Janet Reno, the first female attorney general of the United States died this November 7, in Miami. The former attorney general died at her home. She was 78 years old.
Former president Bill Clinton chose Janet Reno to be the attorney general. She was there for the largest crises that the country faced during the 1990s, shaping the response of the United States government.
The cause of Ms. Reno’s death was complications arising from Parkinson’s disease.
Janet Reno Put an Emphasis on Independence
Janet Reno brought fierce independence to the job of attorney general. Her office went through many critical moments, where Reno’s leadership was visible. One of them was the siege by the FBI of the compound belonging to the Branch Davidians in Texas. Another was the investigation of Bill Clinton’s sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Throughout everything, Janet Reno insisted that prosecutors and agents work with no influence from politics, the media as well as popular opinion.
Supporters of Janet Reno say that she brought integrity and professionalism to the office of the attorney general. She insisted on legal exactitude. When it came to prosecutions, she was cautious.
Walter E. Dellinger III is a law professor at Duke University. Also, he served as solicitor general during the time of Janet Reno. He remembers the attorney general.
“She was a very powerful force for lawfulness. She was always challenging to make sure there was a sound legal basis for what people were doing. And she was adamant about separating the department from politics,”
said Walter E. Dellinger III.
Criticism during Her Tenure as Attorney General
However, not everybody was happy with the decisions Janet Reno would take. Through the course of her career, she also endured criticism. The attorney general faced differences of opinion with determination.
Business leader criticized her prosecuting Microsoft under charges regarding anti-competitive violations. The prosecution took a long time and the case was eventually settled during the George W. Bush administration.
Also, civil libertarians complained about how Ms. Reno handled the case of former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist Wen Ho Lee. He was accused of espionage and held in solitary confinement for nine months. The charges against him were mishandling nuclear secrets. Eventually, he was released on a lesser charge. At the time, even Bill Clinton said that the case was troubling. But Ms. Reno did not apologize for the situation.
When it cme to politics, both sides of the political aisle were critical of Janet Reno. The Republicans criticized Reno bitterly for what they saw as pandering to the Bill Clinton administration. Also, Democrats were not kind to her either. They often reminded Janet Reno of her allegiance to politics. Ms. Reno once said that First Lady Hillary Clinton could not forgive her for authorizing the investigation into Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Janet Reno was in office for longer than any attorney general of the last century. She was popular outside the capital and the environment of Washington politics. Those who met her remember her as plain-spoken and folksy. She would be a sociable presence at parties, telling stories about her childhood or about her home in Florida.
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