Childhood & Early Life
Jeanine Ferris Pirro was born on June 2, 1951 in Elmira, New York, to Lebanese-American parents Nasser ‘Leo’ and Esther ‘Awad’ Ferris. Her father was a salesman for mobile homes and her mother worked as a department store model. She has a sister called Lulu.
She went to Notre Dame High School, and during that time, interned at the Chemung County District Attorney's office. She stated in an interview that she knew that she wanted to be an attorney when she was only six. She graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo with Bachelor of Arts degree.
In 1975, she received her Juris Doctor degree from Albany Law School of Union University in New York. While attending law school, she served as an editor of the Law Review.
Continue Reading Below
In 1975, Jeanine Pirro joined as an Assistant District Attorney at the Westchester County Court. In 1978, she set up the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau, and was appointed the first chief of the bureau.
In 1986, she was selected as the Westchester County Executive. That same year, she announced her lieutenant gubernatorial candidacy, but just one day prior to the voting for the nomination, she withdrew from the race, as she stated that her husband could not disclose his business information, which was a requirement.
Her career as a prosecutor was a successful one, with almost 100% conviction rate. In November 1990, she was elected as Westchester County's first female judge after she was successful in the run as a Republican against Democratic and Right to Life Party nominees.
In November 1993, she was elected the first woman District Attorney of Westchester County. She held the post till 2005. After been re-elected in 1997 and 2001, she did not run for a fourth term.
She was also the first female President of the New York State District Attorneys Association. As the district attorney, she chaired important commissions including the Commission on Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board.
In 2003, she published the non-fiction book ‘To Punish and Protect’, in which she described the life inside a criminal justice system.
In August 2005, she announced that she would run in the 2006 election for U.S. Senator from New York for the Republican nomination against Senator Hillary Clinton. In December 2005, she dropped out of the race as polls showed that Clinton would easily defeat her.
After her political career ended, she started pursuing a career in the media. She contributed regularly to ‘The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet’, a morning talk show produced by Fox. She also contributes to ‘Good Day New York’, a morning show on Fox 5.
As a legal analyst, she appears on various shows, and also guest hosts shows like ‘Larry King Live’, ‘The Joy Behar Show’, and ‘Geraldo at Large’. She has appeared as a guest several times on Fox's late-night satire show ‘Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld’.
Continue Reading Below
In 2008, she began hosting the television show, ‘Judge Jeanine Pirro’, produced by The CW Television Network. The second season of the show was aired in 2009. In 2010, the show was nominated for an Emmy award, and in 2011, it won an Emmy Award. However, despite being critically acclaimed, it was canceled in 2011 due to low ratings.
In 2012, she wrote the novel ‘Sly Fox’ based on her own experiences as a young assistant district attorney in Westchester. She took the help of author Pete Earley to write this book. She has also authored the book ‘Clever Fox’ and ‘He Killed Them All: Robert Durst and My Quest for Justice’. This book became the subject of the HBO documentary ‘The Jinx.
In 2015, she was featured in the six-part serial ‘The Jinx’, aired on HBO. In the series, she highlighted her views on the disappearance of Kathie Durst, which was a high-profile case in 1983. She was then the investigating attorney. She has also hosted two episodes of the American reality court show ‘You the Jury’. The show was canceled after two episodes.
As a popular legal expert, she has appeared on ‘The Today Show’ on NBC, ‘Good Morning America’ on ABC, ‘The Early show’ on CBS, ‘60 Minutes, ‘48 Hours’, ‘Nightline’, ‘The View’, and ‘The O'Reilly Factor’, among others.
Pirro hosts the Fox News Channel reality legal show called ‘Justice with Judge Jeanine’. It is aired live on every Saturday evening at prime time. On the show, she shares her legal opinion on some selected news of the week, including high-profile cases, news on crime and justice, trends, and political issues. The show premiered in January 2011.
One of Jeanine Pirro’s most significant achievements is her effort to establish the Domestic Violence and Child Abuse Bureau. The bureau specializes in domestic violence as the name suggests.
Her office won the grant to start the bureau, and she became the first chief of the bureau. She came to be known as an aggressive bureau chief and was very strict against dropping cases at a victim's request. Although her passion and achievements as the bureau chief were praised, she drew criticism as well due to her attention-seeking attitude.
Her current TV show ‘Justice with Judge Jeanine’ is a consistently highest-rated primetime show on Fox News Channel. After her judicial career, she has become quite popular hosting this show as she presents her unbiased views on high-profile cases, political and legal issues, and crime and justice.
In 1975, Jeanine Pirro married Albert Pirro, whom she had met while she was in law school. After marriage they moved to Harrison, New York, where she worked as an assistant district attorney and he took up a job as a lobbyist. They have a son and a daughter.
By the late 1990s, her husband Albert had become a powerful lobbyist and an associate of Donald Trump. He became a millionaire, owned a house in Harrison, and a vacation property in West Palm Beach, two Mercedes-Benz vehicles, and a Ferrari.
In 2000, Jeanine’s reputation was at stake when her husband Albert Pirro was sent to jail for federal tax evasion of millions. Her career was so badly affected that she considered resigning from her position as Westchester District Attorney. She herself was accused of using Albert's corporate credit card to get a personal oil portrait made and of using her district attorney's letterhead to negotiate a personal deal with the artist.
It is rumored that she has undergone cosmetic surgery to look youthful. She was also criticized for defending Fox CEO, Roger Ailes, when he was accused of sexual harassment at workplace. She once again landed into a controversy when she boasted of sending New York real estate heir Robert Durst to jail.