District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s attorney filed a motion Tuesday opposing Centre County’s bid to block an injunction against the release of Right-to-Know requests pertaining to judicial officials.
County attorneys made a filing last month stating that the county is entitled to an “automatic supersedeas” — or an order suspending a court from executing a ruling — when they appealed an order from Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart L. Kurtz prohibiting county officials from responding to Right-to-Know requests regarding the county judiciary to the state Commonwealth Court, including Parks Miller and her office.
If the supersedeas would take effect, the county would be able to continue responding to Right-to-Know requests regarding judicial officials, as it did before the injunction was ordered, until appeals are decided.
Bruce Castor Jr., Parks Miller’s attorney, argued in the Tuesday filing that the supersedeas would defeat the purpose of the preliminary injunction. Should the injunction be vacated through a lengthy appeals process that could stretch to the state and federal supreme courts, Castor wrote that his client would suffer irreparable harm to her reputation should the county be permitted to fill requests for her phone records.
Castor also wrote that the supersedeas should not be granted because it is unlikely the county will win its appeal at the state Commonwealth Court. Castor cited the same laws and cases Kurtz did in a memorandum defending his ruling last week, adding that preliminary injunctions are seldom reversed.
“If the county succeeds in overturning preliminary injunctions, something I have been unable to find ever happening before in Pennsylvania, I’ll buy the opposing lawyers and the county commissioners dinner at the nicest restaurant in Centre County,” Castor said Tuesday.
In a Monday court filing, county attorneys addressed concerns that a contempt motion in the Parks Miller case could put Centre County officials in a tough spot when handling future requests involving judicial officials.
Castor argued in the motion that the county violated Kurtz’s order when a request for communication records was denied because a denial still constitutes a response.
In the Monday filing, attorney Mary Lou Maierhofer wrote that county Administrator Tim Boyde received a request for public funds received by the District Attorney’s Office after the contempt motion was made. Boyde did not respond to the request and forwarded the request to the District Attorney’s Office to be processed.
Attached as an exhibit to the filing was a letter from the District Attorney’s Office to the requester, acknowledging receipt of the request and stating that the request would be answered in less than 30 days.
Maierhofer said Tuesday that under the Right-to-Know law, if a request is not responded to within five days, it is automatically deemed denied. When Boyde didn’t respond to the request in that time, the denial was appealed to the state Office of Open Records because the request was first sent to the county.
Her clients would be put in a “bad position” if they were ordered by that agency to release the records, she said.
“The County of Centre is in a ‘Catch-22’ situation as no matter what it does based upon this (c)ourt’s (o)rders and the (p)laintiff’s arguments in her (m)otion for (c)ontempt and (s)anctions, it will either violate the (c)ourt’s (o)rders or violate statutes under the Right-to-Know (l)aw,” Maierhofer wrote in the filing.
Maierhofer said she hopes to address the matter at a July 14 hearing before Kurtz and get clarification on how to process requests in the future.
The hearing is scheduled for 1 p.m. in the third floor of the Courthouse Annex.