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 agreed Thursday to hear arguments this fall in a case that pits the Trump administration against the House Judiciary Committee and its efforts to see redacted portions of report on Russian interference prepared by special prosecutor Robert Mueller. The decision is a significant blow to House Democrats' efforts to see the material before the November election.

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Updated at 5:53 p.m. ET

In a major victory for what advocates call the school choice movement, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively killed state constitutional provisions in as many as 38 states that bar taxpayer aid to parochial schools. The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the decision for the court's conservative justices.

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Updated at 12:28 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the president can fire at will the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but left intact the rest of the statute that created the agency. Congress created the independent agency in 2010 to protect consumers from abuses in the banking and financial services industry that led to the 2008 financial meltdown.

Updated at 5:35 p.m.

A sharply divided U.S. Supreme Court stood by its most recent abortion-rights precedent Monday, delivering a major defeat to abortion opponents who had hoped for a reversal of fortunes at the court with the addition of two new Trump-appointed justices.

By a 5-4 vote, the court struck down a Louisiana law that was virtually identical to a Texas law it invalidated just four years ago. Chief Justice John Roberts cast the fifth and decisive vote.

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Twice this week, the Supreme Court thrilled liberals and infuriated conservatives with its decisions, putting the spotlight once again on the man in the center chair, Chief Justice John Roberts. NPR's legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg reports.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

In a major rebuke to President Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court has blocked the administration's plan to dismantle an Obama-era program that has protected 700,000 so-called DREAMers from deportation. The vote was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing the opinion.

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Amid the tumult over police brutality allegations across the country, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to reexamine the much-criticized, modern-day legal doctrine created by judges that has shielded police and other government officials from lawsuits over their conduct.

In an unsigned order, the court declined to hear cases seeking reexamination of the doctrine of "qualified immunity." Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, saying the "qualified immunity doctrine appears to stray from the statutory text."

It takes the votes of four justices to grant review of a case.

Updated at 5:52 p.m.

In a historic decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. The ruling was 6-3, with Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's first appointee to the court, writing the majority opinion. The opinion was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the court's four liberal justices.

With the country awash in protests over the death of George Floyd, the U.S. Supreme Court is examining a modern-day legal doctrine created by judges that has shielded police and other government officials from lawsuits over their conduct.

The U.S. Supreme Court seemed pulled in two directions Wednesday—between the original meaning of the Constitution, on the one hand, and chaos in the 2020 election on the other.

The election will take place amid a pandemic, at least a partial economic collapse, and potentially a Supreme Court ruling that could directly affect the election itself.

The livestream of the oral arguments has concluded.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a case that could affect the outcome of the 2020 election, and all future presidential elections, in unforeseeable ways.

At the heart of the case is the Electoral College, which though it is enshrined in the Constitution, has for the most part been a mere formality for over the past two centuries.

Updated at 7:42 p.m.

There were historic arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday in cases that pit President Trump against the power of Congress and a New York grand jury.

The cases test whether some of the president's financial records prior to becoming president are immune to subpoenas, except during an impeachment proceeding.

Three House committees are involved in the congressional subpoenas for Trump's financial records.

History, politics and law are converging at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, as the justices confront questions about the limits of presidential, congressional and judicial power.

At issue are three cases involving subpoenas — some issued by congressional committees, and one by a New York grand jury in a criminal case. All call for the production of Donald Trump's financial records, mainly from the period before he was president, and all issued not to Trump, but to banks and accounting firms he did business with.

Updated at 7:25 p.m.

The Supreme Court's conservative majority signaled Wednesday that it is on the verge of carving out a giant exception to the nation's fair employment laws.

Before the court were two cases, both involving fifth grade teachers at parochial schools in California. One, a veteran of 16 years teaching at her school, contends her firing was a case of age discrimination. The other said she was fired after she told her superior that she had breast cancer and would need some time off.

For the second time in as many weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court is tackling a major religion case. This time the question is whether lay teachers at parochial schools are exempt from the nation's fair employment laws.

But the court's eventual decision could reach beyond teachers, affecting the lives of millions of other employees who work for religiously affiliated institutions.

For the first time in its 231-year history, the Supreme Court justices heard oral arguments remotely by phone and made the audio available live.

The new setup went off largely without difficulties, but produced some memorable moments, including one justice forgetting to unmute and an ill-timed bathroom break.

Here are the top five can't-miss moments from this week's history-making oral arguments.

Updated at 5:11 p.m. ET

A closely divided Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in a case testing Trump administration rules that cut back on access to birth control under the Affordable Care Act. The difficulty of the issues was illustrated by the fact that the arguments lasted 49 minutes longer than scheduled.

The birth-control wars return to the Supreme Court Wednesday, and it is likely that the five-justice conservative majority will make it more difficult for women to get birth control if they work for religiously affiliated institutions like hospitals, charities and universities.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg underwent non-surgical treatment Tuesday for a benign gallbladder condition, according to a press release from the Supreme Court. She plans to participate in oral arguments from the hospital on Wednesday, according to the release.

The Supreme Court kicked off a second day of telephone arguments Tuesday with a case that mingles sex, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and free speech.

At issue is whether the government can require private nonprofits to denounce prostitution in order to qualify for U.S foreign aid grants aimed at fighting the worldwide AIDS epidemic. This is the second time the court has faced this issue, but this time it comes with a twist.

As new allegations emerge about his motives for retirement, Judge Thomas Griffith says that he faced no political pressure in his decision to leave the bench.

"My decision was driven entirely by personal concerns and involved no discussions with the White House or the Senate," he said in a statement provided to NPR.

The U.S. Supreme Court begins an extraordinary two weeks of oral arguments Monday. It will be the first time in history that the court has allowed livestreaming of its audio and the first time that the court is hearing arguments via telephone hookup instead of in the flesh.

The justices are trying to simulate their normal arguments as much as possible, beginning with Chief Marshal Pamela Talkin calling the court to order with a slightly modified version of her usual "Oyez, oyez, oyez ...."

After that, very little will be as usual.

Updated on Wednesday, May 13, at 3:45 p.m. ET

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Supreme Court has over two weeks heard oral arguments remotely, with audio streaming live for the public — a first for the court.

The arguments included high-profile cases about religious freedom, President Trump's financial records and the Electoral College.

For each case, both sides had the same amount of time, beginning with two minutes of uninterrupted argument. Then, each justice was allotted two minutes for questioning.

The U.S. Supreme Court has told the federal government that it has to pay $12 billion to insurance companies, money that was promised in the Affordable Care Act as part of the start-up costs of Obamacare in the first three years of its existence.

The law, as enacted, promised to limit profits and losses for insurance companies in the first three years of the Obamacare program. Some companies made more money than allowed by the formula, and had to pay some back to the government, and other companies lost money and were owed money by the government under the formula.

The U.S. Supreme Court has once again punted on the question of gun rights, throwing out as moot a challenge to New York City's strict gun regulations on transporting licensed guns outside the home.

The U.S. Supreme Court is no stranger to controversy, but it still gets higher marks in public opinion polls than the other branches of government. Now though, for the first time in memory, the court is not just split along ideological lines, but along political lines as well: All the conservatives are Republican appointees, all the liberals Democratic appointees. That division could put the court in the crosshairs of public opinion if it is forced to make decisions that affect the 2020 election.

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