WEB EXCLUSIVE: Reno will address GW Law School graduates

Former attorney general Janet Reno will address GW Law School’s 134th graduating class and receive an honorary doctorate of laws at the school’s Commencement ceremony May 27.

About 5,000 graduates and guests will attend the two-hour ceremony in the Smith Center, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.

“We are delighted that the first woman attorney general and the longest-serving attorney general in the country’s history will be our speaker,” said Roger Trangsrud, senior associate dean for academic affairs for the law school. “She has a distinguished record both in her time in Florida and in the Justice Department.”

President Bill Clinton appointed Reno the first female attorney general of the United States in February 1993 and appointed her again in 1997. During her time as the 78th attorney general, the number of reported violent crimes dropped, border patrols increased 40 percent and local police precincts hired 10,000 police officers with federal money.

A native of Miami, Reno was born on July 21, 1938. Her father immigrated to the United States from Denmark and worked as a reporter for the Miami Herald for 43 years. Her mother was an investigative reporter for the Miami News.

Reno attended public school in Dade County, Fla., until enrolling in Cornell University in 1956, where she majored in chemistry and was president of the Women’s Self Government Association.

After graduating from Cornell, Reno went on to Harvard Law School in 1960, as one of 16 women in a class of more than 500 students. She received her bachelor of laws degree and worked in several law firms until she was hired as staff director of the Florida House of Representatives Judiciary Committee in 1971.

Although she lost a bid for the Florida State Legislature in 1972, Reno served as counsel for the state Senate committee, revising the Florida Criminal Code the next year. Until she became a partner in a private Miami law firm from 1976-78, she was Florida’s assistant state attorney from 1973-76. Reno returned to the state government in 1978, where she was the first female state attorney for Dade County until 1993, after winning re-election five times.

In Florida, Reno was known for protecting defendant’s rights and enforcing child-support laws. After Clinton appointed her attorney general in 1993, Reno pledged to defend abortion rights, reduce violent crime and increase preventative measures to deter children from crime.

Reno’s tenure in office was marked by the 1993 standoff in Waco, Texas, between FBI agents and members of the Branch Davidian religious group. FBI agents attempted to force members out of their compound by throwing tear gas and setting fire to compound, resulting in the deaths of 80 people, including 25 children.

Reno publicly took responsibility for the Waco incident and offered her resignation, which Clinton rejected.

Reno was praised for her investigations of “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski case and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, both of which resulted in arrests and convictions.

“Whether (you are) one who agrees or disagrees with her . she nevertheless really did make her own decisions and stand for her own principles,” said Law School Dean Michael Young. “Her willingness to stand for her own principles is really an example for all of us.”

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