Former Attorney General Janet Reno - America's First Female Attorney General by LawCrossing


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Former Attorney General Janet Reno - America’s First Female Attorney
By Donna McGill

Janet Reno was the first woman to become attorney general for the United States. Nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993,
Reno was officially confirmed March 11. This week, we focus on the works, controversies and accomplishments of Janet Wood Reno.

How did a southern Florida girl, raised by parents who were          While not President Clinton’s first choice for the role of
both journalists, find her way into law school? Her champion         Attorney General, it became apparent rather early on that she
status in debate and valedictorian at Coral Gables High School       was certainly a controversial choice. The Washington Post said
was likely a tell-tale sign to those who knew her that she           in 1998 that, ‘’...few members of the Clinton administration
would accomplish incredible things in her life and if it included    have engendered as much controversy as Attorney General
the legal profession, well then the profession would be better       Janet Reno’’. While many of her actions received praise,
for it.                                                              specifically her handling both the Oklahoma City bombing and
                                                                     the Unabomber, she was also hit hard by others in the way
Reno attended Cornell University in New York and quickly             she handled Ruby Ridge and the Branch Davidian disaster
(during her first year) became the president of the Women’s          in Waco, Texas. Couple these problems with the fact she
Self Government Association. She received her degree in              worked for President Bill Clinton, the second president in U.S.
chemistry; soon after reaching this milestone, she received          history to be impeached, and it becomes obvious how her
her J.D. from Harvard Law School. She was one of only                accomplishments can get lost in the fray.
sixteen women out of 500 in her graduating class. The era
was the 1960s and despite her impressive education, she              More recently, Reno considered what the office of Florida
discovered the disadvantage of being a woman, at least               governor would feel like. She ran in 2002; however, she lost in
in the legal profession. She decided to return to her home           the Democratic primary. That year, Governor Jeb Bush would
state of Florida, where she was named staff director of the          win the governor’s seat and he would remain there until 2007.
Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives.         Ironically, ‘’Team Clinton/Reno’’ was replaced by the Bush
Eventually, she would choose private practice as a partner, but      brothers, as George W. Bush would be elected after Clinton
would return to politics when she was offered a position in the      had served out his second four year term.
Dade County State’s Attorney’s Office. It was then she felt she
                                                                     These days, Reno spends her time attending Super Bowl
could make a difference in reducing crime and violence while
                                                                     parties hosted by athletes, including football star Chad
also ensuring a more diverse state government that was built
                                                                     Ochocinco; she also curates music and spends a considerable
on integrity and accountability.
                                                                     amount of time in her role on the board of directors for the
                                                                     Innocence Project.


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