|District Attorney of Westchester County|
January 1, 1994 – December 31, 2005
|Preceded by||Carl Vergari|
|Succeeded by||Janet DiFiore|
|Chair of the New York State Commission on Domestic Violence Fatalities|
January 1, 1997 – December 31, 2005
|Preceded by||Vernon Geberth|
|Judge of the Westchester County Court|
January 1, 1991 – May 1993
|Preceded by||Francis Nicolai|
Peter Leavitt[nb 1]
June 2, 1951
Elmira, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Albert Pirro (1975–2013)|
State University of New York,|
Albany Law School, Union University (JD)
Jeanine Ferris Pirro (born June 2, 1951) is an American TV personality, former judge, prosecutor, and Republican politician in New York. Pirro is currently the host of Fox News Channel's Justice with Judge Jeanine.
She was the first female judge elected to the Westchester County Court prior to her election as the first female District Attorney of Westchester County. As District Attorney, Pirro gained considerable visibility in cases of domestic abuse and crimes against the elderly. Pirro briefly sought the Republican nomination for United States Senate against Hillary Clinton in 2006, but dropped out to accept the nomination for New York Attorney General. Pirro lost the general election to Andrew Cuomo.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Westchester County law career
- 3 Statewide political career
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Media career
- 6 Political positions
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Early life and education
Jeanine Ferris was born 1951 in Elmira, New York, to Nasser "Leo" and Esther (née Awad) Ferris, both first-generation Lebanese-Americans. Her father was a mobile-home salesman, and her mother was a department-store model. Pirro has said that she knew she wanted to be an attorney from the age of six.
She graduated from Notre Dame High School in three years and interned in the Chemung County District Attorney's office during her time in high school. Pirro then graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the University at Buffalo. She received her J.D. degree at Albany Law School of Union University in 1975. During law school, she was an editor of the law review. She is a practicing Catholic.
Westchester County law career
Assistant District Attorney
In 1975, Carl Vergari appointed Pirro to the position of Assistant District Attorney of Westchester County, where she began her career by writing appeals and handling minor cases. In 1977, Pirro approached Vergari and requested that he apply for a federal grant for local district attorney's offices to establish bureaus that specialized in domestic violence. She hoped that Vergari would take advantage of potential funding as well as a 1977 change in New York law that moved many domestic violence cases from family court to criminal court. Vergari agreed to apply, and his office became one of four in the nation to win the grant. In 1978, he appointed Pirro to be the first chief of the new Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau. Pirro was known to be an aggressive bureau chief. Due to possible coercion, she had a strict policy against dropping cases at a victim's request.
Many people praised Pirro for her passion as Domestic Violence Bureau Chief, but she attracted increasing criticism from colleagues due to her attention-grabbing behavior and violations of tradition. On multiple occasions, Chief District Attorney Vergari spoke to Pirro concerning her violation of office policy. She had issued press releases with her own name—and not Vergari's—on top. The relationship between Pirro and Vergari disintegrated in the late 1980s, after Pirro claimed sole responsibility for the establishment of the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau.
On June 1, 1990, just five months prior to Pirro's first appearance on the ballot for County Court Judge, she attracted widespread attention and some criticism for rushing to conduct a bedside arraignment of Maria Amaya at the Intensive Care Unit of United Hospital in Port Chester. Amaya had been charged with four counts of second-degree murder for the deaths of her four children. She was a 36-year-old immigrant from El Salvador who had a history of being hospitalized for mental issues. Amaya had killed the four children and attempted suicide after believing that they were being corrupted by drugs and sex.
Vergari had served as district attorney for Pirro's entire tenure as an assistant district attorney and her time on the bench. In 1999, he critiqued Pirro as "bright and capable" and someone who "plays hardball seeking publicity" but is also "very self-centered in everything she does".
During a 1986 abortive campaign for lieutenant governor, Pirro claimed to have never lost a case in "about 50 trials". This number was disputed when presented in 2005 to colleagues, who said that the real number of trials personally handled by Pirro "wasn't more than 10". Pirro's then-spokesman, Anne Marie Corbalis, contended only that Pirro had a "100% felony conviction rate" as an Assistant District Attorney.
Pirro left the District Attorney's office after her November 1990 election as a judge of the Westchester County Court. She had successfully run on the Republican and Conservative party lines against Democratic nominee and New Castle Town Justice Lawrence D. Lenihan and Right to Life Party nominee August C. Nimphius, Jr. When she was sworn in on January 1, 1991, Pirro became Westchester County's first female judge.
