CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – A Kanawha County Circuit Judge has passed away.
Former Charleston City Council member Andy Richardson announced the death of Judge Joanna Tabit on Friday, Sept. 29, 2023. Tabit passed away following an extended illness.
Richardson remembered Tabit in a Facebook post, saying she was respected in her field and “never met a stranger.”
“With the heaviest of hearts, I am sharing news to our state and community through Facebook of the peaceful passing this afternoon of Judge Joanna Tabit,” said Richardson in the post. “Friends and family are heartbroken and devastated. Professionally, Joanna had respect throughout West Virginia for her service to the law, both as an attorney and a Circuit Judge. Personally, Joanna never met a stranger, was devoted to her family and friends, and lived a passionate, fulfilling life.”
The Kanawha County Commission says they are immediately lowering the West Virginia State Flag and hanging black drapes at the Kanawha County Judicial Building in memory of Judge Tabit. Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin says city flags will also be lowered in Tabit’s honor.
“Judge Tabit was an excellent member of her community,” said the Kanawha County Commission. “She was committed to public service. Her experience, integrity and character spoke for itself. She was a great leader and a friend to many. She will be greatly missed.”
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend, Judge Joanna Tabit. Judge Tabit lit up any room with her presence. Her positive spirit was infectious,” Goodwin said. “And her love of the law, this community, her many friends and—more than anything—her beloved family knew no bounds. I have ordered city flags lowered to half staff in honor of Judge Tabit who personified public service.”
Tabit served as a judge for the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit in Kanawha County since 2014. She was first appointed in October 2014, and was then elected to the position in 2016, according to her West Virginia Judiciary biography.
According to the West Virginia Judiciary, Tabit was a native of Charleston who began her legal career in 1986 as a law clerk for Supreme Court Justice Thomas McHugh, according to the West Virginia Judiciary. From 1989 to 1992, she served as an as assistant and later deputy attorney general of the Appellate Division of the Office of the Attorney General.
Following her time in the Attorney General’s office, Tabit joined the Steptoe & Johnson PLLC law firm until she was appointed to the bench in 2014, according to the WV Judiciary. Tabit also worked as an Adjunct Lecturer for the West Virginia University College of Law where she taught Summer Appellate Advocacy.
Her biography says Tabit was a 1983 graduate of Marshall University where she earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. She then went on to study at the WVU College of Law, from which she graduated in 1986.
During her time in private practice, the WV Judiciary says Tabit received various awards and honors including the 2009 Outstanding Private Practice Attorney Award from the Women’s Caucus at WVU College of Law, “Charleston’s Finest” from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s Kentucky/West Virginia chapter for her charity work with the organization, recognition from the Best Lawyers in America and Super Lawyers for various practice areas, a rating as an AV lawyer by Martindale Hubble, and recognition as a Leader in the Field with a specialty in commercial litigation by Chambers USA.
In the community, Tabit was active in several professional and civic organizations including serving as a member of the Juvenile Justice Commission, co-chairman of the Campaign for Legal Aid of West Virginia, a member of the YWCA of Charleston Board of Directors, chair of the Access to Justice Foundation, a member of the West Virginia State Bar Board of Governors, and a commissioner for the City of Charleston Human Rights Commission.
Richardson says Tabit’s service arrangements will be announced at a later date.
Along with the commission, Mayor Goodwin and Richardson, members of the WV Judiciary and West Virginia Democratic Party have also released statements remembering Judge Tabit.
“Judge Joanna Tabit was a beloved West Virginian and member of our judiciary family,” said WV Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Justice Beth Walker. “I always admired her commitment to her work, warm sense of humor, and generous spirit. She mentored so many younger lawyers — including me — and our hearts are heavy today. Judge Tabit and her family are in our prayers.”
“I am greatly saddened by the news of the passing of Judge Tabit. I have known and worked with Judge Tabit for 30 years. I know her to have been one of the best trial attorneys West Virginia has ever seen and I also know her as one of the finest judges that West Virginia has ever had. My sympathies clearly go to her very close family. My sympathies also to her colleagues,” said WV Supreme Court of Appeals Justice John Hutchinson.
“I’m devastated by the loss of Joanna. She was a wonderful colleague on the bench, former colleague in private practice, and friend. My thoughts are with her family and the entire West Virginia legal community as we deal with this unexpected loss,” said WV Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Haley Bunn.
“Today, we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual whose life was dedicated to the pursuit of justice, the betterment of her community, and service to others. Judge Joanna Tabit was a distinguished jurist, a beacon of hope, and the embodiment of fairness. Her passing leaves a void that cannot easily be filled,” said Del. Mike Pushkin, WVDP Chair. “Her legacy will no doubt continue to inspire future generations of legal professionals, public servants, and community leaders. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and all those whose lives she touched. The West Virginia Democratic Party joins the entire state in grieving this tremendous loss. We will honor her memory by continuing to uphold the values of justice, integrity, and fairness that she championed throughout her distinguished career. ”
“The Kanawha County circuit judges, magistrates, family court judges and their staffs, we all share the same sentiment – utter heartbreak,” said Chief Thirteenth Judicial Circuit Judge Tera Salango.