For immediate release
March 3, 2004
Contact: Laura Gross, 202-513-2304

NPR'S Nina Totenberg Granted Advance Access to Justice Harry A. Blackmun's Files

WASHINGTON-NPR's Nina Totenberg is the only broadcast journalist granted advance access to the entire collection of the late Justice Harry A. Blackmun's files. In a series of 10 reports, she reveals groundbreaking new information about why the Supreme Court, in 1992, backed away from overruling its Roe v. Wade abortion decisions. There will also be other disclosures that show the justices struggling, and even on occasion changing their minds, about some of the most controversial legal issues of the time.

The reports will be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, Day to Day and All Things Considered beginning Thursday, March 4, 2004--the first day the public will have access to the same files. Beginning at 12:00 a.m. EST on Thursday, March 4 www.npr.org will present audio and video from the oral history, including a personal video tour by Justice Blackmun of his Supreme Court chambers, key documents - including opinion drafts and personal notes.

Totenberg will take listeners behind the marble columns as she also looks at the human side of the court, in what she describes as "an arranged marriage of nine." Blackmun served on the court for 24 years and it has been ten years since he retired, but eight of the current justices served when he did, and his files lay out much of their work.

Since late January, Totenberg has been analyzing 1,576 boxes of papers and 38 hours of videotape - some half million items - from opinion drafts and records of the justices secret conferences to notes exchanged between the justices on the bench. She says, "I have seen draft after draft of opinions. The files are organized by cases, by year and by subject matter. He was a complete packrat, keeping everything, including his dance cards and notebooks from Harvard."

Totenberg is NPR's legal correspondent and one of two journalists granted exclusive, advance access to all of the files. In 1991, her ground-breaking report about 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. Totenberg has been honored with many journalism awards including the George Foster Peabody, George Polk and Sigma Delta Chi Awards and has been honored seven times by the American Bar Association for continued excellence in legal reporting.


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