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Defense Attorneys Attack DA's Lawsuit Against County

by on May 01, 2015 11:50 AM

A State College law firm continues to hammer away at Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller's lawsuit filed against the county government.

In new court documents filed Thursday, the Shubin Law Firm doubles down on its First Amendment argument, calling Parks Miller's litigation an attempted "drastic limitation on speech."

Parks Miller filed suit against Centre County in March, alleging that the county illegally released some of her work phone records to defense attorneys in response to Right to Know Requests, which she describes as a violation of her privacy. She claims those those records were then wrongly used against her in court to try to overturn valid convictions and have her removed from certain criminal cases.

But attorneys Andrew Shubin and Sean McGraw of the Shubin Firm -- who are listed as defendants alongside the county -- argue the records were obtained lawfully. The attorneys also claim the records are a matter of public interest and concern, which they say outweighs any of Parks Miller's privacy concerns.

"The records were the basis, in part, of a motion to reconsider and to lower bail in the Centre County criminal action of Commonwealth v. Justin Blake," the filing reads. "...The pleading alleged that Blake's due process right to an impartial tribunal had been violated by the 'volume and timing' of the...communications between the District Attorney's Office and Judge [Bradley] Lunsford."

Justin Blake faces felony charges of rape and trespassing in connection with an incident over State Patty's Day weekend last year. The Shubin firm did successfully have Blake's bail lowered under a new judge, but the firm was unable to have Parks Miller removed as the lead prosecutor on the case. McGraw unsuccessfully argued that Parks Miller would be unable to make unbiased decision because she is currently suing the Shubin firm.

Shubin and McGraw argue that records show an inappropriately frequent amount of contact between Lunsford and Parks Miller, calling it "an apparent breakdown in the integrity of the adjudicative process." They also argue that Parks Miller's attempts to keep the records out of the public eye "demonstrates that they are indeed the proper and legitimate subject of public interest, discussion and debate."

The two attorneys want the court to lift an order that currently prevents them from releasing Parks Miller's phone records or using them as part of any more court filings. A hearing in Parks Miller's suit is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. on May 13 in the Centre County Courthouse Annex.

Two Centre County judges -- common pleas judge Jonathan Grine and magisterial district judge Kelley Gillette-Walker -- have also filed very similar lawsuits against Centre County. Some of their phone records were also released to defense attorneys in response to Right to Know requests, which they claim was an illegal violation of privacy.

A hearing in the judges' lawsuits was held last month, but no ruling has been issued and the lawsuits remain unresolved.



Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for StateCollege.com who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
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