The attorney who represented District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s office in response to a 2015 investigation into a forgery allegation has filed paperwork informing Centre County of his intent to sue.
Attorney Jonathan Brooke Young filed the paperwork in Montgomery County on behalf of Bruce Castor Tuesday, claiming more than $50,000 in damages.
In 2015, current Commissioners Michael Pipe and Steve Dershem and former commissioner Chris Exarchos unanimously agreed to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate allegations that Parks Miller forged Judge Pamela Ruest’s signature on documents related to a case prosecuting a person accused of making death threats to an assistant district attorney.
A grand jury ultimately declined to charge Parks Miller with a crime, after hearing testimony, from both parties, which included a handwriting expert. Following the grand jury’s decision, Parks Miller filed a federal lawsuit against the county commissioners, solicitor and administrator. The suit also included the attorneys who brought the allegations forward, a former paralegal whose affidavit attesting to the forgery provided the seed for the litigation, and Ruest.
Parks Miller appointed Castor, who was representing her personally, as a special assistant district attorney and an oath was administered by Judge Jonathan Grine in April 2015. Castor defended Parks Miller throughout the proceedings, but also appeared in court regularly representing the commonwealth as an assistant district attorney. In July 2016, he submitted a bill to the county for almost $127,000.
Just more than two weeks later, county solicitor Elizabeth Dupuis denied payment of the invoice, claiming that an employee of the county must make a written request asking that the county provide a defense for a criminal investigation. Parks Miller did not make the request, according to Dupuis’s response letter to Castor.
At the time of his appointment in 2015, Castor told the Centre Daily Times that he would “have to petition the county salary board to determine if I get paid.”
On Tuesday, the Centre County commissioners said that neither the salary board nor the commissioners were presented with a request for the appointment of a special district attorney. The commissioners said that no contractual, written or informal relationship exists between the county and Castor.
“The county code being sort of our bible respects the checks and balances that exist within counties,” Pipe said. “Without us being able to review a contract before it is reviewed, is not how the county code is set up.”
In an email on Tuesday, Castor said the salary board only has the potential to control his salary as an assistant district attorney, not as a criminal defense attorney for Parks Miller.
“Where a person’s liberty is at stake, that person chooses their own lawyer,” Castor said. “Not an insurance company and not a government entity that is the very entity that is trying to have the DA arrested.”
Pipe said the county is reviewing the documents to determine what the proper course of action will be, but Dupuis did not respond on Tuesday to a request for comment.