Nina Totenberg | Connecticut Public Radio
WNPR

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. She is often featured in documentaries — most recently RBG — that deal with issues before the court. As Newsweek put it, "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, including 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 more than two dozen honorary degrees. On a lighter note, Esquire magazine twice named her one of the "Women We Love."

A frequent contributor on TV shows, she has also written for major newspapers and periodicals — among them, The New York Times Magazine, The Harvard Law Review, The Christian Science Monitor, and New York Magazine, and others.

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed ready on Tuesday to uphold Arizona's restrictive voting laws, setting the stage for what happens in the coming months and years, as Republican-dominated state legislatures seek to make voting more difficult.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a major voting rights case that could give state legislatures a green light to change voting laws, making it more difficult for some to vote.

Congress passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965 — a law that today is widely viewed as the most successful civil rights law in the nation's history. But in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted a key provision: no longer would state and local governments with a history of racial discrimination in voting have to get pre-clearance from the Justice Department before making changes in voting procedures.

A constitutional law professor whose work is cited extensively by former President Donald Trump's lawyers in their impeachment defense brief says his work has been seriously misrepresented.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Germany on Wednesday in a dispute over artworks obtained by the Nazis from German Jewish collectors in 1935. The court unanimously rejected a lower court ruling that had allowed the heirs of the onetime owners to proceed with their claim that the sale had been coerced.

At the center of the case is the Guelph Treasure, one of the most famous collections of medieval artifacts in existence. Now valued at $250 million, it has long been on display in a German state museum in Berlin.

The Biden administration faces some tough choices in the coming weeks over how it should deal with the Supreme Court.

The justices have already heard arguments or agreed to hear them in more than 60 cases this term. In most of these cases, the Trump administration has already taken a position on behalf of the U.S. government. While the Biden administration may oppose many of the Trump positions, it knows that the justices do not look kindly on the government flip-flopping.

President Trump, having reached the historic — and infamous — landmark of being impeached twice, now faces trial in the Senate. But unlike the first time, he will no longer be in office. So, does the Senate have the power to try an ex-president on impeachment charges?

With pressure mounting from all sides, President Trump is reportedly telling aides — once again — that he wants to pardon himself.

Even before he was elected, Trump had a grandiose view of his ability to defy political gravity. In 2016, he gleefully and famously told a campaign rally, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and not lose any voters."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

With pressure mounting on President Trump, there's a new focus on a question that has come up since Day 1 of the Trump administration. Can he pardon himself? NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

For the first time in nearly a half century, there is a six-justice conservative supermajority on the U.S. Supreme Court — six justices with clearly expressed views against abortion rights. So, will a woman's constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy soon be a thing of the past?

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court embarks on the second half of a term with a fortified 6-to-3 conservative majority. But unlike the first half of the term, there will be no norm-busting President Trump often railing at the court's election decisions. In tone, President Biden probably will be the functional opposite, but his policies are likely to be greeted with more skepticism.

When Ingrid Lopez Martinez received DACA status during her senior year of high school, it transformed her perception of the law. Instead of seeing it as a system used to limit her immigrant family's potential, she for the first time saw the law "as a transformative tool for justice."

This first-generation college graduate, who moved to the United States from El Salvador at age 4, now aspires to become a lawyer so that she can "pay it forward" and advocate for the undocumented community.

Updated at 6:06 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court ducked a direct ruling Friday on whether President Trump can exclude undocumented immigrants from a key census count.

At issue in the case was Trump's July memorandum ordering the U.S. Census Bureau for the first time to exclude undocumented immigrants from the decennial census for purposes of reapportionment. The count is used to determine how many seats each state gets in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

The U.S. Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it would review a case testing whether the NCAA's limits on compensation for student athletes violate the nation's antitrust laws.

The court will not hear arguments in the case until after the new year, but the outcome, expected by the end of June, could have enormous consequences for college athletics.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Updated at 4:53 a.m. ET Saturday

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday night rejected an eleventh hour challenge to Joe Biden's election as president.

The court's action came in a one-page order, which said the complaint was denied "for lack of standing."

