Janet Reno (born July 21, 1938) was the 78th Attorney General of the United States (1993-2001), the first woman to hold that post. She was nominated by President Bill Clinton on February 11, 1993 and confirmed on March 11. Reno's time in office has seen its share of controversy. During her term she:

  • Ordered the FBI raid on the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas on April 19, 1993, which lead to the death of approximately 80 men, women, and children including its leader, David Koresh.
  • Refused to appoint an independent counsel to investigate alleged campaign fund raising abuses by the Clinton administration although FBI Director Louis Freeh recommended that one be appointed
  • Repatriated Elian Gonzalez to be with his Cuban father

Republicanss criticized her for protecting Clinton--though she seemed not to have been part of his inner circle. Civil libertarians complained of her support of expansion of Federal death penalty statutes and limits on habeas corpus. She was known to be a strong advocate for strict gun control legislation.

Reno ran for Governor of Florida in 2002, but lost in the Democratic primary to Bill McBride. Voting problems arose in the election, and she did not concede defeat until a week later.

She was born on July 21, 1938 in Miami, Florida. Her father, Henry Reno, came to the United States from Denmark and for forty-three years was a police reporter for the Miami Herald. Jane Wood, Reno's mother, raised her children and then became an investigative reporter for the Miami News. Janet Reno has three younger siblings.

Reno attended public school in Dade County, Florida, where she was a debating champion at Coral Gables High School. In 1956 Janet 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.

In 1960 Reno enrolled at Harvard Law School, one of only sixteen women in a class of more than 500 students. She received her LL.B. from Harvard three years later. Despite her Harvard degree, she had difficulty obtaining work as a lawyer because she was a woman.

In 1971 Reno was named staff director of the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives. She helped revise the Florida court system. In 1973 she accepted a position with the Dade County State's Attorney's Office. She 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 General for 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. She helped reform the juvenile justice system and pursued delinquent fathers for child support payments and established the Miami Drug Court.

She currently resides in Kendall, Florida, near Miami.

She was often parodied on Saturday Night Live, where she would be played by Will Ferrell. She made a guest appearance on the show on January 20, 2001, just as her term as Attorney General was ending, where she crashed through a fake brick wall onto the stage to interrupt a skit which was parodying her.

Much of the text above comes from the Department of Justice website at: http://www.usdoj.gov/