Janet Reno

Home Note: This page is particularly significant given the florida governor's race. Janet Reno is the seventy-eighth and first woman Attorney General of the United States of America. At age eight Janet Reno moved with her Danish family to twenty acres on the edge of the Florida Everglades. Her father was a police reporter for the Miami Herald for forty-three years and her mother was an investigative reporter for the Miami News. Compare and contrast Janet Reno with Teddy Roosevelt.

In 1956 Janet Reno enrolled at Cornell University, where she majored in chemistry, and became president of the Women's Self Government Association. In 1960 she 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 Law three years later. Despite her Harvard degree, Janet Reno had difficulty obtaining work as a lawyer. One of Miami's biggest firms denied her a position because she was a woman. Fourteen years later that same firm made her a partner.

In 1971 Janet Reno was named staff director of the Judiciary Committee of the Florida House of Representatives. She helped revise the Florida court system. In 1973 Janet Reno accepted a position with the Dade County State Attorney's Office, which has jurisdiction over the greater Miami area. This acceptance was not without reservations. Reno stated in a November 19, 2000 interview with Peter Maas that "I had sworn that I would never be a prosecutor, because I thought they were more interested in securing convictions than seeking justice." When told she could do something about that she quickly lead the county in organizing a juvenile division within the office.

In 1978, As State Attorney, Janet Reno was responsible for an office with 940 employees, an annual budget of $30 million, and a yearly docket of 120,000 cases. Reno's office regularly prosecuted cases involving homicide, child abuse, rape and other violent crimes; drug trafficking cases; and matters involving white collar crimes. She established a career criminal unit that worked with federal officials and local law enforcement to arrest and convict career criminals and sentence them to substantial prison time.

On March 12, 1993 Janet Reno became Attorney General of the United States. Her appointment came after two innital candidates were rejected owing to the use of illegal immigrants for child care.

As the largest law firm in the nation, the Department of Justice (DOJ) serves as counsel for its citizens. It represents them in enforcing the law in the public interest. Through its thousands of lawyers, investigators, and agents (125,000 employees including the FBI), the DOJ plays the key role in protection against criminals and subversion, in ensuring healthy competition of business in our free enterprise system, in safeguarding the consumer, and in enforcing drug, immigration, and naturalization laws.

Moreover, the DOJ conducts all suits in the Supreme Court in which the United States is concerned. It represents the Government in legal matters generally, rendering legal advice and opinions, upon request, to the President and to the heads of the executive departments. The Attorney General supervises and directs these activities, as well as those of the U.S. Attorneys and U.S. Marshals in the various judicial districts around the country.

Janet Reno's early days in office were marred by a standoff near Waco, Texas, between Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents and members of the Branch Davidian religious group. The standoff ended after the FBI agents attempted to force the members out of a compound, which then burned, killing many children and group members. As Florida's State Attorney, Janet Reno focused attention on prevention programs that enabled children to grow in a safe, constructive environment. She helped reform the juvenile justice system and pursued delinquent fathers for child support payments.

The poor decisions regarding Waco prompted her to offer to resign. An offer that -- fortunately for the nation, and in spite of continuing an expense report fraud investigation against an allie of the President's (Rep. Dan Rostenkowski [D., Ill]) -- was rejected. Her strength, vision, tenacity and commitment are especially needed in challenging monopoly power and its use in influencing government officials. Today Reno is being recognized for halting the prohibition-style marketing tactics of some healthcare, insurance, and technology firms. During her tenure, antitrust violators went to prison for price fixing, companies paid record fines totaling hudreds of millions of dollars and corporate giants in defense and telecommunications abandoned proposed mergers. The largest criminal fine in the history of the Justice Department, $500 million, was levied against Swiss pharmaceuticals maker Hoffmann-La Roche for its part in a vitamin price fixing scheme. MCI/WorldCom abandoned plan to purchase Sprint Corporation and two executives from Archer Daniels Midland Company received jail terms for conspiring to fix prices and dividing competition in the sale of citric acid and lysine. Janet Reno earned the Women's International Center Living Legacy Award in honor of her many contributions.

Reno's decision making is particularly interesting because it portrays how a democratic style of leadership yields poor quality decisions in situations that are unfamiliar. After just 38 days in office, Reno may not have understood this. Her legacy could have been the disaster that resulted from group decision making involving the FBI, BATF and local law enforcement. Reno said if she could revisit any decision it would be the deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, Texas, where Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and some 80 followers perished. Unlike Waco, Reno did not cede control to the FBI in reuniting Elian Gonzalez with his Cuban father and family. An overwhelming number of US citizens approved of her handling of that and the Oaklahma bombing case. Today her legacy is likely going to be the advancement of the cause of an independent attorney general whose integrity is unquestionable. While in office the independent counsel statute was eliminated.

Two years out of office the importance of Waco to the Bush family, who have held positions in the FBI, the Texas governor's office and US presidency has become clear. Waco is near Crawford, where George Bush, current president of the United states, owns a ranch and Crawford is now a center where economic forums consisting of half of Bush's cabinet, other administration officials, business executives, union and the powerful meet. Reno may be justified in viewing her errors involving the standoff as being orchestrated by others. The Bush family demonstrated in the most dramatic of ways how the democratic voting process, a form of group decision making, can yeild results of questionable quality during the most recent presidential election.

see also: http://www.seattletimes.com/news/nation-world/html98/forc23_20000423.html and Trouble in Elian City

The relationship between risk, certainty, efficiency and participation in decision making is well illustrated by study of Reno's career.






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http://www.eskimo.com/~mighetto/lsjreno.htm - last update 22 November 2000.