CHARLESTON – Justices of the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals chose not to discipline the ghost of Cabell County Magistrate Alvie Qualls.
The Justices could have retired him after his death, to prove a point or set a precedent, but on July 1 they wiped his slate clean.
They dismissed his case "ab initio," which in Latin means from the beginning.
Their unsigned opinion declared that passing judgment on Qualls would do nothing to further the purpose of disciplinary proceedings.
"The proceedings are not meant to punish, but to make sure that the public's confidence in West Virginia's judicial system remains intact," they wrote.
"The recommended sanctions of involuntary retirement of the respondent would carry no effect on the public's confidence," they wrote.
The West Virginia Judicial Hearing Board found in February that Qualls violated four canons of the state code of judicial conduct.
The board recommended involuntary retirement because of his improper conduct and his inability, mentally and physically, to perform his duties.
The Supreme Court of Appeals suspended him with pay in March.
Qualls sought re-election but voters in the May 13 Democratic primary carried out their own brand of involuntary retirement, effective after the general election.
Eight days later his attorney, Sherri Goodman, pleaded with the justices to let him finish his term. The Justices took it under advisement.
Thirteen days after that, Qualls was found dead in his home.
As the justices closed the book on the case, they expressed respect for the service he provided to West Virginia over many years.