In November 1993, Pirro was elected Westchester County District Attorney; she was the first woman to hold that position. She was re-elected in 1997 and 2001. On May 23, 2005, Pirro announced that she would not seek re-election to a fourth term as Westchester County District Attorney.
On December 31, 1993—within hours of Pirro's midnight inauguration as District Attorney—Scripps newspaper heiress Anne Scripps Douglas was savagely bludgeoned in the head with a skull hammer by her estranged husband, Scott Douglas, as she slept in their Bronxville home. By the time police arrived, Scott Douglas had fled the scene, and Anne Scripps Douglas died in the hospital on January 6. Douglas subsequently committed suicide by jumping off the Tappan Zee Bridge. Pirro, already known as a passionate prosecutor of domestic violence cases, was a frequent presence in the media during the period between the murder and when Scott Douglas's body washed ashore in Riverdale in early March 1994. This increase in Pirro's national profile led to her surfacing as a frequent guest on network and cable television news in June 1994, when O.J. Simpson was arrested for the murder of his ex-wife, appearing frequently as a talking head for Nightline, Larry King Live, and Geraldo.
Within months of taking office, Pirro undertook a costly renovation to the district attorney's facilities and expanded to an additional floor of the county courthouse. The largest expenses were a new kitchenette and a media room, costing $20,000, to assist Pirro's growing profile; additional expenditures were made to remodel her personal office with mahogany.
Pirro was the first female president of the New York State District Attorneys Association. Also while district attorney, she was appointed by then Governor George Pataki to chair the New York State Commission on Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board. Its report and recommendations resulted in legislation passing that enhanced protections of, and safeguards for, the victims of domestic abuse.
During her tenure as district attorney, she repeatedly refused to reopen the murder case of Jeffrey Deskovic. In 1990, Deskovic was falsely convicted of killing a 15-year-old girl and spent 16 years in prison before he was exonerated by DNA evidence.
Statewide political career
1986 Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidacy
On May 26, 1986, Pirro, then an assistant district attorney, was announced as the running mate of Westchester County Executive and presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Andrew O'Rourke at a press conference in Manhattan's Roosevelt Hotel. Pirro was selected by O'Rourke and New York State Republican Committee Chairman Anthony J. Colavita after nearly a dozen individuals declined the position, including Erie County Executive Ed Rutkowski, Hempstead Presiding Supervisor Thomas Gulotta, and the Executives of Broome and Oneida Counties. Colavita, who said at the press conference that he "had so many say 'no' to me (during the lieutenant governor search), it doesn't hurt anymore", pointed to Pirro's prosecutorial experience, ability to effectively use crime as an issue, Italian married name, youth, and status as a woman when asked about her strengths as a candidate.
Pirro's selection frustrated many New York Republicans, with Assembly Minority Leader Clarence D. Rappleyea Jr. traveling on May 27 from Albany to the first night of the State Republican Committee's Nominating Convention in Syracuse, to tell O'Rourke and Cloavita that his conference was concerned by Pirro's lack of political experience or statewide stature. Many Republicans also worried that if Pirro were nominated, their ticket would be too geographically dominated by downstate and the suburbs, with O'Rourke, like Pirro, being from Westchester, and the presumptive nominees for attorney general, Peter King and United States Senate, Alfonse D'Amato both hailing from Nassau County.
On May 28, just one day prior to the scheduled vote for the lieutenant gubernatorial nomination at the state party convention in Syracuse, Pirro announced her withdrawal from the race, saying that her husband could not disclose his legal clients or the couple's business interests (later revealed to have been her husband's partial ownership of a Connecticut carting company with alleged mafia connections), and that many of his clients did business with the state, which would make it "virtually impossible" for her to serve as Lieutenant Governor. Pirro had privately informed O'Rourke and Cloavita of her decision during the evening of May 27, and the two were generally supportive, telling the press that her departure had nothing to do with Rappleyea's intervention. Pirro was replaced just six hours after her announcement by Michael Kavanagh, the District Attorney of Ulster County.
2006 U.S. Senate campaign
On August 10, 2005, Pirro announced that she would seek the Republican nomination to challenge first-term incumbent senator Hillary Clinton, a Democrat, in the 2006 election for U.S. Senator from New York. Other Republicans who announced campaigns for the nomination were John Spencer, a former mayor of Yonkers, William Brenner, an attorney in Sullivan County, and attorney Edward Cox, the son-in-law of former president Richard Nixon. In a widely publicized moment when she was declaring her candidacy, Pirro misplaced page 10 of her speech and went silent for 32 seconds, something that is widely considered to have damaged her campaign before it even started.
