First female US attorney-general Janet Reno dies

LAW CHIEF: President Bill Clinton in 1993, accompanied by his attorney-general, Janet Reno. Picture: REUTERS
LAW CHIEF: President Bill Clinton in 1993, accompanied by his attorney-general, Janet Reno. Picture: REUTERS

Anet Reno, the first woman US attorney-general and a lightning rod for Republican attacks during Bill Clinton’s presidency, has died in Florida, aged 78.

She died early yesterday at her Miami home due to complications from Parkinson’s disease, her sister, Maggy Hurchalla, said.

The top US law enforcement officer throughout Clinton’s1993-2001 presidency, Reno came under fire barely one month after becoming attorney-general for her handling of a botched April 1993FBI raid on an armed religious cult in Waco, Texas.

Some 80 people died when the Branch Davidian cult’s compound went up in flames.

Her other actions included ordering the Miami relatives of six-year-old Cuban ship wreck survivor Elian Gonzalez in 2000 to surrender the boy to federal authorities.

One of the longest-serving US attorneys-general, her Department of Justice handled prosecutions in the 1993World Trade Centre bombing and two cases of domestic terrorism, the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing and the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.

Other cases included an anti-trust lawsuit against Microsoft, and suing the tobacco industry along with several states to recover health care money spent on people who suffered the effects of smoking.

Reno was born in Miami on July 21 1938, the daughter of newspaper reporters Henryand Jane Reno.

Reno enrolled at Cornell University in New York in 1956 and became president of the university’s Women’s Self Government Association.

She was one of only 16 women in the 500-strong 1960class at Harvard Law School, where she received her degree three years later.

Her experience prior to working in public service ranged from waitressing to being a partner at a Miami law firm from 1976 to ’78.

Reno chaired the Florida Governor’s Council for the Prosecution of Organised Crime in 1979-80.

As state attorney in Florida, she helped reform the state’s juvenile justice system and pursued defaulting fathers for child support payments.

She also helped establish the Miami Drug Court, which provides alternative punishment for non-violent offenders suffering from addiction.

On leaving office, Reno saw her bid to run for governor in2002 thwarted when she narrowly lost in the Democratic Party primary.

Her post-government work included a 2013 appearance as a guest character on the animated show The Simpsons.

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