Defendants seek dismissal of Parks Miller lawsuit

Flanked by her attorney Bruce Castor Jr. Stacy Parks Miller speaks during a press conference in July.
Flanked by her attorney Bruce Castor Jr. Stacy Parks Miller speaks during a press conference in July. CDT photo

A dozen people are asking the court to dismiss Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s federal lawsuit.

Parks Miller is suing the county, as well as the three commissioners, their solicitor and administrator, Judge Pamela A. Ruest, four other attorneys and a former paralegal in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on grounds of defamation, false light, injurious falsehood, malicious prosecution, intentional and/or negligent infliction of emotional distress, conspiracy, negligence and more.

Now those defendants are asking that the suit be dismissed. Seven separate filings were submitted to the court Friday and Monday in support of the motion to dismiss.

The central point in all of them, they say, is that Parks Miller’s original filing just isn’t up to snuff.

The claims all stem from the controversies that have overwhelmed the courthouse in 2015, especially the allegations that Parks Miller was behind a forgery, an idea that a grand jury investigated. No charges were recommended.

However, most of the attorneys’ briefs cited the grand jury testimony as one of the reasons Parks Miller’s case was inappropriate.

“Ironically, and quite sadly, the ‘ultimate law enforcement officer’ of Centre County — instead of choosing to perform her duty to protect witnesses and those supporting a full and fair investigation — seeks to silence and punish any and all who participated,” wrote Kathleen Yurchak, attorney for Parks Miller’s former paralegal, Michelle Shutt, who testified to a grand jury and swore out an affidavit regarding to alleged forgery.

Shutt and others cited the immunity granted to witnesses in a grand jury.

“It is fundamental that witnesses have immunity from subsequent damage suits for their testimony in judicial proceedings,” wrote Mary Lou Maierhofer, attorney for commissioners Steve Dershem, Chris Exarchos and Michael Pipe, administrator Tim Boyde, solicitor Louis Glantz and the county as a whole. “This immunity covers both public officials and private citizens equally who provide testimony.”

Others took aim at points of law, like the injurious falsehood claim that every defense attorney involved cited as improper, claiming it did not apply to the district attorney.

“Claims for ‘injurious falsehood,’ or ‘trade libel,’ are applicable only in cases regarding chattel or property,” wrote Philip Masorti, defending himself, calling the assertion inapplicable to the complaint, which “seemingly asserts that plaintiff’s reputation was tainted.”

On the defamation front, Jacob Cohn, representing attorneys Sean McGraw and Andrew Shubin, took issue with the lack of specifics.

“Parks Miller’s complaint is entirely devoid of any allegations of specific, non-privileged defamatory statements by Shubin and/or McGraw,” he wrote. “What did Mr. McGraw or Mr. Shubin say? When did they say it? To whom did they speak? Where did they say it, over the loudspeaker at a Penn State football game, or in documents filed with the Centre County Court in the defense of a client, or at a county commissioner’s meeting while petitioning the government for redress of grievances on behalf of a client? Parks Miller gives us no clue.”

McGraw did admit to statements in court papers filed on behalf of client Justin Blake, statements he said would have been protected as privileged.