During an appearance at the Crime Victims Resource Center, Pirro described herself this way: "I am red on fiscal policy. I am conservative and I support the Bush tax cut." She added, however: "I have broad blue stripes when it comes to social issues... I am a woman who is a moderate in New York." Republican governor George Pataki's endorsement of Pirro caused Cox to withdraw from the race, leaving Pirro as the likely nominee. Donors to Pirro's political campaign included designer Tommy Hilfiger (also a native of Elmira) and Donald Trump, as well as contractors and real estate executives who had done business with her husband.
On December 21, 2005, Pirro dropped out of the Senate race after continuing pressure from party chiefs. This decision was reached after a lagging fundraising effort and polls that showed she would be easily defeated by Clinton (a Quinnipiac University poll found Pirro would lose to Clinton 62 percent to 30 percent). In a statement, she said "I have decided that my law enforcement background better qualifies me for a race for New York State attorney general than a race for the United States Senate." Spencer was eventually chosen as the Republican Party's nominee for the U.S. Senate.
2006 State attorney general campaign
On May 31, 2006, Pirro was unopposed for the nomination and became the Republican party's official candidate for attorney general by acclamation at the state GOP convention. She also received the nominations of the New York Conservative and Independence Parties. Pirro lost the general election to the Democratic nominee, former Clinton Housing and Urban Development Secretary and future Governor Andrew Cuomo 58%–39%.
Later in life, she returned to the private sector and began a new career as a TV personality.
In 1975 Jeanine Ferris married Albert Pirro of Mount Vernon in Westchester County, whom she had met when they were both in law school. The couple had a son and a daughter. After marrying, the couple moved to Harrison, New York, where she began working as an assistant district attorney and he began work as a lobbyist.
By the late 1990s, Albert Pirro had become a powerful lobbyist, Republican donor, and associate of Donald Trump, who described him as "incredibly intelligent and effective" and said that "there's no one like him" in Westchester. Albert Pirro's specialty was dealing with local boards and permits in Westchester, and he had made millions working for clients that included Trump, Viacom, and ITT Inc. This allowed the couple, who had become close friends of George and Libby Pataki, to live a life of luxury in a $1.7 million Harrison house, with a vacation property in West Palm Beach, a Ferrari, and two Mercedes-Benz vehicles.
Federal conviction of husband
On February 23, 1999, Albert Pirro was indicted by the office of United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York Mary Jo White on one count of conspiracy, four counts of tax evasion, and 28 counts of filing a false tax return for hiding over $1 million in personal income as business expenses between 1988 and 1997, including the $123,000 cost of his Ferrari, two Mercedes for Jeanine and her mother, $40,000 on electronic gates at their home, $10,000 on furnishings at their vacation house, $3,700 on the back-yard of their home, cruise tickets, fine wine, and the salaries of domestic help. The investigation was instigated by the arrest for embezzlement of a minor Yonkers municipal bureaucrat, who in turn accused Pirro of giving him a $5,000 bribe to ease permitting for a movie theater development. During the 9-year period when this fraud took place, Jeanine and Albert Pirro filed joint returns for the three years from 1993 to 1995.
Later on February 23, Jeanine appeared at a joint press conference with Albert in response to the charges. She criticized the investigation of her husband as having been "invasive and hostile". Governor Pataki released a statement saying that the Pirros had been friends of himself and Libby for "a long time" and they "wished them well".
Albert Pirro was arraigned in White Plains on March 3, 1999, before Southern District Court Judge Barrington Parker, alongside his younger brother Anthony, an accountant who was facing 38 charges for filing Albert's returns. Albert and Anthony Pirro both entered pleas of not guilty and were released on their own recognizance. Albert later emerged from the White Plains federal courthouse holding polygraph results that he claimed would prove his innocence.
Albert Pirro's trial began on May 15, 2000, also presided by Parker. Jeanine showed up in the first row on most days, telling reporters she was there "as a wife and mother". Throughout the trial, much of the evidence against Albert painted Jeanine in a highly negative light. Among the evidence it was shown that Jeanine had used Albert's corporate credit card to spend $4,450 on an oil portrait of their two children, and that she had used her official district attorney's letterhead to negotiate the purchase over fax from a California artist. Likewise, the set for Jeanine's former local cable show Judge Pirro Reports was bought by one of Albert's companies and deducted as a business expense, as was the salary of a political consultant when Jeanine first contemplated running for district attorney. Jeanine attacked the prosecution bringing up matters which involved her, calling it a "desperate attempt by them to bring me into this wherever they can".
