More filings were entered by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller in her lawsuit against Centre County on Tuesday morning, the day before a hearing is scheduled in the matter in Bellefonte.
One of the documents, a memorandum of law in support of Parks Miller’s position in her lawsuit, points to an order handed down last week by Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz — who will also preside Wednesday over the hearing at 9 a.m. in the Courthouse Annex — in a similar lawsuit filed against the county by Court of Common Pleas Judge Jonathan D. Grine.
Kurtz ruled in favor of Grine and District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker, who also filed suit against the county, that phone records released by the county to attorneys in response to Right-to-Know requests were done so illegally because they were judicial records, not financial records as the county argued, and thus not subject to disclosure under the law.
Attorneys for Parks Miller argue that the ruling regarding the state Right-to-Know Law in Grine’s suit covers much of the same ground in Parks Miller’s lawsuit and that Parks Miller and her office also constitute a judicial agency, a similar ruling should be made and all Right-to-Know requests should be forwarded to her, the new filing reads.
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“As the (c)ourt ruled in the Grine case, the role of the (c)ounty in receiving a Right to Know request for records of a judicial agency is limited to forwarding that request to the judicial agency for response,” the new filing states.
An amended complaint was also filed Tuesday, which is similar to the original one filed when Parks Miller brought the suit against the county in March. Parks Miller alleges that county figures conspired with local attorneys Bernard Cantorna, Sean McGraw and the law firms they work for to “embarrass” her and drive her from office.
County commissioners Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos, solicitor Louis Glantz, McGraw and Cantorna have previously denied such a conspiracy.
While the previous complaint listed attorneys Cantorna, McGraw and their offices, as well as “John Does 1-5,” as co-defendants, the amended one and the other Tuesday filing does not. The co-defendants were voluntarily dismissed by Parks Miller without prejudice — meaning they could be added to the suit again in the future.
The decision to dismiss the attorneys stemmed from Kurtz’s decision in Grine’s suit regarding records released to attorney Theodore Tanski, of the Harrisburg-based McShane Firm, said Bruce Castor Jr., attorney for Parks Miller. Grine asked the court to order Tanski to destroy the records. Kurtz ruled that Tanski could keep them because he obtained them lawfully, even if the county released them in violation of the law, and also citing First Amendment reasons.
Parks Miller made a similar request of the attorneys named in the original complaint. Castor said he withdrew them from the new one because he expects the judge to rule the same way about attorneys who received the records in his case, but he wants to be able to put them back on the suit in case another court rules later that materials or records illegally released under the law must be returned or destroyed.
Parks Miller is still asking that the county be prohibited from making any releases regarding her, that all future Right-to-Know requests be forwarded to her for a response, and for costs of legal and attorneys fees and compensatory damages. According to the new filing, she is also asking that the court order the county to provide her office with a freestanding email server that would be under the “exclusive and total control” of the elected district attorney.