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."

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.

Lethal injection was the grim subject before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. Specifically at issue: whether the drug combinations currently used to execute convicted murderers in some states are unconstitutionally cruel.

The issue comes to the court after three botched executions over the past year.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in three death penalty cases testing which drug combinations constitute cruel and unusual punishment when used to execute a convicted murderer by lethal injection.

It is the second time in seven years that the justices have looked at the lethal injection question, and it comes after three botched executions over the past year.

The justices of the U.S. Supreme Court seemed closely divided Tuesday over the question of gay marriage, with Justice Anthony Kennedy likely holding the deciding vote.

Kennedy, who over the past two decades has written the court's three decisions recognizing and expanding gay rights, seemed conflicted on the question of marriage.

This week's same-sex-marriage cases at the Supreme Court brought in a record number of friend-of-the-court briefs — 148 of them, according to the court, beating the previous record of 136 in the 2013 Obamacare case.

These briefs, known formally by their Latin name, amicus briefs, are filed by groups, individuals, and governments that have an interest in the outcome.

People have been lining up outside the U.S. Supreme Court for days hoping that they will be among the lucky ones to get a seat for Tuesday's historic arguments on gay marriage.

As of now, gay marriage is legal in 36 states. By the end of this Supreme Court term, either same-sex couples will be able to wed in all 50 states, or gay marriage bans may be reinstituted in many of the states where they've previously been struck down.

The U.S. Supreme Court directly confronts the question of gay marriage this week with a whopping 2 1/2 hours of oral argument, accompanied by plenty of prognostication afterward about the expected results. It won't be until June that we learn how the issue is settled nationally. In the meantime, though, we do know a good deal about the views of the justices already.

To say that there has been a revolution in the law when it comes to gay rights is an understatement.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that police may not detain a traffic violator longer than needed so as to allow police time to conduct a dog sniff for drugs.

Just after midnight on March 27, 2012, Dennys Rodriguez was spotted on a Nebraska highway veering slowly onto the shoulder and then back onto the road. Police officer Morgan Struble questioned Rodriguez and checked his license, registration and whether he had any outstanding arrest warrants. Everything checked out. Struble also questioned the passenger traveling with Rodriguez and checked his documents as well.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears legal arguments next week in the legal battle over same-sex marriage. It's an extraordinarily high-stakes clash, but the men and women at the center of it see themselves as incredibly ordinary. The 12 couples and two widowers include doctors, lawyers, an Army sergeant, nurses and teachers.

Maria Altmann was 88 when I first met her by phone in 2004. "Would it be possible to call back in a few minutes?" she asked. "I'm feeling a little dizzy and would like a cup of coffee to revive myself."

"Of course," I said, imagining Mrs. Altmann as a somewhat frail grandmother. Old she was, but frail she was not.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that private Medicaid providers cannot sue to force states to raise reimbursement rates in the face of rising medical costs. The 5-to-4 decision is a blow to many doctors and health care companies and their complaint that state Medicaid reimbursement rates are so low that health care providers often lose money on Medicaid patients.

The Supreme Court hears a challenge Wednesday to Obama administration rules aimed at limiting the amount of mercury and other hazardous pollutants emitted from coal- and oil-fired utility plants. The regulations are being challenged by major industry groups like the National Mining Association and more than 20 states.

The regulations have been in the works for nearly two decades. Work on them began in the Clinton administration, got derailed in the George W. Bush administration, and then were revived and adopted in the Obama administration.

Nazis, jihadis, racial slurs and even "Mighty Fine Burgers" all made cameo appearances at the U.S. Supreme Court Monday as the justices tackled a case of great interest to America's auto-loving public. The question before the court: When, if ever, can the state veto the message on a specialty license plate?

The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a question of great interest to America's auto-loving public: Whose speech is that on your specialty license plate? Specifically, when the government issues specialty tags at the behest of private groups or individuals, can it veto messages deemed offensive to others?

Supreme Court advocates do not always play to type. To wit, R. James George Jr., arguing Monday for specialty license plates featuring the Confederate flag.

Not what you might expect from a man who started his legal career as a law clerk for Justice Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

When asked if he would have a license plate on his car honoring the Confederacy, George replies, "I would not generally do that."

#NPRreads is a new feature we're testing out on Twitter and on The Two-Way. The premise is simple: Correspondents, editors and producers throughout our newsroom will share pieces that have kept them reading. They'll share tidbits on Twitter using the #NPRreads hashtag, and on occasion we'll share a longer take here on the blog.

This week, we share with you four reads.

