New court filings were made in the lawsuits brought by two county judges against Centre County government two days before a hearing is scheduled in both cases.
Common Pleas Judge Jonathan D. Grine and District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker filed lawsuits against the county over the release of cellphone records by county government through Right-to-Know requests. A hearing in both cases before Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday in the courthouse annex.
Both judges argue that the county violated the state Right-to-Know law when officials released the phone records to attorneys who had filed Right-to-Know requests, according to court filings, because the law prohibits the release of records that display partial or total phone numbers.
The law also states that records of judicial agencies, with the exception of financial records, are not subject to disclosure, and Grine and Gillette-Walker claim the records that were released were not subject to the law, according to the filing.
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Attorneys for the judges also argue that the release of the information violates their constitutional right to privacy.
Both judges are asking for injunctions from the court to prevent any future release of such records by the county and for the recipients of the records to destroy all copies of the documents.
Attorneys for co-defendants in the Gillette-Walker lawsuit, the law office of Andrew Shubin and attorney Sean McGraw, filed a response to the the petition Tuesday. They are represented by Pittsburgh-based attorney Ronald Barber and Witold Walczak, legal director of the Pennsylvania American Civil Liberties Union.
McGraw cited phone records he received through Right-to-Know requests filed with the county in March in the case of his client, Justin Blake. McGraw argued in the filing that communications between prosecutors and judges, including Gillette-Walker, created the appearance of bias against Blake.
Their attorneys argued in the Tuesday filings that enjoining McGraw and the Shubin firm from using the documents and ordering their destruction would violate their free-speech rights.
Because the documents were already used and filed in court, they are now public and can’t be restricted, the filing states. Shubin and McGraw also are protected under the First Amendment because the records at hand, involving alleged communications between judges and prosecutors, are of public significance, according to the filing.
“Defendants Shubin Law and McGraw cannot, consistently with the First Amendment, be enjoined from the possession and use of the records in question,” the filing reads.
The court was also asked in the filing to dismiss any claims against Shubin and McGraw because, even if the county illegally released the records, Shubin and McGraw didn’t violate any law by requesting and receiving them.
Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and First Assistant District Attorney Mark Smith also filed a motion in both suits Tuesday. The top two law enforcement officials in the county received subpoenas from county attorneys Monday to appear at the hearing, according to the filings. Neither is a party in either suit. The subpoenas ask both to “attend and testify” and stay until excused, according to the filing.
Attorneys for Parks Miller and Smith are asking that the subpoenas be quashed because the county did not provide proper cause for their testimony and to have both at the hearing waiting to testify would interfere with their job duties and any investigations or prosecutions going on that day, according to the filing.
Parks Miller filed a similar lawsuit against the county a week after the judges, in which she alleged the county illegally released her phone records to local defense attorneys when the lawyers submitted Right-to-Know requests to county government.