Member Spotlight: District Associate Judge Tabitha Turner

The Hon. Tabitha Turner

Tell us about yourself
After growing-up in British Columbia, I moved down to the States and attended Oregon State University. There I obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology and then moved to South Korea and taught English for two and a half years. I took that opportunity to backpack around the world immersing myself into as many different cultures as possible. Thereafter I graduated from Drake Law School in 2011 working primarily in criminal defense and family law until being appointed to District Associate Judge. I live a very exciting life which takes myself, my partner, and two kids on many adventures. I try to stay true to the “you only live once” motto and take advantage of anything that comes our way. I think that if you asked Emily or my friends, I spend most of my off-time conjuring up travel plans (either solo or with friends or my family).


Why did you choose to practice law?
I wanted to be a lawyer since the age of 16. My primary goal was to enter the litigation world as a County Attorney and prosecute sexual assault cases. I was motivated to give a voice to victims of these particular crimes. This was not how my career panned out and I wouldn’t change it for the world.


Why did you want to be a judge?
I chose to pursue this position because of my desire to help the community. During my years of private practice I had the opportunity to know hundreds of clients who suffered from mental health and substance abuse issues. There was a direct and causal link, at least in my opinion, between those issues and their criminal justice situation. I have always felt that in order to protect the public (factor number one of a sentencing goal) this system must exhaust every possible avenue and resource to rehabilitate the Defendant (factor number two of a sentencing goal). I have always believed that people can change and am hoping that this mindset will prove to have positive outcomes for our community. Of course, sometimes incarceration is the only rehabilitative option and a necessary sentence in order to protect the community.


Did you always want to be a judge?
I did not. I loved being a trial attorney and litigating in the courtroom and honestly I had never thought about changing that career path. However, plans change and here I am!


What do you do to get away from work?
There are many things I do to get away from work and I have always been an advocate for work-life balance. In the summer I am either road biking or mountain biking (solo or with friends) several days a week. In the winter, I am at the boxing gym getting a great work-out. Of course, I love spending time with my partner, Emily, and two girls (Lizzy and Greta). We love camping, hiking, and planning trips to new places.


What is the best thing about the Polk County Bar Association?
The Polk County Bar Association has several CLEs for lawyers and also has many events that I believe promote a healthy relationship amongst the bar and between the bench and the bar. It brings collegiality to the forefront of our county. They are a great resource for all kinds of information as well.


Best place to visit in Polk County?
The mountain bike trails behind the Art Center (center trails)!


What did you want to be when you were growing up?
This changed radically over the years. At first I wanted to be a gas station attendant. This ambitious dream eventually changed to wanting to be a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Finally, I landed on the legal profession.


What is your favorite book?
Into the Wild.


Words to live by?
You are never too important to be kind to everyone.