — so-called because those words actually do not appear in the law.

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Law
3:00 pm
Mon March 26, 2012

Supreme Court Justices Weigh Health Care Law

A protester holds up a copy of the U.S. Constitution outside the Supreme Court on Monday in Washington, D.C.
Brendan Smialowski AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court signaled Monday that it likely will resolve the constitutional challenge to the Obama health care overhaul, sidestepping the procedural issues that could derail the case until 2015.

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Shots - Health Blog
12:01 am
Mon March 26, 2012

4 Questions That Could Make Or Break The Health Care Law

Does the Supreme Court have the jurisdiction to rule on the constitutionality of the health care law right now? That's the question the justices will consider during Monday's oral arguments.
Adam Cole NPR

It's the hottest ticket in Washington, D.C. Even the flossiest lawyers in town can't get a seat. Senators, congressmen, Cabinet and White House officials are all vying for a place.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, people have been lining up for days, waiting to hear this week's historic oral arguments on President Obama's health care law. The arguments will last for six hours over a three-day period, the longest argument in more than 40 years.

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Judging The Health Care Law
6:03 am
Sun March 25, 2012

A Legal Guide To The Health Care Arguments

On Monday, the court considers whether it can even hear the health care case now.

Originally published on Mon March 26, 2012 10:23 am

As the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments over President Obama's health care overhaul this week, we take a look at the questions at stake each day.

Monday: Can the courts even rule on the constitutionality of the law right now?

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Judging The Health Care Law
4:06 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

The Legal Wunderkind Challenging The Health Law

Former Solicitor General Paul D. Clement speaks during a forum at the Georgetown University Law Center on March 9. Clement will be arguing against President Obama's health care act in the Supreme Court next week.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

Paul Clement is, quite simply, a walking superlative. A wunderkind who at age 34 became deputy solicitor general and then was promoted to the top spot, solicitor general of the United States, becoming the youngest person to hold that post in more than a century. Now 45, he has argued an astonishing 57 cases before the Supreme Court, more than any other lawyer since 2000. And next week, he will lead the challenge to the Obama health care overhaul, in the Supreme Court.

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Judging The Health Care Law
11:05 am
Thu March 22, 2012

The Man Behind The Defense Of Obama's Health Law

Solicitor General Don Verrilli grew up in Connecticut and received his law degree from Columbia Law School.
Mark Wilson Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 26, 2012 5:05 pm

At 54, Don Verrilli Jr. stands tall and calm in the Supreme Court chamber, his salt and pepper mustache the only thing about him that bristles. His deep, baritone voice suggests to the justices that he is the essence of reasonableness. There are no histrionics. Indeed, if he gets backed into a corner, his voice just gets deeper. Only the occasional, needless throat-clearing betrays any nerves at all.

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Law
6:56 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

Supreme Court: Property Owners Can Challenge EPA

Mike and Chantell Sackett of Priest Lake, Idaho, pose for a photo in front of the Supreme Court in Washington on Oct. 14, 2011. The court ruled unanimously Wednesday that property owners have a right to prompt review by a judge of an important tool used by the Environmental Protection Agency to address water pollution.
Haraz N. Ghanbari AP

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled unanimously in favor of an Idaho couple who were prevented from building their dream home after the Environmental Protection Agency barred them from building on their land. The agency claimed the property was protected wetlands under the federal Clean Water Act.

The ruling gives property owners the right to challenge an EPA compliance order from the time it is issued, rather than waiting for the agency to begin enforcement actions.

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Law
5:02 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

High Court Throws Out Conviction In 'Bad Lawyer' Case

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, shown on Capitol Hill in April 2011, wrote the court's ruling Wednesday that for the most part, plea bargaining determines "who goes to jail and for how long. It is not some adjunct to the criminal justice system. It is the criminal justice system."
Evan Vucci AP

For the first time, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that defendants have a constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel in plea bargains. In a 5-4 decision Wednesday, the court went further, declaring that when a lawyer acts unethically or gives clearly wrong advice, the defendant may be entitled to a second chance at accepting a plea offer.

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Law
4:07 am
Wed March 21, 2012

Confronting The VP May Be Impolite. Is It A Crime?

Vice President Dick Cheney defends the Bush administration's policy on the war in Iraq in an address to the American Legion's annual conference in Washington, D.C., in 2006.
Leslie E. Kossoff AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case involving the arrest of a Colorado man who was thrown in jail after telling Vice President Cheney in 2006 that the Bush administration's policies in Iraq were "disgusting."

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Law
7:20 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Justices Limit State Liability Under Medical Leave Act

Daniel Coleman outside the U.S. Supreme Court after oral arguments in his case in January. On Tuesday, the justices ruled against Coleman, holding that that states cannot be sued for money damages for failing to give an employee time off to recover from an illness under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Tue March 20, 2012 8:18 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that states cannot be sued for money damages for failing to give an employee time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to recover from an illness. The vote was 5 to 4 with no legal theory commanding a clear majority.

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Law
6:14 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

Supreme Court Considers Life Sentences For Juveniles

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday in two cases that ask whether it is constitutional to sentence juveniles to life in prison without parole.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in two murder cases testing whether it is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a 14-year-old to life in prison without the possibility of parole. There are currently 79 people serving such life terms for crimes committed when they were 14 or younger.

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Law
4:14 am
Tue March 20, 2012

Do Juvenile Killers Deserve Life Behind Bars?

Raphael Johnson shot and killed a classmate when he was 17. After his release from prison, he got bachelor's and master's degrees and started a community policing program in Detroit.
Courtesy of Equal Justice Initiative

Originally published on Tue March 20, 2012 3:18 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in two homicide cases testing whether it is unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a 14-year-old to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

There are currently 79 of these juvenile killers who will die in prison. What's more, in many states, the penalty is mandatory, meaning neither judge nor jury is allowed to consider the youngster's age or background in meting out the sentence.

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Law
4:59 pm
Mon March 19, 2012

Justices Weigh IVF Technology Against 1939 Law

Justices heard arguments Monday in a case that attempts to reconcile modern in vitro fertilization technology with a 1939 law.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

Originally published on Mon March 19, 2012 7:19 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case testing whether children conceived through in vitro fertilization after the death of a parent are eligible for Social Security survivors benefits.

The case before the court began in 2001 when Robert Capato was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Before beginning treatments, he deposited sperm at a fertility clinic, and after he died, his wife, Karen, carried out the couple's plan to conceive using Robert's sperm.

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Law
4:05 am
Mon March 19, 2012

Is A Baby Conceived After Dad's Death A 'Survivor'?

A technician places a fertilized human egg in a test tube. New technology has led to new legal questions: What happens to survivors benefits when a baby is conceived after a father's death?
Rich Frishman Getty Images

Originally published on Mon March 19, 2012 9:06 am

Two eras clash on Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court, when a law written in 1939 is applied to in vitro fertilization. At issue is whether children conceived through in vitro fertilization after the death of a parent are eligible for Social Security survivors benefits.

At least 100 such cases are pending before the Social Security Administration.

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Law
3:00 pm
Fri March 16, 2012

Supreme Court Allows Same-Day Audio In Healthcare Case

Originally published on Fri March 16, 2012 11:03 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Here's one more piece of legal news. The U.S. Supreme Court will make same-day audio available of the upcoming arguments on the health care overhaul. The court says it's responding to extraordinary public interest in the case. Here's NPR's Nina Totenberg.

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