Updated at 2:43 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, ruled Thursday that Muslims put on the no-fly list after refusing to act as informants can sue federal officials for money damages under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The case – Tanzin v. Tanvir — involved three Muslim men who said their religious freedom rights were violated when FBI agents tried to use the no-fly list to force them into becoming informants.

Election experts scoffed this week when Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced he would be filing a lawsuit in the Supreme Court against four key states in an attempt to block presidential electors from finalizing Joe Biden's election victory.

But now President Trump and 17 states he carried are joining that effort.

Officials in the states targeted in the suit — Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — derided it as nothing more than an unfounded publicity stunt.

Jed Leiber remembers playing chess with his grandfather when he was a boy, and learning about all that Saemy Rosenberg had left behind behind when he fled Germany in the 1930s.

"I made a promise to myself that one day I would find everything that was taken from him and have it returned," Leiber says.

So Leiber was listening intently on Monday when the justices dealt with his grandfather's famous art collection and its coerced sale to the Nazis. It was not the first time the court has dealt with the Nazis theft of important works of art.

Is a non-unanimous jury verdict in a criminal case ever constitutional?

Just months ago, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time that such verdicts violate the Sixth Amendment's right to a jury trial. But the 6-3 decision applied only to future cases. The justices, apparently divided at the time over whether the decision should apply to past cases, left that question for another day.

Updated at 5:24 p.m. ET

At the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, the justices expressed doubts about a plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from a key census count — the first time unauthorized immigrants would not be counted for purposes of drawing new congressional districts.

Even as his administration is heading out the door, President Trump is trying to exclude undocumented immigrants from the decennial census. If he succeeds, it will be the first time unauthorized immigrants will not be counted for purposes of drawing new congressional districts.

Three lower courts have ruled unanimously that the president's action violates either the Constitution, the federal census statute, or both. On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in one of those cases — from New York.

The start of the U.S. census

Federal Judge Esther Salas is on a crusade.

In July her husband and their son were gunned down at the family's home in New Jersey. Her husband survived. Her son did not.

On Friday, she will attend the New Jersey governor's signing of a new state law that makes it a crime to publish online or elsewhere personal addresses and telephone information about state judges or their families. Salas will be there even though the law protects only state judges, not federal judges, because the law is named after her son, Daniel.

'Gruesome'

Updated at 4:35 p.m.

The Supreme Court, with a newly constituted and far more conservative majority, took another look at Obamacare on Tuesday. But at the end of the day, even with three Trump appointees, the Affordable Care Act looked as though it may well survive.

To many, it may have seemed like déjà vu.

Obamacare is back before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, with opponents challenging it for a third time. The first attempts to derail the law failed in the high court by votes of 5-to-4 and 6-to-3. But the makeup of the court is very different now, with three justices appointed by President Trump – among them new Justice Amy Coney Barrett.

Before her nomination, Barrett consistently criticized the court's two previous decisions, a critique that Senate Democrats repeatedly bludgeoned her with at her confirmation hearings.

With President Trump railing about "fraud" and pointing to the Supreme Court — with three of his appointees — as the final arbiter, the question many are asking is this: What are the chances that the high court will actually get involved? In short, will 2020 be a replay of Bush v. Gore?

Updated at 6:24 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court may be poised to side with Catholic Social Services in a battle that pits religious freedom against anti-discrimination laws in Philadelphia and across the country.

At issue in a case argued on Wednesday is the Catholic charity's refusal to screen same-sex couples as foster care parents.

While new Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not indicate which way she is leaning, other members of the court's conservative majority did.

Elections come and go, but Supreme Court decisions can last forever. One of those potentially pivotal cases is before the court Wednesday. A case both poignant and profound, it pits the rights of a city to enforce its anti-discrimination policies in contracting against the rights of religious groups.

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed closely divided Tuesday as it heard oral argument in a Mississippi case that tests the constitutional limits of sentencing juveniles convicted of murder to life in prison without parole.

At issue in Monday's case was whether states may sentence a juvenile convicted of murder to life without parole, without finding that he is so incorrigible that there is no hope for his rehabilitation.

Pages