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Susan Carbon

Director of the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women

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Why She Matters

Carbon is the first judge to serve as the director of the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW). She says that experience will help her as she moves the office towards a stronger emphasis on prevention, specifically the prevention of sexual assault. "As judges we know the first thing you hear isn't always what the ultimate solution will be, because you haven't heard all sides yet," Carbon said.

As OVW director, Carbon is the primary connector between DOJ and federal, state, tribal and international governments on crimes of domestic and dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. Carbon's role was created in 1995 to implement the Violence Against Women Act, which now includes a $400 million budget and 19 federal grants.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: Supervisory Judge of the New Hampshire Judicial Branch Family Division (1996-2010); President of the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (2007 - 2008); President of the New Hampshire State Bar Association (1993-1994); District and Family Division Judge, New Hampshire (1991-2010)
  • Birthday: October 1, 1953
  • Hometown: Richland, Washington (birthplace); Chichester, New Hampshire (current)
  • Alma Mater: University of Wisconsin-Madison, bachelor's degree, political science; 1974; DePaul University College of Law, 1980
  • Spouse: Larry Berkson
  • DC Office: 800 K St. NW, Suite 920, (202)307-6026
 

Path to Power

Carbon was born in Richmond, Wash., but later moved to Massachussets then Madison, Wis.

She met her husband, Larry Berkson, when she was an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin, Madison. Berkson took a job at the University of Florida before the pair reconnected in Chicago, where they both worked at the American Adjudicator Society. Carbon finished law school at DePaul University College of Law in 1980.

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The Issues

Carbon combating domestic violence and sexual assault involves three keys: prevention, intervention and treatment. While the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) has traditionally been focused on intervention, Carbon aims to shift more attention to prevention efforts.

"What I'd like to see happen is for us to take a step back and rewind that tape so that we're not waiting to have to intervene. We're going to focus more on the prevention work. That's going to be my primary, if there is a primary, focus," Carbon said.

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The Network

In her role as OVW director, Carbon reports directly to Attorney General Eric Holder and Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli. She also works closely with Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson and COPS Director Barney Melekian. Her liason at the White House is Lynn Rosenthal, who President Barack Obama named the first ever White House adviser on Violence Against Women.

While Carbon is a relative newcomer to Washington politics, she has gotten support from lawmakers from her home state of New Hampshire. Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) appointed Carbon to be a part-time district court judge when he was governor. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) appointed her to be a full-time judge when Shaheen was governor. Shaheen also made a speech on the Senate floor supporting Carbon and condemning the senators who were holding up Carbon's confirmation.

 

Additional Resources

  1. Shaheen's Senate floor speech as accessed by Shaheen's website.
  2. Megan Hughes interview with Susan Carbon, 4/29/10
  3. Megan Hughes interview with Susan Carbon, 4/29/10
  4. Carbon's official biography, OVW webiste.
  5. MeganHughes interview with Susan Carbon, 4/29/10
  6. Floor statement of Sen. Shaheen referenced from Shaheen's website.
  7. OVW Overview on USDOJ website.
  8. Megan Hughes interview with Susan Carbon 4/29/10
  9. Carbon's official biography on OVW website.