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Hearing scheduled in lawsuit filed by Centre County DA Stacy Parks Miller

Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller will be in court next month, not in her usual capacity, but as the plaintiff in her lawsuit against county government and two local attorneys.

A Friday order scheduled a hearing in the suit before Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz for 9 a.m. May 13 on the third floor of the Courthouse Annex in Bellefonte.

Parks Miller initially filed the suit March 23. She alleges that county figures — namely commissioners Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos, Administrator Tim Boyde and solicitor Louis Glantz — acted in conspiracy with attorneys and co-defendants in the suit, Bernard Cantorna and Sean McGraw, to “embarrass” her.

She claims that county officials illegally released phone records to Cantorna and McGraw in response to Right-to-Know requests filed by the attorneys with county government.

Both attorneys used the records — which indicate that texts and phone calls took place between Parks Miller and some of her assistants and members of the judiciary but not their content — in court filings that allege the communications present issues of partiality and bias against their clients.

Parks Miller claims that the release of the documents violates the state Right-to-Know Law and also that the county should not have released the records because cellphones in her office are funded through drug-seizure proceeds and not county funds. She also maintains the released records, which include her partially redacted phone number, are a violation of her right to privacy.

Parks Miller is asking that the records released to Cantorna and McGraw be returned to her, all copies be destroyed and the county be prohibited from making similar releases in the future. She is also seeking monetary damages and attorney’s fees, according to the filing.

The county maintains it was justified in releasing the records because they are financial in nature and were pulled from itemized phone bills from Verizon.

In another Friday filing, attorneys for McGraw responded to the suit and asked the court to dismiss him from the suit.

“This is an action by an elected public official seeking to restrain public criticism of her conduct in office,” attorney Ron Barber wrote in the filing.

Barber wrote that the request for the return and destruction of the documents would violate the First Amendment of the Constitution because they relate to a matter of “legitimate public interest” and the records themselves are already part of the public record and have been discussed in open court.

Kurtz also heard arguments in similar lawsuits filed by Common Pleas Judge Jonathan D. Grine and District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker earlier this month. McGraw also is listed as a co-defendant in the Gillette-Walker suit. A ruling has not yet been made in those cases.

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