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The Death of the First Female U.S. Attorney General


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Janet Reno, the first female U.S. Attorney General, has died this morning due to complications associated with Parkinson’s. Reno was 78 years old. In addition to being the first woman U.S. AG, Reno served as U.S. AG longer t han anyone else had in 150 years, serving as U.S. AG from 1993 until 2001. Reno was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993 and confirmed in March of that year. While Reno was not Clinton’s first or even second choice, she ending up being the right choice. When she left office, she did so as a deeply respected individual, particularly because of the difficult cases she had to contend with during her tenure.

What is also fascinating about Reno is that, before being selected by Clinton, she had no connections to either Clinton or Washington. She was simply a prosecutor in Florida at the time. Jamie Gorelick, the deputy attorney general, says of Reno that “[s]he was herself, and she didn’t change herself for Washington.”

Reno’s time as the U.S. AG was by no means simple. The following Department of Justice actions occurred during Reno’s tenure:

  • The 51-day Waco siege standoff and resulting 76 deaths
  • 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 which ended without loss of life.
  • 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
  • Identification Eric Rudolph in the Centennial Olympic Park bombing and other bombings
  • 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

In today’s rough political environment, we need more people who are as dedicated to their jobs as Reno. May she rest in peace.

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