||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (March 2012)|
|78th United States Attorney General|
March 11, 1993 – January 20, 2001
|Preceded by||William P. Barr|
|Succeeded by||John Ashcroft|
|Born||Janet Wood Reno
July 21, 1938
|Alma mater||Cornell University
Harvard Law School
Janet Wood Reno (born July 21, 1938), served as the Attorney General of the United States, from 1993 to 2001. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993, and confirmed on March 11, 1993. She was the first woman to serve as Attorney General and the second longest serving Attorney General after William Wirt.
Early life and career
Reno was born in Miami, Florida. Reno's mother, Jane Wallace (née Wood), raised her children and then became an investigative reporter for the Miami News. Her father, Henry Olaf Reno (original surname Rasmussen), was an emigrant from Denmark, who, for 43 years was a police reporter for the Miami Herald. Janet Reno has three younger siblings: Mark, Robert (a writer; 1939-2012), and Maggy Hurchalla.
Reno attended public school in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where she was a debating champion and was valedictorian at Coral Gables High School. In 1956, Reno enrolled at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where she majored in chemistry, became president of the Women's Self-Government Association, and earned her room and board. After Cornell, Reno enrolled at Harvard University Law School and graduated in 1963. From 1963 to 1971 Reno worked as an attorney for two Miami law firms. She was named staff director of the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives in 1971. She helped revise the Florida court system. In 1973, she accepted a position with the Dade County State's Attorney's Office. She worked for the Judiciary Circuit, and left the state's attorney's office in 1976 to become a partner in a private law firm.
In 1978, Reno was appointed State Attorney for Dade County (now called Miami-Dade County). She was elected to the Office of State Attorney in November 1978 and was returned to office by the voters four more times. In addition to her official duties, she worked actively in many civic organizations including the Miami Coalition for a Safe and Drug Free Community and the Beacon Council, which was formed to address Miami-Dade's economic development. During her tenure as state attorney, Reno began what the PBS series Frontline described as a "crusade" against accused child abusers. An editorial in the St. Petersburg Times argued:
"Reno's reputation as a state attorney, the foundation for her eight years as the nation's attorney general and her  candidacy for governor of Florida, was built in significant part by her aggressive prosecution of three sensational child abuse cases in Miami-Dade County. She pioneered a controversial technique for eliciting intimate details from young children and inspired passage of a law allowing them to testify by closed-circuit television, out of the possibly intimidating presence of their suspected molesters."
Several of those prosecuted by Reno were either acquitted or later released by appellate judges. One defendant, "a 14-year-old boy, was acquitted after his attorneys discredited the children's persistent interrogations by a psychologist who called herself the 'yucky secrets doctor.' Another was freed by a federal appeals court after 12 years in prison."
In 1984 Frank Fuster, the owner of the Country Walk Babysitting Service, in a suburb of Miami, Florida, was found guilty of 14 counts of abuse. He was sentenced to a prison sentence with a minimum of 165 years. Fuster's victims testified that his "unspeakable acts" included leading them in Satanic rituals and terrorizing them by forcing them to watch him mutilate birds, a lesson to children who might reveal the abuse. Fuster had been previously convicted for manslaughter and for fondling a 9-year-old child. Testimony from children in the case was extracted by Laurie and Joseph Braga, a husband-and-wife team who resorted to coercive questioning of the alleged victims when the desired answers were not forthcoming.
Fuster was convicted based in large part on the testimony of his 18-year-old wife, Ileana Flores, who pleaded guilty and testified against him. According to a 2002 episode of Frontline, Flores maintained that "he was innocent, she was innocent and that she was coerced by Reno and others into denouncing her husband. She said she was kept naked in a suicide watch cell and given cold showers and that Reno visited her late at night in pursuit of her confession and damning testimony." Reno, then a candidate for Governor of Florida, refused to discuss her role in the case, leading one editorial to claim that she was "stonewalling."
In 1989, as Florida state attorney, Janet Reno pressed adult charges against a 13-year-old youth, Bobby Fijnje, accused of sexually molesting 21 children in his care during Presbyterian church services. The charges were driven by the testimony of children interviewed by mental health professionals using techniques later discredited as a contemporary version of witch hunts. During the trial the prosecution was unable to present any witnesses to the alleged abuse. The trial cost taxpayers in excess of $3 million. After two years of investigation and trial, Finjnje was acquitted of all charges at which point he and his family moved to Holland.
