HUNTINGTON - The West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board has filed formal sexual harassment charges against longtime Cabell County Magistrate Alvie Qualls.

The charges, released Aug. 17, claim Qualls sexually harassed two assistants and other female employees at the courthouse while serving as magistrate.

According to the charges, Qualls violated the judicial code, which claims he has a duty to uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary, to avoid impropriety and appearance of impropriety in all activities, to perform duties impartially and diligently, along with a duty to perform without bias and prejudice.

The first complaint was filed Feb. 28, and was eventually presented to the state's Judicial Investigation Commission. The commission decided there was enough evidence to file formal charges against Qualls.

Sherri D. Goodman, Qualls attorney, released a statement, which said Qualls will contest the charges and looks forward to presenting his side of the case.

"Magistrate Qualls strong denies that he made inappropriate comments of a harassing nature," the statement said. "The charges are only that -- allegations, and counsel for the Judicial Investigation Commission has the burden of proving those allegations by clear and convincing evidence."

The statement also said Qualls plans to continue serving as magistrate.

Qualls was first elected magistrate in 1976 and retired in 1999. He came out of retirement and ran again in 2004, and was elected to the term he is currently serving.

Attorney Skip Garten will present the Judicial Investigation Commission's findings during the hearing. If the majority of the nine-person Judicial Hearing Board finds the allegations to be true, the board will make a recommendation to the state Supreme Court of Appeals, and the five justices will have the final say in the punishment.

Sanctions could range from an admonishment to a one-year suspension without pay and a $5,000 fine.

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