Patrick J. Leahy,
Patrick Leahy of Middlesex, Vermont, was elected to the United States Senate in 1974, making him Vermont’s longest-serving Senator. Leahy is the Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, a position he has held since January 2015. He served as Chairman from June 2001 through January 2003, and January 2007 until January 2015.
A graduate of Saint Michael's College in Colchester (1961), he received his Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center (1964). 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 (1974) as one of three outstanding prosecutors in the United States. Leahy is also a senior member of the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees, and serves as the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations. In July 2012, Leahy became just the sixth U.S. Senator to cast more than 14,000 votes.
Throughout his tenure as a member and as a Chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Leahy has been a major force in the myriad issues the committee handles. A former prosecutor, he has championed those serving in law enforcement, first responders, and victims of crime. He is the author of the bipartisan Leahy-Crapo Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2011 and the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, which were signed into law in 2013. Leahy helped to establish the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program in 1999 and has led reauthorization of this important program which has provided more than a million protective vests since its creation. In 2009, Congress passed the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, Leahy’s bipartisan bill with Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee’s ranking member, to strengthen tools and increase resources available to federal prosecutors to combat fraud. A staunch advocate for the public’s right to know, Leahy has continued his efforts to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Leahy is a longtime protector of civil rights and civil liberties. As Chairman, in 2009 he led the effort to pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to broaden federal hate crimes law so that those targeted because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability would be protected. In 2011, Leahy chaired the first-ever congressional hearing on proposals to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), setting the stage for the committee to later approve legislation to repeal the law. He has also been a steadfast champion for immigration reform, managing the Senate’s consideration of the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act in 2013 and working to include language to make permanent the immigration program known as EB-5 to bring much-needed jobs to local communities. Leahy has authored and advocated legislation to restore the right to habeas corpus for all Americans, a right that was stripped in the 2006 Military Commissions Act. Leahy created the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Rights and the Law, now encompassed in the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, and has established the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law.
Leahy has also been a leading voice in protecting the nation’s intellectual property and promoting innovation. He coauthored the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, which was signed into law in 2011 after six years of bipartisan work to enact the first significant reforms to the nation’s patent system in nearly 60 years. Chairman Leahy authored the PRO-IP Act, which was enacted in 2012, to strengthen tools used to prosecute the theft of American’s intellectual property, and he is a strong proponent of open Internet rules designed to prevent discrimination against lawful Internet content and promote competition in the online marketplace. He was a cosponsor of the Internet Freedom Preservation Act in 2006 and 2007, and voted to uphold the Federal Communications Commission open Internet rules in 2011.
Leahy has long fought for the protection of privacy rights and freedom of speech on the Internet. He is the co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Internet Caucus. He has taken the lead on several privacy issues, including Internet and medical records privacy. Leahy held Congress’s first hearing in 1994 on privacy concerns relating to electronic medical records.
Leahy is the chief sponsor of the Innocence Protection Act, which addresses flaws in the administration of capital punishment, and the Second Chance Act, which was signed into law in 2007 and helps state and local authorities successfully reintegrate prisoners into their communities and reduce the rate of repeat offenders. Parts of Leahy's death penalty reform package, which were enacted in 2004, will reduce the risks that innocent people are executed by providing for post-conviction DNA testing and better access to competent legal counsel.
As a senior member of the Senate, 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 of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy has overseen the confirmation of hundreds of judicial and executive nominations. He is a leading voice on the role that our independent judicial system plays in our democracy.
Patrick Leahy has been married to Marcelle Pomerleau Leahy since 1962. They have a daughter, two sons, and five grandchildren. The Leahys live on a tree farm in Middlesex, Vermont.
To read more about previous Chairmen of the Senate Judiciary Committee, click here.