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District Attorney Wants Centre County Held in Contempt of Court

by on June 10, 2015 9:20 AM

District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller has renewed her legal assault against Centre County by asking a judge to hold the county in contempt of court.

Parks Miller is suing Centre County for releasing her phone records to defense attorneys in response to Right to Know requests, which she argues violates state law and county policy.

After a hearing in the case in May, Huntingdon County Judge Stewart Kurtz issued an order telling the county not to respond to any new Right to Know requests and to forward those requests to the appropriate office.

But in new court documents filed Tuesday, Parks Miller says the county continues to act in "flagrant violation" of that order.

Shortly after Kurtz issued his order, Centre County received a Right to Know from David Crowley in the county's public defender office. Crowley wanted to see certain phone records of Parks Miller and Common Pleas Judge Bradley Lunsford, but the county denied his request and cited Kurtz' order as the reason why.

But even though the county denied the request, Parks Miller's attorney Bruce Castor says the county violated the judge's order by responding at all.

"The county did not direct the request to the District Attorney to respond, even though the 'district attorney' is the 'appropriate official,'" the motion for contempt reads. "...The District Attorney first learned of the request when it was on appeal."

After the county denied his request, Crowley appealed the decision to the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. In his appeal, he argues that Kurtz was wrong to rule that the county had no authority to release the phone records of judicial employees.

In the motion for contempt, Castor argues that the county purposefully responded to Crowley's request to give him the ability to appeal the decision to the office of open records. He says the county wants the office of open records to step in to contravene the authority of Judge Kurtz and the court of common pleas.

"This behavior demonstrates the complete and contemptuous disregard the County holds for this Court's authority, its existing Court Orders, and it shows blatant and active intent to frustrate the intent of this court," the motion reads. "In essence, the County is trying to pit this Court against the [office of open records]." 

Centre County's attorney Mary Lou Maierhofer says Castor's argument make no sense. She claims the county specifically asked Judge Kurtz for clarification about his order, followed the judge's direction and directed all Right to Know requests to the proper offices.

"To deflect the public from the real issues raised by the telephone records at issue here, the District Attorney has now filed this unfounded and frivolous motion which the County will defend vigorously," Maierhofer says. "The County has engaged in no conduct at any time which would support such outlandish allegations."

Castor concludes his motion by asking the court to schedule a hearing to decide if the county is in contempt of court. He wants the court to fine the county, force the county to cover attorney's fees, and possibly charge county officials involved with denying Crowley's RTK request with criminal charges.

Centre County is currently appealing Kurtz's decision in Parks Millers' lawsuit. The county is also being sued in two very similar lawsuits from two county judges, and the county is also appealing a similar decision from Kurtz in those lawsuits as well.


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Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for 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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