Nina Totenberg | KNKX

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 Supreme Court grappled with a difficult death penalty question Tuesday. Does it violate the Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute a convicted murderer who has such severe dementia that he doesn't remember the crime he committed?

Vernon Madison committed a terrible crime. In 1985, after leaving his girlfriend's house, he returned, and shot and killed a police officer who sat outside in his car to provide protection for the woman.

As the fight over the Brett Kavanaugh nomination continues to reverberate throughout the country, the shorthanded Supreme Court began its new term Monday. Republicans had hoped to seat nominee Brett Kavanaugh in time for the start of the term, but that, of course, did not happen.

Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET

It is still unclear exactly how and under what conditions Christine Blasey Ford will testify Thursday on Capitol Hill. Ford has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of a sexual assault when they were in high school.

Professor Christine Blasey Ford came forward on Sunday for the first time telling her story alleging that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh sexually attacked her 35 years ago when the two were both in high school.

So how is this different from the sexual harassment allegations made against now Justice Clarence Thomas by law professor Anita Hill in 1991 at his confirmation hearing?

I know because I was there. I broke the story and then watched in amazement as events unfolded.

There are big differences and similarities in these two events.

Updated at 6:20 p.m. ET

The White House is accusing Senate Democrats of an unfounded "11th hour attempt to delay" a vote on the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, released a statement Thursday afternoon disclosing that she had referred "a matter" involving Kavanaugh to "federal investigative authorities."

The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is often a major event that ripples through American law for decades. But Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing, which opens Tuesday, is especially historic because, if confirmed, Kavanaugh is expected to solidify a hard-right majority on the nation's highest court, a majority the likes of which has not been seen since the early 1930s, and which is likely to dominate for a generation or more.

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh shares one important view with President Trump: Both are deeply suspicious of any attempt to limit the president's power over executive branch officials.

That view could have important consequences for special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russian interference in the 2016 election, which includes allegations of collusion and possible obstruction of justice.

There are about 2 million people who work in the federal government. Despite being in charge of the executive branch, the president is limited in the people he can fire.

But could that be about to change?

In Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump has nominated someone to the Supreme Court who believes, as he does, in an expansive view of presidential power.

Could the president hire and fire civil servants at will, for example? That question is at the heart of a concept that likely will come up often at Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings this fall.

In the battle over the Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the usual suspects are lining up in support and opposition. At the grass roots, however, there is one new entry nervously eyeing the Kavanaugh nomination. It is March For Our Lives, started by high school students in Parkland, Fla., after the shooting there, and aimed ultimately at enacting more effective gun regulations.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

The White House withdrew the nomination Ryan Bounds to be a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Thursday afternoon amid allegations of racist writings.

The Senate, on a party-line vote Wednesday, ended debate on the controversial nomination, with a confirmation vote expected Thursday. But instead, the nomination was pulled.

With President Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, GOP senators are singing a constant refrain in anticipation of confirmation hearings. They point to something they call "the Ginsburg rule," contending that at her confirmation hearing, liberal nominee Ruth Bader Ginsburg established a precedent for refusing to answer questions about issues before the Supreme Court.

But that, it turns out, is not really true.

"The woman decides"

The internal White House debate over who should replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court reflects the broader political split within the Republican Party — and the mistrust that is nursed by outside-the-Beltway social conservatives about the more establishment and business-oriented wing of the party.

So it is perhaps no surprise that a quintessentially Washingtonian fight has erupted between the supporters of the two leading candidates for the nomination, Judge Brett Kavanaugh and Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Updated at 5:58 p.m. ET

President Trump has narrowed his list of Supreme Court candidates to three, according to two sources close to the process.

The three are Judges Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett and Raymond Kethledge with Kavanaugh and Barrett as the top two at the moment.

It's important to maintain that caveat, because President Trump has not made a final decision, and it could change.

For four decades, the Supreme Court has been like a balance board, tilting this way and that. And, while it has moved more and more to the right with each reset, the center has held.

