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.

The U.S. Supreme Court, without hearing oral argument, has unanimously reversed an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that denied parental rights to a lesbian adoptive mother who had split with her partner. The decision is a direct repudiation of an Alabama Supreme Court decision that refused to recognize a Georgia adoption.

Even with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Wednesday could mark a potential turning point for the Supreme Court on the subject of abortion. At issue is whether a new Texas law imposes restrictions that unconstitutionally limit a woman's right to terminate a pregnancy.

Last June, a federal appeals court upheld the law. If the Supreme Court agrees, it would mean a dramatic cutback on abortion rights across the country, and potentially a steppingstone toward the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

The Supreme Court hears arguments Monday testing whether a Pennsylvania Supreme Court justice violated the Constitution when he ruled in a death penalty case that he had been involved with as a prosecutor.

At issue is whether then-Chief Justice Ronald Castille, by refusing to recuse himself, denied the defendant, Terrance Williams, a fair hearing.

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Justice Antonin Scalia, who died on Saturday, lay in repose at the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, as the court, the public and the president paid their respects. While the battle over Scalia's replacement raged in the political world, the atmosphere at the court was somber.

The flag-draped casket was carried up the marble steps of the Supreme Court on Friday morning, between two long rows of former Scalia clerks, and into the Great Hall.

Inside, the remaining eight justices lined up in their new order of seniority, as they will be on the bench on Monday.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will pay their respects to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday.

The first family will not attend a brief private ceremony at the court in the morning. According to the White House schedule released Thursday evening, the Obamas will arrive in the afternoon, after general visiting has begun.

The late Justice Antonin Scalia will lie in repose at the Supreme Court on Friday. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., according to sources close to the Scalia family.

In a tradition that dates back to 1873, Scalia's Supreme Court chair and bench were draped with black wool crepe today. The court has also placed a black drapery over the courtroom doors.

The last high court justice to lie in repose at the Supreme Court was Chief Justice William Rehnquist in 2005.

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Transcript

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Even Atonin Scalia's ideological opponents - in fact, maybe especially his opponents - acknowledged that the late Supreme Court justice changed the nation's conversation about the Constitution.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died unexpectedly on Saturday. We spoke to NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg about his life, legacy and what's next.

1. Let's talk about Scalia's legal perspective. He was known as a proponent of originalism. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Originalism, as defined by Justice Scalia and others, is that what is in the Constitution literally is what the founding fathers meant.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, perhaps the leading voice of uncompromising conservatism on the nation's highest court, was found dead Saturday, Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed. Scalia, who had been staying at a luxury ranch in West Texas, was 79 years old.

The U.S. Supreme Court tackles a case on Tuesday that can fairly be described as weird. The consequences, however, could be significant.

The Supreme Court has long held that the government cannot retaliate against its employees for exercising their First Amendment right of free speech or association. But what if the employee is mistakenly perceived as taking a political position, when in fact he was doing nothing of the sort?

The litigants in the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday were a remarkable bunch: On one side, the Central Bank of Iran. On the other, the victims of Iran-sponsored terrorist attacks going back three decades.

The constitutional question: Whether Congress — in dealing with both — had infringed on the independence of the judiciary.

It's the showdown at the Supreme Court Corral on Monday for public employee unions and their opponents.

Union opponents are seeking to reverse a 1977 Supreme Court decision that allows public employee unions to collect so-called "fair share fees."

Twenty-three states authorize collecting these fees from those who don't join the union but benefit from a contract that covers them.

Affirmative action in college admissions is once again under attack at the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 1978 and in 2003 the Court ruled definitively that colleges and universities could consider race and ethnicity as one of many factors in admissions, as long as there are no quotas. By 2013, though, the composition of the Court had changed and grown more conservative, and the issue was back in a case from Texas--a case that eventually fizzled that year but is back again now.

The U.S. Supreme Court once again is weighing into a fraught elections case — a case with enormous potential political repercussions. At issue is the meaning of the "one person, one vote" principle.

