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NAME: Joanna I. Tabit
CANDIDATE FOR: Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, Division 2
PARTY: Non-partisan race
CAMPAIGN WEBSITE: https://judgejoannaforwv.com/
HOME CITY: Charleston
HOME COUNTY: Kanawha
EDUCATION: Marshall University, B.B.A., Business Management, 1983, Magna Cum Laude; West Virginia University College of Law, J.D. 1986
CURRENT OFFICE OR OCCUPATION: Circuit Judge, Thirteenth Judicial Circuit (Kanawha County).
OTHER WORK HISTORY: Steptoe & Johnson PLLC, Member attorney, 1992-2014; Deputy Attorney General, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Assistant Attorney, Office of the Attorney General of West Virginia, 1989-1992; Shuman, Annand & Poe, Associate attorney, 1988-1989; Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, Personal Law Clerk to the Honorable Thomas E. McHugh, 1986-1988.
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS: Fellow, West Virginia Bar Foundation; Member, West Virginia Judicial Association; Fellow, American Bar Foundation; Member, Juvenile Justice Commission; Former Co-Chair, Campaign for Legal Aid; Former Board member, YWCA of Charleston; Former chairperson, Access to Justice Foundation; Former Commissioner, City of Charleston Human Rights Commission; Former Board member, Kanawha Pastoral Counseling Center.
ENDORSEMENTS: West Virginia School Service Personnel PAC; HuntPAC, the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC; West Virginia AFL-CIO; Professional Firefighters of West Virginia; COMPAC, the United Mine Workers National and State Coal Miner’s Political Action Committee; International Brotherhood of Teamsters of West Virginia, Local #175; City of South Charleston Fire Department, Local 837; and American Federation of Government Employees Local 420.
FAMILY: parents, Charles and Gloria Tabit; sisters, Diana White and Annette Reynolds.
PERSONAL STATEMENT: West Virginia needs proven, qualified Circuit Judges on the State Supreme Court. I’ve spent my entire professional life in the courtroom – over five years as a Circuit Judge and twenty eight years as a lawyer. I am a lifelong West Virginian. The work of the State Supreme Court impacts the lives of all West Virginians. I am running for this office to improve life for every one of them. I apply the rule of law fairly and thoughtfully every day in my work as a Circuit Judge, and I will do the same as a Supreme Court Justice.
Questions from the West Virginia League of Women Voters:
1. What changes would you like to see to the state’s court system?
The recusal process should be changed to ensure public confidence in the judiciary. The decision is now made solely by the challenged Justice. No mechanism exists to appeal that decision. The Court should adopt a process to review recusal decisions by the full Court, and written decisions should be required so that there is a record of the decision.
2. How would you prioritize budget allocations for the court system (e.g., family court, drug court)?
Our Court system is experiencing unforeseen challenges stemming from the drug epidemic. Continued funding for treatment courts, including adult and juvenile drug courts and family treatments courts, is essential to combat the crisis. Providing funding to maximize the use of technology to enhance communication and access to justice, particularly through use of electronic filing, is also critical.
Additional questions from The Herald-Dispatch:
3. One proposal that’s been floated recently is for elections of county prosecutors to be nonpartisan, just as elections for the state’s judges are. Do you think that is a good step? Why or why not?
This is a legislative question, but it appears to be a logical extension of how we elect our judiciary. Judges are to be neutral and independent, and for those reasons, judicial elections are now nonpartisan. As they are quasi-judicial officers, nonpartisan election of county prosecutors makes sense.
4. In 2018, all five Supreme Court justices in West Virginia were impeached. Three either retired or resigned, one was acquitted, and a fifth was not tried on the charges against her because a reconstituted temporary Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had overstepped its bound in terms of the separation of powers. Do you agree with that ruling, or do you agree with some lawmakers who want to pass legislation to overturn that court ruling?
I believe the issue is moot as the matter has been decided by the sitting State Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court refused to consider the matter after briefing. Further, it would not be appropriate for me to comment in the event any legislation is passed to overturn the ruling as it may come before the Court.
5. Do you believe West Virginia needs an intermediate court system to operate between the circuit courts and the Supreme Court?
This is a legislative question. However, since 2011 when the new Rules of Appellate Procedure went into effect, no appeals have been denied by the Court, and the Court is managing its docket.