Attorneys for Centre County responded Monday to a contempt motion made earlier this month by attorneys for Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
In a Monday court filing, county attorney Mary Lou Maierhofer maintains that county officials followed an order handed down by Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz last month regarding how county officials should respond to Right-to-Know requests and that Kurtz should deny Parks Miller’s motion and instead award legal fees and costs incurred by the county when preparing a response.
Kurtz ordered that the county not respond to requests involving the judiciary, including Parks Miller and members of her office, and to forward the requests along to the proper officials.
Bruce Castor Jr., Parks Miller’s attorney, filed a motion earlier this month to find Centre County government in contempt of court in relation to such a request filed with the county by Chief Public Defender David Crowley for phone communication records of Judge Bradley P. Lunsford.
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County Administrator Tim Boyde denied the request and instead directed Crowley to make the request with the court administrator, the designated official to handle requests for judges. The response also included information on how to appeal the denial to the state Office of Open Records, which Crowley did shortly afterward.
Maierhofer wrote in the filing Monday that the county followed the court order because they did not hand over any documents, directed Crowley to the proper office and advised him of his right to appeal to the state agency in accordance with the state Right-to-Know law.
Maierhofer also wrote that Parks Miller has no standing to find the county in contempt of court because Crowley’s request sought Lunsford’s phone records, not the district attorney’s.
Castor argues that the county violated the order and should have also directed the request to Parks Miller, the Right-to-Know officer for the District Attorney’s Office, because Kurtz’s order stipulates that the county should direct requests for records relating to Parks Miller or her office to the appropriate official
Castor said Monday that Crowley’s request relates to the District Attorney’s Office because the request for Lunsford’s communications would reflect contact between the judge and members of the office, so the request should have been directed to Parks Miller as well as the court administrator.
Maierhofer also argues that because her clients have appealed Kurtz’s ruling to the state Commonwealth Court, the Court of Common Pleas no longer has jurisdiction to hear the contempt motion, a reiteration of another filing in opposition to the contempt motion earlier this month.
The filing described the contempt motion as “outrageous” and an “attempt to divert the (c)ourt and the public from the real issues” brought up by the Right-to-Know requests, echoing a public response by Centre County Commissioner Chris Exarchos at the commissioners’ weekly meeting last Tuesday.
Exarchos called the contempt motion “frivolous,” said it was an effort to divert public attention from allegations of wrongdoing and expressed disappointment at a court system that seemed more interested in protecting its own interests than in justice.
Castor responded to Exarchos’ comments, describing them as “appalling.” Castor said the implications made at the meeting were defamatory and libelous, adding that he is not at liberty to discuss any courses of action Parks Miller might take in the future.
All parties could soon end up in a courtroom over the contempt motion. Castor requested a hearing, which has not yet been scheduled, on the matter when the contempt motion was filed.
Crowley’s appeal to the Office of Open Records is still pending. The office’s acting director, Nathanael Byerly, said a ruling could be made anytime from now until July 20.