CHARLESTON — Kanawha Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit wants to use her experience to help West Virginians as a justice of the state Supreme Court.
Tabit said she feels her experience and training will help the state.
"This is not a campaign, this is a commitment," Tabit said in an interview with The West Virginia Record. "This is a commitment to the betterment of the rule of law and the judiciary and the people of West Virginia. This is the best way for me to use my experience to better the lives of the people of West Virginia."
Tabit said she feels it is important that those who sit on the court have experience.
"We need proven, qualified judges on the court, particularly with Justice Margaret Workman stepping off of the bench," Tabit said. "It's really important for the people who sit on the Supreme Court to have experience as a lower court judge and have an opportunity to see and experience what a circuit court judge does every day."
Tabit, who has been a judge for five years, said before she was a judge, she spent her days in the courtroom as a lawyer trying cases, which she feels is critical for those sitting on the appellate court level to have such a background.
"The court has come a long way as it relates to the issues in 2018," Tabit said. "The court has adopted policies and procedures regarding transparency and purchasing and I think we all need to continue working toward that end of making the court accountable to the people that it serves."
Tabit said she thinks the court needs to be more accessible.
"The court should be fair — treating all people irrespective of race, religion, sexual orientation or any other defining characteristic," Tabit said. "Courts need to be effective and we need to work to apply the rule of law in our practices, policies and procedures consistently and promptly and with finality so litigants can move forward with their cases."
Tabit said courts also need to be affordable and convenient.
"We live our lives electronically," Tabit said. "We shop electronically. Public records should be available electronically because that is how we live our lives now, and that's something I know the court is working on. And it's something we need to continue working toward."
Tabit has been actively engaged in her campaign since last May. She filed exactly one year from the date of the race. She is running for the Division 2 seat, which is occupied by Justice Margaret Workman currently. Workman is not seeking re-election. Others running for that seat are Kanawha Family Court Judge Jim Doublas, Putnam County Assistant Prosecutor Kris Raynes and former legislator and Supreme Court candidate Bill Wooton.
For the Division 1 seat, incumbent Justice Tim Armstead is being challenged by former Justice Richard Neely and northern panhandle Circuit Judge David Hummel. Justice John Hutchison is seeking to retain his Division 3 seat, but he's being challenged by Jackson Circuit Judge Lora Dyer and Charleston attorney Bill Schwartz.
All three of the Supreme Court races are non-partisan. The Division 1 and 2 races are for regular 12-year terms on the Supreme Court. The Division 3 race is to fill the seat formerly held by Allen Loughry. Gov. Jim Justice appointed Hutchison to fill that seat in December 2018. The term for the Division 3 seat will end in 2024
In 2018, Tabit finished third in a special election for two seats on the Supreme Court left by the retirements of Robin Jean Davis and Menis Ketchum. Armstead and Justice Evan Jenkins, both of whom had been appointed by Justice to temporarily fill those seats, won those elections. Douglas, Wooton and Schwartz all ran in the 2018 election as well.