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Jo Ann Harris

Jo Ann Harris

Jo Ann Harris (1993-1995)

Early History: Jo Ann Harris was born in 1933 in Macomb, Illinois. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa in 1955. Ms. Harris began her career as a magazine journalist in New York. She earned her law degree from New York University Law School in 1972 and became an advocate for battered women.

In 1974, Ms. Harris joined the U.S. Department of Justice as an Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting white collar crimes in the Southern District of New York (SDNY).  Philip Heymann, then-Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, hired her as Chief of the Fraud Section in 1979.  Ms. Harris was the first female Chief of the Fraud Section and oversaw some of the earliest cases ever prosecuted under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In 1981, Ms. Harris returned to SDNY as senior litigation counsel, training new AUSAs and continuing to prosecute major cases. Ms. Harris moved into private practice in 1983.

Tenure: In 1993, Ms. Harris was nominated by President Bill Clinton to be the Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division. She was the first woman to hold that position. Ms. Harris oversaw the early stages of the Oklahoma City bombing investigation and laid the groundwork for the creation of the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section. In 1995, Ms. Harris was awarded the Division’s Henry E. Petersen Memorial Award for her exemplary leadership.

Later Career: After leaving the Department, Ms. Harris served as a faculty member of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy and a scholar-in-residence at Pace University Law School.  She was also a proponent for the creation of a tribal advocacy program for Native American tribal courts. Ms. Harris died in 2014 in New York, New York.

This material is based on the review of a variety of historical sources and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. If you have any corrections or additional information about this individual or about the history of the Criminal Division, please contact the Division.

Updated February 4, 2016