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

6:56pm

Mon June 18, 2012
Law

Supreme Court Sides With Illinois In DNA Case

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

5:06pm

Mon June 18, 2012
Law

Baseball Legend Clemens Found Not Guilty Of Perjury

Originally published on Mon June 18, 2012 7:52 pm

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

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

1:50pm

Mon June 11, 2012
The Two-Way

Defense Rests In Roger Clemens Perjury Trial

Originally published on Mon June 11, 2012 1:55 pm

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

4:34am

Mon June 11, 2012
Judging The Health Care Law

Health Care Decision Hinges On A Crucial Clause

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 11:12 am

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

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

6:44pm

Mon June 4, 2012
The Two-Way

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

3:33pm

Mon June 4, 2012
It's All Politics

Supreme Court Backs Secret Service Agents In Dick Cheney Case

Originally published on Mon June 4, 2012 6:36 pm

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

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

6:46pm

Mon May 21, 2012
Law

Court: No Benefits For Kids Conceived After Dad Died

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 8:21 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

8:18pm

Thu May 17, 2012
Law

Clemens' Former Trainer Admits Changing Testimony

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 4:49 pm

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

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

4:03am

Sat May 12, 2012
Deceptive Cadence

Roman Totenberg: A Musical Life Remembered

Originally published on Tue September 18, 2012 4:54 pm

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

[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

5:47pm

Tue May 8, 2012
Remembrances

Roman Totenberg's Remarkable Life And Death

Originally published on Thu May 10, 2012 1:20 pm

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

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

6:26pm

Wed May 2, 2012
Law

Key Clemens Witness Leaves Prosecutors Scrambling

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:44 am

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

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

8:31pm

Tue May 1, 2012
Law

Teammate Testifies Against Clemens In Perjury Trial

Originally published on Wed May 9, 2012 10:44 am

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

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

8:28pm

Wed April 25, 2012
Law

Immigration Brings High Drama To The High Court

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 8:53 am

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

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

6:47pm

Tue April 24, 2012
Law

Controversial Arizona Law Reaches Supreme Court

Originally published on Wed April 25, 2012 8:10 am

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

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

7:09pm

Mon April 23, 2012
The Two-Way

Prosecutor Accuses Clemens Of 'Deceit,' 'Dishonesty'

Originally published on Tue April 24, 2012 6:49 am

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

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

3:15pm

Wed April 18, 2012
The Two-Way

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.

Read more

3:20am

Mon April 16, 2012
Law

Clemens Faces Trial (Again) Over Doping Testimony

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

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

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.

Read more

9:11am

Thu March 29, 2012
Judging The Health Care Law

Justices Ask: Can Health Law Stand If Mandate Falls?

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

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Read more

4:00am

Wed March 28, 2012
Law

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.

Read more

12:01am

Tue March 27, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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

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

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

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.

Read more

12:01am

Mon March 26, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

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.

Read more

6:03am

Sun March 25, 2012
Judging The Health Care Law

A Legal Guide To The Health Care Arguments

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

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

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?

Read more

4:06pm

Fri March 23, 2012
Judging The Health Care Law

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.

Read more

11:05am

Thu March 22, 2012
Judging The Health Care Law

The Man Behind The Defense Of Obama's Health Law

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

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

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.

Read more

6:56pm

Wed March 21, 2012
Law

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.

Read more

5:02pm

Wed March 21, 2012
Law

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.

Read more

4:07am

Wed March 21, 2012
Law

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."

Read more

7:20pm

Tue March 20, 2012
Law

Justices Limit State Liability Under Medical Leave Act

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

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

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.

Read more

6:14pm

Tue March 20, 2012
Law

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.

Read more

4:14am

Tue March 20, 2012
Law

Do Juvenile Killers Deserve Life Behind Bars?

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

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

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.

Read more

Pages