And after the trial, Janet Reno received a letter from the jury. The jurors in the Fijnje case wanted Ms. Reno to know why her office had failed to make a convincing case. They wrote: 'It is our hope that this case will lay the foundation upon which a set of policies and guidelines are built so that when cases of abuse, especially child abuse, are alleged, the programs in place will allow for appropriate questioning and investigation by the police, physicians and child psychologists so as to drastically reduce the chances of conflicting testimony and charges of contamination that can and will raise reasonable doubt.'
U.S. Attorney General
In 1993 during the administration Bill Clinton, Reno was nominated and confirmed as the first woman to serve as the United States Attorney General. Both of his previous choices, Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood, had problems when it was revealed both had employed illegal immigrants as nannies. Reno remained Attorney General for the rest of Clinton's presidency, making her the longest-serving Attorney General since William Wirt in 1829.
While Clinton could steer a middle ground between his Democratic supporters and the Republican Congress on monetary issues, Reno's job was at the center of a variety of intractable cultural conflicts. This made her a lightning rod for criticism of the Clinton Administration from activists[who?] who often denounced the federal government as a threat to their fundamental freedoms.
At the Justice Department
The following Department of Justice actions occurred during Reno's tenure:
- The 51 day Waco siege standoff and resulting 76 deaths—the Branch Davidians—in Waco, Texas.
- Reno in congressional testimony stated that she authorized the FBI assault on the Branch Davidians because of reports that Militia groups were en route to Waco during the standoff "either to help [Branch Davidian leader David] Koresh or to attack him."
- Bringing suit against the software company Microsoft for violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act.
- Prosecution resulting in the conviction of 21 of the Montana Freemen after an 81 day armed standoff.
- Capture and conviction of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber.
- Capture and conviction of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols for the Oklahoma City bombing.
- Capture and conviction of those who conducted the World Trade Center bombing (resulting in life-sentences of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and four conspirators)
- Leak to the news media regarding Richard Jewell that led to the widespread and incorrect presumption of his guilt in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. She later apologized, saying "I'm very sorry it happened. I think we owe him an apology. I regret the leak."
- The government's unsuccessful defense of the Communications Decency Act, which culminated in the Supreme Court decision Reno v. ACLU.
- Identification of the correct suspect (Eric Rudolph) in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing and other bombings, who remained a fugitive throughout her tenure. Rudolph was apprehended in 2003 and pleaded guilty to the attacks.
- Capture and conviction of Mir Aimal Kasi for the 1993 shootings at CIA Headquarters.
- The armed seizure of six-year-old Elián González and his return to his father, who eventually took him home to Cuba; Elián's mother and stepfather had died in a dangerous trip by sea, and though his U.S. relatives had lost custody to his father in court, local officials did not enforce the ruling. Reno made the decision to remove Elián González from the house of a relative and instructed law enforcement officials to determine the best time to obtain the boy.
- In 1998, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee voted to cite Reno for contempt of Congress for not turning over documents during the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. The full House of Representatives never voted on the resolution and the documents were turned over to the House.
- Her Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division, David W. Ogden, led a lawsuit against the tobacco companies.
Reno ran for Governor of Florida in 2002, but lost in the Democratic primary to Bill McBride 44% to 44.4%. Voting problems arose in the election, and she did not concede defeat until a week later. She has since retired from public life but frequently makes guest appearances for Democratic and other political causes.
After her tenure as attorney general and her unsuccessful gubernatorial bid, Reno tours the country giving speeches on topics relating to the criminal justice system. For example, on March 31, 2006, she spoke at a criminology conference held at the University of Pennsylvania. At this conference, she stated that she believes that the education system in the United States needs to be improved, as there is a link between the quality of education and the crime rate. She also believes that too much money has been diverted away from the juvenile court system and believes that the government should find some way to make the juvenile courts work effectively so as to prevent problems in troubled children and adolescents before these problems are exacerbated by the time these adolescents reach adulthood.
