The same judge who dismissed Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s lawsuit against her former paralegal has now done the same in the paralegal’s suit against her.
Michelle Shutt filed her defamation and retaliation claims against her former boss in July 2016, 18 months after the Centre County Commissioners meeting where allegations of forgery by the DA were brought up.
Shutt said in an affidavit that Parks Miller signed Judge Pamela Ruest’s name to a fake bail order as part of an investigation into death threats against an assistant DA. The Office of the Attorney General took the case and presented it to a grand jury, which declined to recommend charges after testimony from two handwriting experts, from the same firm, indicated the signature was Ruest’s.
Parks Miller subsequently sued Shutt; Ruest, who said she did not remember signing the document; the county; the commissioners; the solicitor; the administrator; and a handful of defense attorneys, including her current opponent for re-election, Bernard Cantorna.
In May 2016, federal Judge Matthew Brann dismissed that suit, calling the argument “inartful and vitriolic.”
On Thursday, he dismissed the retaliation and false public statements claims in federal court, saying they did not reach a Constitutional claim but “she may nevertheless have a state tort cause of action.”
“I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Counts III-IV,” he said, dismissing without prejudice to allow the case to be refiled in common pleas court.
Shutt’s attorney, Kathleen Yurchak, was not phased by the decision.
“It is not at all unusual for cases like Michelle Shutt’s to take a very long time to wind their way through the legal system. Today’s opinion was not a decision on the substance of what happened to Michelle Shutt and is in no way a vindication for Parks Miller,” she said. “This was simply a decision about which court system the claims will ultimately be heard in. I have every confidence that when the evidence in this case is finally heard and considered, Michelle Shutt will get the justice she has long deserved.”
Parks Miller’s attorney, Bruce Castor, did not agree.
“People who want the DA to stop being so tough on crime that they advance meritless politically motivated claims Stacy will continue to beat back. That’s what she will do with Shutt and any lawyer that continues to advance such nonsense,” he said.