This term, and for the foreseeable future, however, the board looks more like a slide.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who announced his retirement this week, may feel secure in his legacy. But Justice Sandra Day O'Connor did, too, only to be disappointed.

Updated at 5:54 p.m. ET

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement Wednesday, setting the stage for what promises to be an epic political battle over his replacement.

A Trump nominee is likely to be far more conservative than Kennedy, who, though appointed by President Ronald Reagan, voted with the court's liberals in some key cases.

Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET

In a 5-4 ruling that gave broad leeway to presidential authority, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Trump's travel ban that barred nearly all travelers from five mainly Muslim countries as well as North Korea and Venezuela.

The president's proclamation was "squarely within the scope of Presidential authority under the INA," the court wrote in its majority opinion, referring to the Immigration and Nationality Act.

"A moment of profound vindication"

Updated at 11:26 a.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court has reversed a lower court decision upholding a California law requiring anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers to more fully disclose what they are.

Updated at 5:32 p.m. ET

In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Friday that police must obtain a search warrant to access an individual's cellphone location information. The 5-4 decision imposes new limits on law enforcement's ability to get at the increasing amount of data that private companies amass in the modern technological age.

Some online sales are about to start costing more.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Thursday that states can require retailers to collect and remit sales taxes on out-of-state purchases. The 5-to-4 decision reversed decades-old decisions that protected out-of-state vendors from sales tax obligations unless the vendor had a physical presence in the state.

The U.S. Supreme Court punted Monday on its biggest decision of its term so far. The justices had been expected to rule on the limits of partisan gerrymandering.

Instead, the court sidestepped the major issues on technical grounds, sending the issue back to the lower courts for further examination.

Updated at 6:51 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court Thursday struck down a Minnesota law that bars voters from wearing political apparel inside polling places.

Though two justices dissented on procedural grounds, all the justices agreed that the Minnesota law, combined with the way it was enforced, was simply too broad.

"An island of calm"

In Washington, D.C., the U.S. Supreme Court building sits directly across the street from the U.S. Capitol. On Wednesday, the two branches of government those structures represent clashed over who should direct how the judicial branch deals with sexual harassment complaints.

Updated 6:34 p.m. ET

An ideologically split U.S. Supreme Court Monday upheld Ohio's controversial "use-it-or-lose-it" voting law by a 5-to-4 margin. The law allows the state to strike voters from the registration rolls if they fail to return a mailed address confirmation form, and don't vote for another four years, or two federal election cycles.

Failure to vote

Mazie Hirono used to be known as the "good girl" of Hawaii politics.

She was seen as polite, never in-your-face, not a boat-rocker. But now, that view has changed.

As one Hawaii columnist put it, she is a "badass."

"I always was," Hirono said in an interview with NPR. "I just wasn't very noisy about it. I've been a fighter all my life. I just don't look like that."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday in favor of a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. But the 7-to-2 decision was on the narrowest of grounds and left unresolved whether business owners have a free speech right to refuse to sell goods and services to same-sex couples.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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In a win for privacy rights, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that police may not search the area around a private home without a warrant, even when they think they have seen stolen property on the premises.

In other words, police can't just look on property or peek in windows, see something they think is illegal and start searching without a warrant.

Updated at 7:08 p.m. ET

In a case involving the rights of tens of millions of private sector employees, the U.S. Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, delivered a major blow to workers, ruling for the first time that workers may not band together to challenge violations of federal labor laws.

Democrats may hold 49 votes in the Senate but for all practical purposes, they have been completely disarmed when it comes to opposing President Trump's judicial nominees.

The Supreme Court handed down five decisions Monday, and one that could pave a path for legalizing sports gambling throughout the country got most of the attention Monday morning. But the court also decided two important criminal justice and personal rights cases.

In one, McCoy v. Louisiana, the court ruled 6-3 in favor of a defendant whose lawyer told a jury that his client was guilty, disregarding the explicit instructions of his client. His lawyer wanted him to plead guilty to avoid the death penalty.

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