From Nina Totenberg, NPR's legal affairs correspondent:

The U.S. Supreme Court has ordered a federal appeals court to take a second look at the University of Notre Dame's challenge to the birth control mandate in Obamacare, and the rules for opting out of the required coverage.

The law allows religious charities and educational institutions to opt out of providing employee and student birth control coverage by signing a one-page form.

But Notre Dame contends that the act of signing that opt-out form makes it complicit in providing coverage that the Catholic university objects to on religious grounds.

With yet another do-or-die test of Obamacare before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, the justices were sharply divided.

By the end of the argument, it was clear that the outcome will be determined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy. The chief justice said almost nothing during the argument, and Kennedy sent mixed signals, seeming to give a slight edge to the administration's interpretation of the law.

Judging by the comments from the remaining justices, the challengers would need the votes of both Roberts and Kennedy to win.

Round 2 in the legal battle over Obamacare hits the Supreme Court's intellectual boxing ring Wednesday.

In one corner is the Obama administration, backed by the nation's hospitals, insurance companies, physician associations and other groups like Catholic Charities and the American Cancer Society.

In the other corner are conservative groups, backed by politicians who fought in Congress to prevent the bill from being adopted.

Hypotheticals about hunting lodges and Motel 6 saved the oral argument at the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday from being strangled by legal weeds.

At issue was a Los Angeles ordinance that requires hotel and motel owners to record various pieces of information about their guests — drivers license, credit card and automobile tags, for instance. The hotel owners don't dispute they have to do that; what they do dispute is the part of the law that requires proprietors to make this information available to any member of the Los Angeles Police Department upon demand.

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed closely divided Monday as it heard arguments testing how far states may go to prevent political parties from drawing congressional district lines to maximize partisan advantage.

Take a look at a congressional district map, and it can look like a madman's jigsaw puzzle. The reason is, in part, that the district lines are drawn by state legislators seeking to maximize partisan advantage. It's a process that critics say is responsible for much that's wrong with Washington.

That's why some states have tried setting up independent commissions to draw the map. Arizona voters created such a commission in 2000. But when the commission chair displeased the governor and state Senate, they tried, unsuccessfully, to remove her.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, you know that it's going to be a hot argument when the usually straight-faced Justice Samuel Alito begins a question this way: "Let's say four people show up for a job interview ... this is going to sound like a joke, but it's not."

The issue before the court on Wednesday was whether retailer Abercrombie & Fitch violated the federal law banning religious discrimination when it rejected a highly rated job applicant because she wore a Muslim headscarf.

My assignment Thursday night was pretty clear. As the moderator of the sold-out event, let the audience get a good look at the jousting, good-humored friendship between Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.

On the high court these two are the leading voices of conservatism and liberalism. In their written opinions, even the footnotes can be ferocious. But they are also true and longtime friends. As Scalia said of Ginsburg, "what's not to like — except her views on the law."

The U.S. Supreme Court refused Monday to step in and stop gay marriages from taking place in Alabama. The move sent the strongest signal to date that the justices are on the verge of legalizing gay marriage nationwide. Within hours of the high-court ruling, same-sex marriages began taking place in Alabama, despite an eleventh-hour show of defiance by the state's chief justice.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed today to review Oklahoma's method of execution by lethal injection. The justices agreed to hear the Oklahoma case a week after refusing to halt another execution that used the same drug formula.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case that tests whether states may ban judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

For most of the last decade, the Supreme Court's conservative majority has systematically dismantled federal and state campaign finance laws enacted to limit corruption and the appearance of corruption in the legislative and executive branches of government. Tuesday's case is the first challenge targeted specifically at the judicial branch.

In a closely watched religious rights case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that an Arkansas prisoner must be allowed to grow a half-inch beard in accordance with his religion.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case testing whether states, in the name of preserving judicial impartiality, may bar judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign contributions.

There was a time when judicial elections were a pretty tame affair, with relatively little money spent, and candidates in most states limited in how they could campaign. Not anymore.

A Washington, D.C., suburbanite had trouble getting to work Tuesday, leaving a key task to the boss.

At the U.S. Supreme Court, two unanimous opinions, both written by Justice Antonin Scalia, were handed down, but Scalia was missing in action. Chief Justice John Roberts summarized the opinions from the bench because Scalia was ... stuck in traffic.

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday wrestled with what the constitutional rules should be for local governments seeking to limit sign clutter on public property.

Sign regulation is a thorn in the side of local governments. Too little regulation and they get sued for traffic safety problems, sign clutter, and degraded property values. Too much regulation and they get sued for First Amendment violations. So like Goldilocks, local governments, work hard to get it "just right."

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