Senator Leahy is the most senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After Senator Leahy completed law school at Georgetown University Law Center, he served for eight years as State's Attorney in Chittenden County, Vermont. He gained a national reputation for his law enforcement activities and was selected in 1974 as one of three outstanding prosecutors in the United States.
Throughout his tenure as a member and as a Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy has been a major force in myriad issues the committee handles. He is a key advocate for government transparency and for the public’s right to know. A former prosecutor, he is a champion for those serving in law enforcement, for first responders and for the victims of crime.
In 2007, he joined with his longtime partner in open government issues, Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas, to introduce and guide to passage the OPEN Government Act. The law imposes real consequences on Federal agencies for missing the 20-day statutory deadline for Freedom of Information requests, and established a new agency to oversee and ensure government FOIA requests and policy. Senator Leahy and Senator Cornyn also teamed to author the OPEN FOIA Act and most recently the Faster FOIA Act, which will make improvements to FOIA and address backlogs of FOIA requests at U.S. Government agencies.
Senator Leahy has crusaded for the protection of copyright and intellectual property protections and freedom of speech on the Internet. He is the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus. He is the lead author of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which made the first comprehensive reforms to the nation’s patent system in nearly 60 years. The historic legislation was signed into law on September 16, 2011.
Senator Leahy has taken the lead on several privacy issues, including Internet and medical records privacy, and held Congress’s first hearing in 1994 on privacy concerns relating to electronic medical records. In 2011, Senator Leahy created the Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law to ensure issues relating to privacy remain central as technology advances.
A former prosecutor who has seen the horrors of domestic violence first hand, Senator Leahy has long been an advocate for domestic violence prevention programs. Senator Leahy made it a priority to strengthen and reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. Teaming with Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Senator Leahy was the driving force behind the renewal and strengthening of VAWA’s proven efforts to prevent and remedy domestic and sexual violence. The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Thursday, March 7, 2013.
As the senior most member of the Senate, Senator Leahy is one of few Senators to have voted on the confirmation of every sitting member of the current Supreme Court. During his time as Chairman and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy has overseen the confirmation of hundreds of judicial and executive nominations. He has made it a specific priority to promote increased diversity on the Federal bench and within the Department of Justice.