Judge rejects attorneys’ motion to disqualify Centre County DA Parks Miller from 2 cases

Motions to disqualify Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller and her office from two cases involving attorneys named in a lawsuit she filed were denied by an out-of-county judge Friday.

In filings made earlier this month, attorneys Sean McGraw and Andrew Shubin asked the court to disqualify the District Attorney’s Office from prosecuting the cases against two clients: Justin Blake, a Maryland man accused of indecently assaulting a woman last March; and Gabriel Shull, a State College resident accused of robbery, simple assault and other charges last October.

McGraw, Shubin and their law office are listed as co-defendants in a suit filed by Parks Miller against Centre County and other local attorneys regarding Right-to-Know requests on phone communications filed throught the county. McGraw used records obtained through such a request in a court filing last month that alleged improper communications between prosecutors and members of the county judiciary during proceedings on Blake.

In the suit, Parks Miller maintains that McGraw, Shubin and other attorneys were part of a conspiracy with figures in Centre County to embarass her. Making such allegations and filing legal action against them created an “actual conflict of interest,” McGraw wrote in the filing.

“Judge, the lawsuit was filed in direct response to our efforts to represent Justin Blake,” McGraw said to Clinton County Senior Judge J. Michael Williamson, who presided over the hearing.

Bruce Castor Jr., representing the commonwealth in his new capacity as a special assistant district attorney of Centre County, argued that, like judges, it’s up to district attorneys to recuse themselves when there is a conflict, and in these cases, there is not a conflict of interest because the suit is directed at McGraw and Shubin, not their clients.

Williamson, specially presiding over the cases, ultimately ruled not to disqualify Parks Miller or her assistants.

“I’m here to take this case to eliminate the conflicts,” Williamson said.

After the hearing, McGraw said he and Shubin are committed to pursuing fair adjudication of the cases.

“When you take on power, you’re going to suffer some setbacks along the way,” McGraw said.

This is the second time in as many months that a motion to disqualify Parks Miller and her office from handling cases has been filed. Attorney Philip Masorti asked for her disqualification in all of his cases in March shortly after bringing up the matter at a preliminary hearing for one of his clients. A seal has been placed on those proceedings.

Masorti declined to comment. Castor said a hearing in that matter is scheduled for Wednesday.