On June 23, 2000, after 4 days of deliberations, the jury convicted Albert Pirro of all 34 charges against him. Anthony Pirro was found guilty of 23 charges and not guilty of 10. The conviction of her husband was so damaging to Jeanine Pirro's political career that she seriously considered resigning from her position as Westchester District Attorney and moving to a more lucrative position in the private sector. On November 2, 2000, Albert Pirro was sentenced to 29 months in a minimum security federal prison; he received some leniency in exchange for waiving his right to appeal.
In the midst of her 2006 state attorney general campaign, Pirro revealed she was the subject of a federal investigation into whether she illegally taped her husband's conversations to catch him committing adultery. The couple announced they were separating in November 2007 and finalized their divorce in 2013.
After her husband was released from prison, Pirro received significant political contributions from associates, including contractors and realtors who had done business with her husband, for her several unsuccessful attempts to hold higher office.
Pirro has been a regular contributor to The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. She is currently contributing to Today, Fox NY Good Day New York, is a Fox News legal analyst appearing on various shows, and has guest hosted shows such as Larry King Live, The Joy Behar Show, and Geraldo at Large. She was a frequent guest on Fox's late-night satire show Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld.
In 2003 Pirro released the nonfiction book To Punish and Protect, describing life inside the criminal justice system. In 2012, with the assistance of author Pete Earley, Pirro wrote the novel Sly Fox based on her own experiences as a 25-year-old assistant district attorney in Westchester.
Pirro appears in the HBO six-part serial The Jinx, recounting her perspective on the 1983 disappearance of Kathie Durst, a high-profile case for which she was the investigating attorney. Pirro was the host of the American reality prime time court show You the Jury, canceled after two episodes.
Judge Jeanine Pirro on The CW
On May 5, 2008, The CW announced that Pirro would host a weekday television show to be named Judge Jeanine Pirro, part of the network's CW Daytime lineup, with two episodes airing daily. The show was distributed by Warner Bros. Domestic Television and was carried by default on all CW affiliate stations.
Judge Jeanine Pirro was cleared for a second season beginning in fall 2009. Unlike its first season, the second season, which began in the fall of 2009, was not exclusive to CW affiliates. In May 2010, the show received its first Emmy nomination, and in 2011, received the daytime Emmy Award. In September 2011 the show was canceled due to low ratings.
Justice with Judge Jeanine on Fox News Channel
Pirro supported Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, while also noting that she was "infuriated" by some of his behaviors. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape, Pirro defended Trump, stating "I have been involved in a million situations with him and his children. He has always been a gentleman."
After Trump's election, Pirro was known for delivering fiery defenses of the president. The Washington Post described her show as "almost universally positive about Trump." According to Politico, "From the outset of the administration, she has used her TV platform to hammer the president’s critics and to ding his allies, including Sessions, as insufficiently loyal."
Pirro has called for arresting individuals who work for the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, who is leading the investigation into Russian meddling in the election of President Trump.. Pirro called for "cleansing" those government agencies of people critical to the president. These sorts of attacks on the FBI and Justice Department have been criticized as dangerous, "despicable", and strictly out of place with US traditions of constitutional democracy. In May 2018, Pirro said that Trump had "fulfilled" a "biblical prophecy" by moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
In June 2018, Politico reported that Pirro had repeatedly since late 2016 told the Trump administration about her interest in becoming the Attorney General. On her show, Pirro had referred to current Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, as "the most dangerous man in America."
Pirro is a supporter of affirmative action. She supports a woman's right to an abortion, including being supportive of U.S. taxpayer funding of abortion through Medicaid, though she has been opposed to late-term abortions. She also supports the readings of the second amendment that allow for individual gun ownership.
- Pirro's resignation left two vacancies at the 1993 general election; they were filled on a ballot where the top-two candidates were declared elected.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jeanine Pirro.|
- Healy, Patrick D (August 3, 2005). "Democrats Push Rival to Repay Security Costs". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 17, 2013.
- Kovaleski, Serge F. (October 13, 2006). "In Sex Arrests Hailed by Pirro, Little Jail Time". The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 17, 2013.
- "Pirro Takes Aim at Clinton's Job". Newsday. August 9, 2005. Archived from the original on January 12, 2016.
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|Party political offices|
| Republican nominee for Attorney General of New York