Janet Reno, former US Attorney General, dead at the age of 78

Janet Reno, the first female and second-longest serving U.S. Attorney General in American history, died Monday morning in her Miami home due to complications from Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 78.

“Janet Reno was an American original, a public servant whose intellect, integrity, and fierce commitment to justice helped shape our nation’s legal landscape,” read a White House statement on her passing.

Born in Florida on July 21, 1938, Reno attended Cornell University and later graduated from Harvard Law School, earning her juris doctor in 1963.

Briefly working in private practice, Reno joined the Miami-Dade County State’s Attorney’s office and in 1978 won the first of four elections returning her to the office.  As the county’s chief prosecutor, Reno focused on targeting deadbeat dads, reform for drug offenders and domestic violence.

Following the failed nominations of Zoe Baird and Judge Kimba Wood for attorney general, Reno was nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to serve as head of the Justice Department and was confirmed by a 98–0 vote in the U.S. Senate.

Best known for the botched raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, in which federal agents involved in a protracted standoff eventually stormed the residence, leading to the death of leader David Koresh and 75 others, Reno assumed full responsibility and accepted blame for the loss of life.

An anti-trust suit filed against Microsoft Corp. eventually settled in 2001 was followed by successful prosecutions of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, Oklahoma City bombers Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh and World Trade Center conspirator Omar Abdel-Rahman and accomplices.

Late in her term, Reno was assailed by lawmakers over the Elian Gonzales affair, a two-year-old Cuban boy forcibly returned to his father after his mother died in an attempted escape from the Fidel Castro regime.

After ignoring a court order to return Gonzales to Cuba, Reno authorized federal agents to seize the child.  Gonzales was eventually re-united with his family on the Caribbean island.

After leaving Washington, Reno returned to Florida and briefly entered politics, narrowly losing the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary race.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1995, Reno enjoyed a full schedule, serving on non-profit boards, until 2013 when she began to limit public appearances.

 

[Politico] [Photo courtesy AP/Tony Gutierrez via Boston.com]