Tabit: Commitment drives court run

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When I first ran for office of justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals during the fall of 2018, our court was in crisis. Much was written about lavish spending practices, indictments of justices, unprecedented impeachment proceedings and appointments of justices with questionable qualifications. Our state’s history was being written daily in headlines.

To our court’s credit, it has done much to assure transparency and accountability in spending and purchasing practices and has worked to restore the public’s faith and confidence in our judiciary. But there is more work to be done.

This election is historic. In June, West Virginia voters will be electing a majority of our state Supreme Court — three of five Justices. This includes two 12-year terms and one unexpired four-year term, representing 28 years of jurisprudence. I have the experience, integrity and energy to lead the judiciary in this next generation.

A year and a half ago, and still today, I believe that our court needs proven qualified judges. Specifically, circuit judges who have experience with and hear the breadth of cases over which trial judges preside every day.

The work of our court affects the lives of all West Virginians, and I am running for the court to improve life for every one of them. As a circuit judge, I hear cases of critical importance to litigants concerning removal of children from their parents’ custody; criminal cases; divorce; juvenile cases; civil matters — all requiring interpretation of state law with potentially far-reaching implications. The job of justice of the Supreme Court of Appeals is not one meant for on-the-job training.

As a current circuit court judge, and as an active litigator in state and federal trial and appellate courts for 28 years before taking the bench, I bring a wealth of experience to the Supreme Court.

Before taking the bench, I tried scores of cases in West Virginia state and federal trial courts and argued many on appeal before the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

In my years on the bench, I’ve tried many cases and presided over countless cases like those heard by our state Supreme Court. I have had the distinction of serving as a special justice by appointment and know firsthand the work of the court and how to do it.

My 2020 vision for the court is clear and simple. Our court should be fair, effective, accountable, responsive and accessible. The court should respect the dignity of every person, regardless of race, class, gender or other defining characteristics and apply the law fairly and appropriately to the circumstances of individual cases.

To be effective, the court should uphold the rule of law and apply rules and procedures consistently and in a timely manner, and resolve cases with finality. To be accessible, the court should be understandable, convenient, timely and affordable to all persons, so that everyone will have access to justice and the court system.

Importantly, especially given our court’s recent challenges, the court must be accountable. It must be transparent in its purchasing and spending and adhere to sound principles of fiscal responsibility. Simply, our court should be accountable to the people it serves.

I believe in our judiciary and want to help strengthen it. That’s why I ran for this office in 2018 and why I’m running now. In 2018, I ran in a fractured field in a compressed election cycle and finished a very close second to the eventual winner in my division, despite the $1 million in out-of-state money that poured in to defeat me.

I filed pre-candidacy papers for the May 2020 election in May 2019, one year to the day from the May 2020 election date, to demonstrate this dedication. For more than eight months before the official filing deadline, I traveled the state and reconnected with old friends and met new ones as I shared our campaign’s message.

The other candidates all filed for this office on the filing deadline in January, with one even having switched from one division into my race in Division 2. That is opportunistic.

For me, it’s not an opportunity. It’s a commitment. It’s a commitment to the rule of law. It’s a commitment to the betterment of the judiciary. But, most importantly, it’s a commitment to the people of the state of West Virginia.

Joanna Tabit is a circuit court judge in Kanawha County

and a candidate for justice of

the West Virginia Supreme Court in the Division 2 race.

Funerals for Sunday, July 12, 2020

Cromley, Doris - 2 p.m., Good Shepherd United Methodist Church.

Harrison, Jeffrey - Noon, Coonskin Park, Shelter #18, Charleston.

Hiser, Audrey - Noon, Wallace Memorial Cemetery, Clintonville.

Massey, Paul - 2 p.m., Restlawn Memory Gardens, Victor.