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Chester judge will be barred from court, unpaid during suspension

Angel Underwood, center, with her husband as he was sworn in as Chester County sheriff after his 2012 election.
Angel Underwood, center, with her husband as he was sworn in as Chester County sheriff after his 2012 election. adys@heraldonline.com

Suspended Chester County magistrate judge Angel Underwood, who was pulled from the bench Friday by an order of the S.C. Supreme Court as an investigation continues into an alleged conflict of interest in some cases, will not be paid while she is on suspension and is barred from the county’s judicial offices while the suspension is ongoing, according to a S.C. Supreme Court order released Wednesday.

The order, dated Friday when the suspension took place, states Chester County is not obligated to pay Underwood while she is suspended.

Underwood, wife of Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, has to turn over all records, documents, and financial materials related to her office to Yale Zamore, Chester’s interim chief magistrate, while she is on suspension.

Zamore was appointed interim chief magistrate in March after the retirement of former Chester chief magistrate Dianne Moore.

The high court order, signed by Jean Toal, S.C. Supreme Court chief justice, also prohibits Underwood from access to any judicial records or even entering the magistrate courts unless accompanied by a police officer after authorization from Zamore.

Underwood has not commented on the suspension but her lawyers have said she has done nothing wrong and an unknown person complained about a potential conflict of interest on about 20 cases that Underwood heard.

The potential conflict would be her handling cases involving the sheriff’s office that her husband runs, but Judge Underwood’s lawyers have said that all parties were told of the potential conflict of interest and all agreed to have the judge hear the cases anyway.

Underwood, before her suspension, generally did not hear sheriff’s office cases because of the potential conflict of interest. She has been a magistrate judge since 2011 after a career with the State Law Enforcement Division.

Underwood’s lawyers have said the investigation and complaint could be politically motivated.

Sheriff Alex Underwood has clashed in recent months with both the Chester County Council and county school board over money for more officers after he and other deputies – and allegedly, his wife the judge – received death threats after deputies charged five alleged gang members in the death of a Chester City Councilman in November.

Andrew Dys •  803-329-4065

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