Landrieu was born the fifth of nine children born to Moon and Verna Landrieu. He grew up in the Broadmoor neighborhood of New Orleans. After graduating from Jesuit High School (New Orleans) in 1978, he enrolled at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. where he majored in political science and theatre. In 1985 he earned a Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree from Loyola University Law School in New Orleans.
Landrieu is married to Cheryl P. Landrieu, also an attorney. They have five children: Grace, Emily, Matthew, Benjamin, and William. They reside in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Landrieu has been a practicing attorney for fifteen years and is president of International Mediation & Arbitration, Ltd. He is a member of the Supreme Court Task Force on Alternative Dispute Resolution which was responsible for developing the pilot mediation program in Orleans Parish. Landrieu is trained in mediation and negotiation by the Harvard Law School Negotiation Project, the American Arbitration Association, and the Attorney Mediator's Institute. Landrieu has also taught alternative dispute resolution as an adjunct professor at Loyola University Law School.
Landrieu was elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives in 1987 where he served for sixteen years in the seat previously held by his sister and his father.
Landrieu led the legislative effort to reform Louisiana's juvenile justice system with a focus on rehabilitation and reform, not punishment and incarceration. He continues to chair the Juvenile Justice Commission, the entity created by the legislation to implement the reforms. In January, 2004, Governor Kathleen Blanco endorsed the Commission's recommendations.
Landrieu led the effort by a coalition of artists, venue owners, and other interested parties who were successful in repealing the Orleans Parish "amusement tax", a 2% tax on gross sales at any establishment that features live music. As an attorney, Landrieu brought a case to court that resulted in the tax being ruled unconstitutional. He continued the fight by bringing the issue to the New Orleans City Council, who voted to repeal the tax. As a legislator, Landrieu sponsored a bill to repeal the law that allowed the tax to exist.
Landrieu crafted legislation to fund the Louisiana Cancer Research Consortium of New Orleans, a partnership between the Louisiana State University and Tulane University Health Sciences Centers. The cancer center will house state-of-the-art cancer research equipment and laboratories, significant because Louisiana has the nation's highest cancer mortality rate according to the American Cancer Society.
1993 New Orleans Mayoral candidacy
In 1993 Landrieu made an unsuccessful bid for the office of Mayor of New Orleans]; the office went to Marc Morial, the son of another former mayor (the contest between sons of former mayors prompted some commentators to joke about establishing a tradition of primogeniture for the city's top office).
Mitch Landrieu's 2003 campaign for Lieutenant Governor was his first bid for statewide office in Louisiana. In a field of six candidates, Landrieu garnered 53% of the vote and won outright in the Louisiana open primary, thus avoiding a run-off.
Spike Lee's Documentary
Landrieu was one of the participants to filmmaker Spike Lee's documentary When The Levees Broke: A Requiem In Four Acts.