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Panel backs Utahn to head Justice office

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WASHINGTON — The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday endorsed Utahn Diane M. Stuart as director of the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women.

Her nomination now goes to the full Senate for confirmation.

Stuart has actually led the office since 2001. It was originally a civil service job, but legislation last year elevated it to a presidentially appointed position, subject to Senate confirmation.

"Since 2001, Diane Stuart has demonstrated her ability to lead this important office, to bring new energy and focus to its many missions, and to continue to help our nation's women and children who fall victim to abuse and violence," said Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch.

He added that Stuart "is a dedicated public servant who has a long-standing record of accomplishment in promoting programs and policies to protect women from violence."

Before coming to Washington, Stuart, 60, was the Utah state coordinator for the Governor's Cabinet Council on Domestic Violence from 1996 to 2001.

She was a victim advocate specialist for the State Division of Child and Family Services from 1994 to 1996. She was executive director of a 20-bed shelter for victims of domestic abuse and a rape crisis center in Logan from 1989 to 1994.

She received a bachelor's degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a master's from Utah State University.

At her confirmation hearing earlier this month, Stuart vowed to lead the office with integrity, compassion and dedication.

She also said the nation has far to go to stop violence against women. The nation now has 1 million cases of stalking women a year, 700,000 cases of domestic violence and 248,000 cases of rape.

E-mail: lee@desnews.com