South Carolina’s judges are some the most powerful, but least scrutinized officials in the criminal justice system, thanks in part to the state’s skewed selection system and the veil of secrecy surrounding complaints against them.
Magistrate Angel Underwood was removed from her post after court officials sat on a complaint for years. Underwood has been accused of failing to remain impartial toward the local sheriff’s department, which her husband used to run.
An investigation from the Post and Courier and ProPublica found that most judges had no law training and some accepted bribes, stole money and ignored constitutional protections. Now, South Carolina’s governor says he wants change.
Magistrate Judges Took Bribes, Stole Money and Mishandled Cases. South Carolina Officials Now Want Reform.
South Carolina lawmakers are eyeing reforms to strengthen oversight of magistrate judges after ProPublica and The Post and Courier found some had been appointed and reappointed despite ethical and professional lapses.
State lawmakers in South Carolina are proposing changes to how lower-court judges are selected after a Post and Courier-ProPublica investigation. The probe found a system that places connections over qualifications.
Magistrate Angel Underwood was suspended after conflicts involving her husband, the sheriff. But she wasn’t required to disclose that before her reappointment this year. She’s still on the bench, and complaints say her conflicts have continued.
Former state Rep. Mike Pitts made anti-immigrant and racially charged remarks seemingly at odds with South Carolina’s judicial code. He sailed through an appointment process as a magistrate nominee with little scrutiny and no debate.
South Carolina’s system for magistrate judges is unlike any state in the country, creating fertile ground for incompetence and corruption. Most aren’t lawyers, but their decisions can have lasting effects on the vulnerable people who come before them.
A judicial disciplinary office that’s supposed to monitor misconduct on the bench works in secret, shielding its records even from those who filed complaints. You can help bring more information to light.
Ethics complaints against South Carolina’s circuit judges are buried in an opaque system that shields the accused.
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