The case brought before the state Supreme Court by Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller is closed.
On Monday, the court denied an application asking the court to reconsider an earlier decision denying a petition Parks Miller filed before the court. The Monday order did not offer a reason for the denial, but attorneys on both sides of the argument see the case before the state’s highest court as a victory.
“The exercise was of great value strategically for the district attorney,” Bruce Castor Jr., Parks Miller’s attorney, said. “In fact, I’m pleasantly surprised at how it turned out.”
Parks Miller first brought the case before the court in late January, after forgery allegations made by a former paralegal in her office were made public at the Jan. 20 county commissioners meeting.
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Commissioners Steve Dershem, Chris Exarchos and Michael Pipe unanimously voted at that meeting to investigate the allegations and hire “special counsel” to potentially prosecute Parks Miller in accordance with two statutes in the Pennsylvania County Code regarding district attorneys who have been charged with a crime or accused of negligence while carrying out their duties. A judge can be asked to appoint a prosecutor to bring charges against a district attorney under the statutes, county solicitor Louis Glantz said.
Parks Miller denies the accusation and before the meeting she said she had referred the matter to the Attorney General’s Office, who she claimed was the proper body to investigate and potentially prosecute a district attorney facing a conflict of interest.
The petition asked the court to order Bellefonte police and Centre County commissioners to cease investigation of the alleged forgery and other alleged wrongdoing and for police to return a laptop, flash drive, cellphone and tablet taken from the district attorney’s office in a search executed on Jan. 24.
The court denied the petition, a move Castor said was inconsequential because matters brought before the court in the petition had already been resolved. The subsequent application to reconsider that decision denied Monday was a procedural matter filed to give the Office of Attorney General an opportunity to make a position known before the court, Castor said.
The Attorney General’s Office did just that in February. The office filed a brief, signed by Chief Deputy Attorney General James Barker, asking the court to order that it has sole jurisdiction in the matter because the Commonwealth Attorneys Act supersedes the statutes cited by commissioners.
The Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association filed a similar brief before the court after the Attorney General’s Office filing, according to court documents. The filings made by both organizations strengthen Parks Miller’s legal position, Castor said.
Glantz, however, said the Monday order was a win for the county.
By denying the motion, Glantz said, the position taken by the court was that the statutes still stand and concurrent investigations can take place. Anyone, including commissioners, can ask a judge to appoint a special prosecutor, he said. There’s currently no action being taken at the county level against Parks Miller, but that’s not to say that won’t happen, Glantz said.
“They can ask a court to appoint a special prosecutor and that still stands,” Glantz said.
Jay Abom, the counsel hired by the county and attorney for Dershem and Exarchos, did not return requests for comment. Pipe was not party on any filings made by the county before the Supreme Court and is represented by a separate attorney.