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
5:22 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 7:52 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.

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The Two-Way
1:46 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

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

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."

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The Two-Way
6:44 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.

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Law
6:46 pm
Mon May 21, 2012

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.

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Law
8:18 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 4:49 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.

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Deceptive Cadence
4:03 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 4:54 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]

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Remembrances
5:36 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 1:20 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."

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Law
6:26 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 10:44 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.

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Law
8:30 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 10:44 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.

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Law
8:28 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 8:53 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.

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Law
6:47 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 8:10 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.

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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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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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Judging The Health Care Law
12:13 am
Thu March 29, 2012

Justices Ask: Can Health Law Stand If Mandate Fails?

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 Fri March 30, 2012 2:14 pm

The historic legal arguments on the Obama health care overhaul came to a close at the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, with key justices suggesting the court may be prepared to strike down not just the individual mandate but the whole law.

The major arguments of the day were premised on a supposition. Suppose, asked the court, we do strike down the individual mandate — what other parts of the law, if any, should be allowed to stand?

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Judging The Health Care Law
3:00 pm
Tue March 27, 2012

Mandate's Fate Seems To Rest On Kennedy, Roberts

Demonstrators both for and against the new health care law turned out on the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
John Rose NPR

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, hostile questioning from key justices seemed to imperil the individual mandate, the central provision of the Obama health care overhaul.

The mandate requires virtually all Americans to have health insurance — through Medicare, Medicaid or employer-provided insurance, or, if you are not covered by any of those, through individual insurance that you pay for.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli seemed unusually nervous at first, asking for a moment to sip water to clear his throat. He had good reason for his nerves.

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Judging The Health Care Law
11:53 am
Tue March 27, 2012

Tax Fight A Prelude To Supreme Court Fireworks

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

Originally published on Mon March 26, 2012 3:00 pm

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
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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Shots - Health Blog
12:01 pm
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

Originally published on Mon March 26, 2012 12:01 am

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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Law
5:02 pm
Wed March 21, 2012

High Court Expands Defendants' Plea Bargain Rights

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
6:14 pm
Tue March 20, 2012

High Court Debates Life Without Parole 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
12:01 am
Tue February 28, 2012

Human Rights Victims Seek Remedy At High Court

Charles Wiwa fled Nigeria in 1996 following a crackdown on protests against Shell's oil operations in the Niger Delta. Now a resident of Chicago, Wiwa and other natives of the oil-rich Ogoni region are suing Shell for human rights violations.
Charles Rex Arbogast AP

Human rights are front and center at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in two cases testing how American law intersects with international law. At issue in both cases is whether foreign nationals in the United States can sue corporations or other entities in U.S. courts for alleged violations of human rights.

The case that has corporate teeth chattering is a lawsuit against Royal Dutch Shell Oil, which is accused of aiding and abetting the Nigerian government in committing atrocities in the 1990s.

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Law
12:01 am
Wed February 22, 2012

Can 'I Earned 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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