Judge Jonathan Grine ‘counseled’ by Judicial Conduct Board

Judge Jonathan Grine
Judge Jonathan Grine Centre Daily Times, file

Another person in the Centre County Courthouse is being scolded by Harrisburg.

On Tuesday, Judge Jonathan Grine received a “letter of counsel” from the Judiciary Conduct Board.

“Following an investigation into a complaint initiated after a referral from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania regarding conduct that took place in 2014 between Judge Jonathan D. Grine and Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, the board voted to resolve the complaint by issuing a letter of counsel to the judge,” the JCB said in a press release.

That conduct, according to the petition of disciplinary counsel in Parks Miller’s case, included allegedly ex parte communications between the two.

In the case of Mathew Shirk, the disciplinary counsel said the DA and the judge corresponded after the trial, but before sentencing.

“U laughed,” Parks Miller is quoted as texting Grine in deleted messages partially recovered from her phone. “As part of restitution, you sh(ould)...”

Counsel said Grine did include restitution as part of Shirk’s later sentencing.

Parks Miller is also accused of several ex parte communications with former judge Bradley Lunsford who retired at the end of 2015. She is slated for a disciplinary hearing in November.

According to the JCB, letters of counsel are given to judges when there is “sufficient evidence of judicial misconduct,” but appears to be a first-time or isolated incident. The letters can be private or public.

“Further, evidence of genuine remorse, such as Judge Grine’s present willingness to accept public responsibility for his actions, which have resulted in public criticism of the Centre County judiciary, is weighed heavily by the board in its decision to issue a letter of counsel or to file formal charges,” the JCB release stated.

According to the letter of counsel, Grine engaged in a “support relationship” with Parks Miller while having marital problems in 2014-2015, which “could lead to the charge that (his) impartiality could reasonably be questioned in criminal matters and that, due to the relationship, you were subject to improper influence by DA Parks Miller in your official conduct.”

Grine signed the letter of counsel Tuesday.

A former district court judge, Grine took the Common Pleas court bench in 2012.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce