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Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union

America's First Female Attorney General

On 11 February 1993, Janet Reno became the first female attorney general in American history. Over the preceding years, she had built a successful career as state attorney in Dade County, Florida, where she had enjoyed the support of both Republicans and Democrats. After having been sworn in by President Bill Clinton as America's chief law enforcement officer--other than the president himself--she faced vast new challenges in the form of nationwide concerns over crime, outbreaks of terrorism, and other issues.

Born on 21 July 1938, in Miami, Reno grew up on a 20-acre farm near the Everglades. Both of her parents were journalists, and her mother was known as an eccentric whose leisure-time activities included wrestling alligators. Reno attended Coral Gables High School, and later Cornell University, where she earned her law degree in 1960. She graduated from law school at Harvard University in 1963.

After working in private practice for several years, Reno in 1971 was appointed to a position with the judiciary committee of Florida's legislature. In 1978 she was elected to the state attorney's position, and over the coming years she dealt with local turmoil that included race riots in Miami's Liberty City, and massive upheaval brought by the arrival of thousands of Cuban refugees during the 1980s.

Reno became Clinton's attorney general after two of the president's earlier nominees failed to win the approval of Congress.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentReno v. American Civil Liberties Union - Significance, America's First Female Attorney General, Further Readings