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Judge Kistler rescinds order regarding Centre County Right-to-Know Law requests

Judge Thomas K. Kistler rescinded an order signed last week regarding Right-to-Know requests involving Centre County courts..
Judge Thomas K. Kistler rescinded an order signed last week regarding Right-to-Know requests involving Centre County courts.. CDT file photo

President Judge Thomas King Kistler rescinded an order signed last week regarding Right-to-Know requests involving Centre County courts.

The order, issued March 16, was stayed by Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart Kurtz last week. It stated that, among other provisions, Right-to-Know requests involving the county judicial system received by county Administrator Tim Boyde and solicitor Louis Glantz should be denied and instead forwarded to the court administrator and that Boyde and the county commissioners should keep communications records involving the courts confidential.

The county objected to the order in court filings, claiming it violated state and federal laws. ACLU legal director Witold Walczak told the Centre Daily Times on Monday that the ACLU had been preparing to file a federal lawsuit about the order before it was stayed.

Kistler said he has been in contact with county officials to swiftly find a solution for how to proceed with requests involving the judiciary.

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller mentioned the order in the lawsuit she filed against the county and local attorneys Monday. Parks Miller maintains that county officials illegally released her cellphone and email records, as well as those of people working in her office.

Bruce Castor Jr., Parks Miller’s attorney, said he thought the original order was in line with the state Right-to-Know Law. In the document, filed a day before Kistler rescinded the order, Parks Miller alleged that the rescission was the result of pressure by county officials and that Kistler was working on a “watered-down” policy to replace the one last Monday.

Kistler declined to comment on the statements made in the lawsuit. Glantz denied that there was any pressure from the county end.

The county filed an objection to Parks Miller’s lawsuit Tuesday afternoon. Parks Miller is asking that the county forward all future Right-to-Know requests about the district attorney’s office to Parks Miller and that the county and co-defendants in the case — attorneys Sean McGraw and Bernard Cantorna — return any materials obtained through Right-to-Know requests to her and that they destroy all electronic and hard copies of the documents.

Cantorna and McGraw used Right-to-Know requests filed with the county to obtain cellphone billing information for Parks Miller, assistant district attorneys, Judge Bradley P. Lunsford and District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker and used the phone records in legal filings.

In the objection, the county maintains the records requested by Parks Miller are public and destroying them would be illegal. The documents should not be returned to Parks Miller because, as public documents, she never had possession of them in the first place, the filing said.

Parks Miller’s lawsuit is the third filed by public figures in relation to the release of information through Right-to-Know requests. Judge Jonathan D. Grine and Gillette-Walker filed suits against the county last week.

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