Centre County Judge Bradley P. Lunsford has been reassigned and may not hear criminal cases, according to an order signed Friday by President Judge Thomas Kistler.
Lunsford may not hear any criminal cases, with the exception of those in DUI Court, until further order, Kistler’s ruling states.
Lunsford has been at odds with local defense attorneys in the past. In October 2013, he held State College lawyer Phillip Masorti in contempt for an outburst during a hearing. In July, a three-judge panel of the state Superior Court reversed that decision.
In Masorti’s appeal, he claimed he was not guilty of misconduct, but that he merely had made persuasive legal arguments on behalf of his client, a Newark, N.J., man arrested on felony and misdemeanor drug charges.
The court agreed.
Senior Judge John Musmanno wrote in the decision that, although Masorti did engage in misconduct, it was not contemptuous, adding that lawyers “have a right to be persistent, vociferous, contentious and imposing, even to the point of appearing obnoxious, when acting in their client’s behalf.”
On Nov. 7, State College lawyer Bernard Cantorna filed a post-sentencing motion for re-sentencing of his client, Jalene McClure, a child care worker who was found guilty in September of injuring a 5-month-old girl in her care in 2010.
On Oct. 31, Lunsford sentenced McClure to 10 years in prison. But on Oct. 13, according to the Nov. 7 motion, Cantorna had requested Lunsford’s recusal in the sentencing hearing, citing — among other things — “regular text messaging between the court and members of the prosecutor’s office.”
Cantorna argued, “The numbers of texts, including during trial from the bench, are improper and raise reasonable questions regarding the impartiality of the court.”
On Nov. 7, Cantorna also filed an open records request seeking the phone records. That request yielded text messages from Lunsford to and from District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and assistant district attorneys Nathan Boob and Lindsay Foster — some that appear to have been sent during the trial, according to court documents.
Lunsford said in an email late Friday that he did not text prosecutors during the trial.
Kistler gave no reason and no other information in his order reassigning Lunsford.