Nina Totenberg

Updated at 8 p.m. ET

The case before the U.S. Supreme Court Wednesday had a surprise plot twist. Jurors were told that the accused was guilty of a triple murder — but the lawyer making that statement was not the prosecutor; he was the defense attorney.

The question before the justices was whether that violated the client's constitutional right to counsel. Justices liberal and conservative signaled that they have a problem with a lawyer who disregards his client's express wishes by conceding the defendant's guilt.

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Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared divided Wednesday over whether Ohio's so-called use-it-or-lose-it voter registration rule violates federal law.

Ohio, which has the most aggressive voter-purge system in the country, currently strikes voters from the registration rolls if they fail to vote in two consecutive elections — and if they fail to return a mailed address confirmation form.

This week Trump judicial nominee Matthew Petersen withdrew his name, amid controversy. It was the third such withdrawal in 10 days. Even so, President Trump's record on filling judicial vacancies has far outdistanced his predecessors.

Trump, aided by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has won confirmation of 12 appeals court nominees. That's more than any president in his first year, and indeed, more than Presidents Obama and George W. Bush combined.

Every Supreme Court term there is at least one case that gets people's blood up. A case on which just about everyone has an opinion, often a ferocious opinion. That case comes before the justices Tuesday.

It is an important moment in the life of a symphony orchestra when a new conductor is selected — not just to lead the orchestra, but to create the programs, hire the artists and more. In short, to be the music director.

In Washington, D.C., the choice was made with astonishing harmony.

In a sunny den in McLean, Va., Maureen and Christopher Scalia sit side-by-side on a comfy couch. He co-edited Scalia Speaks, an anthology of his father's speeches on a variety of subjects, and he ranks eighth in birth order out of the nine Scalia children. She is the mother of those nine children, and the widow of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia — a conservative icon, bon vivant, music lover and witty observer of law and life.

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In a major property rights decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has delivered a decisive victory to state and local governments and environmental groups.

By a 5-to-3 vote, the justices made it much harder for property owners to get compensation from the government when zoning regulations restrict the use of just part of landowners' property.

By day, Don McGahn is a straight-laced lawyer, but by night, he's a long-haired rocker.

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As a hurry-up execution schedule plays out in Arkansas this week, the U.S. Supreme Court and Arkansas Supreme Court have stepped in to block two of the eight executions initially scheduled for an 11-day period.

With a nasty and partisan confirmation battle behind him, Justice Neil Gorsuch took his seat on the nation's highest court on Monday and quickly proved himself to be an active, persistent questioner.

As the court buzzer sounded, Gorsuch emerged from behind the red velvet curtains with his eight colleagues and took his seat at the far right of the bench, no pun intended. (That's where the most junior justice sits, regardless of his or her politics.)

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For more now, we turn to NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. Hey there, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi.

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And now we are joined by NPR legal affairs correspondent Nina Totenberg. She watched the hearing today. Hi there, Nina.

NINA TOTENBERG, BYLINE: Hi there.

At most Supreme Court confirmation hearings, questions focus on hot-button social issues — abortion, affirmative action, same-sex marriage — and the hearings next week on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be no exception.

But senators are also likely to spend a lot of time examining the nominee's views on federal regulations — of the environment, health and safety laws for workers, and laws on consumer rights and business.

In question is a doctrine that Gorsuch has criticized but that also once helped his mother.

The Chevron doctrine

With the Senate Judiciary Committee set to open hearings on the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, the game of confirmation cat and mouse is about to begin. Senators will try to get a fix on Gorsuch's legal views — and the nominee will try to say as little as possible.

Supreme Court scholars and practitioners on the right and left may disagree about whether they want to see Gorsuch confirmed, but in general there is little doubt about the nominee's conservatism. Indeed, his conservative pedigree is the reason he was picked.

In music, a coda is a passage that brings a musical composition to an end. This is the coda to a musical saga — the story of the Stradivarius violin that was stolen 37 years ago from my late father, violinist Roman Totenberg, and recovered in 2015.

That violin, made by Antonio Stradivari in 1734, was my father's "musical partner" for 38 years as he toured the world.

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In Washington, D.C., the cognoscenti confidently predict that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be easily confirmed. But both supporters and opponents are chastened by the predictors' embarrassingly wrong prognostications over the past year. And that is presenting Senate Democrats in particular with a strategic dilemma.

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What do the McDonald's golden arches, the apple on your iPhone, the NBC peacock, the Nike swoosh and the MGM lion have in common?

Janet Reno, the first woman to serve as attorney general of the United States, died early Monday from complications of Parkinson's disease. Reno's goddaughter Gabrielle D'Alemberte and sister Margaret Hurchalla confirmed her passing to NPR.

Reno spent her final days at home in Miami surrounded by family and friends, D'Alemberte told The Associated Press. She was 78.

Reno served longer in the job than anyone had in 150 years. And her tenure was marked by tragedy and controversy. But she left office widely respected for her independence and accomplishments.

Jazz great Wynton Marsalis, a virtuoso trumpet player and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, has written — wait for it — a violin concerto.

As the daughter of the late virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg, I was intrigued and wanted to know more. So I spent an hour with Marsalis — and the violinist he wrote his concerto with and for. (More on that later.)

At the Supreme Court on Monday, the justices heard arguments in the case of a girl with disabilities, her service dog and the school that barred the dog from the premises.

Ehlena Fry was born with cerebral palsy, which significantly limits her mobility but not her cognitive skills. So when she was about to enter kindergarten in Napoleon, Mich., her parents got a trained service dog — a white furry goldendoodle, named Wonder.

While political Washington is in a tizzy about the election and what it portends for the Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is prepping for her operatic debut in Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti's "The Daughter of the Regiment."

For one night in November, the diminutive legal diva will play the nonsinging role of the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a character akin to the dowagers in Marx Brothers movies.

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