The federal Constitution orders the Census Bureau to count every resident in the country so that they all can be represented in districts of equal population in the national House of Representatives. The status of state legislative districts, though, is less clear.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday weighs an elections case that could dramatically change the way state legislative districts are drawn and could tilt some states in a decidedly more Republican direction.

The federal Constitution is clear. The national government's House of Representatives is to be apportioned based on the total population in each district, and the census is to count each person, whether eligible to vote or not, so that all are represented. The status of state legislative districts, however, is less clear.

The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from gun owners who challenged a ban on semi-automatic assault rifles and large-capacity ammunition magazines.

Two justices — Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia — would have heard the case and struck down the ban.

The last execution scheduled in the U.S. for the year is set for Tuesday in Georgia. But capital punishment has gown rare in America, to the point of near extinction.

Even though polls show that 60 percent of the public still supports the death penalty, and even though the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld it as constitutional, the number of executions this year so far is almost the same as the number of fatalities from lightning strikes — 27 executions versus 26 deaths by lightning.

Over the dissent of two justices, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected an anti-abortion group's attempt to get more information about a $1 million federal contract awarded to Planned Parenthood for family planning and related health services.

The Department of Health and Human Services awarded the contract to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England in 2011 to provide family planning services for a large portion of New Hampshire.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a case testing whether the government can freeze a defendant's legitimately obtained assets, thus preventing the accused from hiring a lawyer.

Sila Luis, the owner of Miami home health care companies, was indicted on Medicare fraud charges in 2012. She has been detained at her home for two years while her case wended its way to the Supreme Court. She wants to use some of her assets to hire a lawyer for her trial.

The U.S. Supreme court is stepping back into the dual controversies of birth control and Obamacare.

The justices said Friday they would hear a challenge brought by faith-based hospitals, schools, and charities that contend the government's opt-out provision for birth-control coverage does not go far enough to accommodate their religious beliefs.

The U.S. Supreme Court wrestles Monday with a problem that has long plagued the criminal justice system: race discrimination in the selection of jurors.

"Numerous studies demonstrate that prosecutors use peremptory strikes to remove black jurors at significantly higher rates than white jurors."

Retroactivity sounds like a really boring legal subject. Until you learn that some 2,000 people serving terms of life without parole could have a shot at release if the Supreme Court rules that a 2012 decision is retroactive.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in a case that could determine the fate of more than 2,000 convicted juvenile murderers.

In 2012, the high court struck down as unconstitutional state laws that mandated an automatic sentence of life without any possibility of parole in these cases. The question now is whether that decision applies retroactively.

The death penalty reared its head again at the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday. It was the first time the court publicly considered a death case since last term, when a constitutional challenge to lethal injection procedures erupted into a rare, nasty and vituperative debate among the justices. This time, the issues were far more technical but still a matter of life and death.

One of the more unattractive aspects of Washington life is the growth industry called line sitting. That is, rich lobbyists, lawyers and contractors pay someone to hold a place in line so the payer can get a much-in-demand seat at a Supreme Court argument or a congressional hearing. Now the U.S. Supreme Court has quietly struck one small blow for equality on that front. It has amended its rules to require that there are no sitters on the special line reserved for members of the Supreme Court bar.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The United States Supreme Court opens a new term Monday, and, as always, many of the most contentious issues facing the country — including abortion, birth control coverage, public employee unions, affirmative action in higher education, voter participation — are likely to be before the court.

But there is a difference this term. Chief Justice John Roberts, despite his overall conservative record on the bench, has become a punching bag for candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination.

For Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, there was an "aha" Moment about the importance of law in the world.

It was Sept. 11, 2001. He was in India with Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, and they were having dinner at a restaurant with some Indian judges when the burning World Trade Center towers were shown on TV. The Indian judges were as horrified as the two American Supreme Court justices were. And Breyer began to realize their sympathy represented more than empathy.

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