In 2001, Reno appeared alongside Will Ferrell on Saturday Night Live in the final installment of the recurring sketch "Janet Reno's Dance Party". In another television appearance, on a 2007 Super Bowl XLI TV commercial, Janet Reno was among the guests at Chad Ochocinco's Super Bowl party.
In March 2008, Reno received the Council on Litigation Management's Professionalism Award, which recognizes and commemorates an individual who has demonstrated the unique ability to lead others by example in the highest standard of their profession.
On April 17, 2009, Reno was awarded the Justice Award by the American Judicature Society. Eric Holder, Attorney General under the Obama Administration, presented Reno the award. Seth Andersen, Executive Vice President of AJS said the award recognizes "her commitment to improving our systems of justice and educating Americans about our great common enterprise – to ensure equality under the law." The award is the highest given by the AJS, and recognizes significant contributions toward improvements in the administration of justice within the United States.
In popular culture
- Miami rappers Anquette dedicated a hit track to Janet Reno in 1989, stating "In our town, we have a State Attorney by the name of Janet Reno. She locks brothers up for not paying their child support."
- Richard Fish, a senior partner in Cage & Fish, the law firm on Ally McBeal, hits on Janet Reno (played by an actress) in episode 14 "Body Language" by fondling her neck.
- Reno is mentioned in the song "Original Prankster" by The Offspring.
- In the American Dad episode "Iced Iced Babies" Francine is in a sperm bank, she says while searching for Smith "Regan... Rove... Rumsfeld... Reno... Janet Reno? That goes over here." Then alphabetises it.
- This article incorporates text from the Department of Justice website, which is in the public domain.
- "Biographies of the Attorneys General". Justice.gov. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
- "Janet Reno: From Waco to Elian". BBC News. April 14, 2000.
- "AFTER ROCKY START, RENO IS ROCK SOLID". Miami Herald.
- Transcript of Frontline episode "Did Daddy Do It", PBS (April 25, 2002)
- Editorial (2002-04-28) Reno owes the public answers, St. Petersburg Times
- Collins, Glen (December 14, 1986). "Nightmare in Country Walk". New York Times. Retrieved July 1, 2008. "Mr. Fuster was convicted of molesting the children entrusted to his wife's care in their home in the middle-class Dade County suburb of Country Walk, a planned development that was intended to be an idyllic refuge from the anxieties of urban Miami."
- "Innocence Lost, The Plea". Frontline. Retrieved March 20, 2009.
- De Young, Mary (2004). The day care ritual abuse moral panic. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 71. ISBN 0-7864-1830-3.
- Rosenbloom III, Joe (October 17, 1995). "Waco: More than Simple Blunders?". Wall Street Journal. PBS.org. Retrieved June 16, 2010.
- Reno to Jewell: 'I regret the leak' (July 31, 1997)
- "CONTEMPT?". PBS. August 6, 1998.
- "Attorney General Janet Reno Diagnosed With Parkinson's - The Tech". Tech.mit.edu. 1995-11-17. Retrieved 2012-04-06.
- Roig-Franzia, Manuel (September 18, 2002). "Reno Concedes Defeat in Fla. Primary". Washington Post.
- "Department of Criminology News". University of Pennsylvania. Archived from the original on October 24, 2007. Retrieved January 5, 2008.
- Simon, Stephanie (April 3, 2006). "Reno: Focus on science of preventing crimes". Daily Pennsylvanian.
- "SNL Archives | Impression". Snl.jt.org. January 20, 2001. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
- "Chad Johnson's Super Bowl Party – NFL – Viral Videos". SPIKE. February 4, 2007. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
- "Pitchfork: Devendra, Andrew Bird, Danielson on Janet Reno Comp". June 26, 2007. Archived from the original on June 26, 2007. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
- Board of Directors for the Innocence Project
- "Council on Litigation Management". Litmgmt.org. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
- "Former Attorney General to Receive National Award" AJS Media Release. January 15, 2009. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
- "Holder to Present Reno with AJS's Justice Award" Palazzolo, Joe. The BLT:The Blog of Legal Times. April 17, 2009. Retrieved April 18, 2009.
- "Anquette – "Janet Reno"". "Discogs. Retrieved May 28, 2011.
|U.S. Attorney General
Served under: Bill Clinton