Jo Ann Harris was the first woman to head the Criminal Division of the US Department of Justice, nominated by President Clinton in 1993. She previously was the first woman Executive Assistant in the US Attorney’s Office, the Chief of the Department of Justice’s Fraud Division, and Assistant US Attorney in the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Harris was a fellow of the American College of Trial lawyers, and played a central role in many of the most significant federal criminal cases of the last 40 years. For her exemplary service, Ms. Harris was awarded the Department of Justice Henry Peterson award.
As a testament to her reputation for incorruptibility and fairness, she was tapped by two separate Independent Counsels to conduct investigations in the early 1990s. ms. Harris served as Associate Independent Counsel to Hon. Arlin Adams in his investigation of corruption at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and, in 2002, was appointed by Independent Counsel Robert Ray to investigate allegations of professional misconduct stemming from prosecutors’ confrontation and interview of Monica Lewinsky. In addition, Ms. Harris was a master teacher and mentor. A member of the faculty at Pace University School of Law and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, she was awarded NITA’s Faculty Award. In the last two decades, she played a pivotal role in creating a tribal advocacy program for Native American tribal courts.
In the words of the HLS community member who nominated her, “Ms. Harris epitomized the ideals of a generation of Assistant United States Attorneys, with her impeccable judgment, wise counsel, and generosity of soul. Her impish wit, unknown to many, could be deployed unexpectedly, always to perfect effect. Ms. Harris was a master of her craft.”
Ms. Harris received her B.A. from the State University of Iowa and her J.D. from NYU School of Law.