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Former Paralegal's Lawsuit Against DA, County Dismissed

by on May 08, 2017 4:24 PM

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a former District Attorney's office paralegal against DA Stacy Parks Miller and Centre County.

Michelle Shutt had filed the lawsuit in U.S. Middle District Court in July 2016. Last week, Judge Matthew Brann dismissed the suit but left the door open for her to re-file in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.

Shutt filed claims against Parks Miller and the county of retaliation and false public statements. It also claimed abuse of process, defamation, injurious falsehood and and false light/invasion of privacy by Parks Miller. 

Brann dismissed the retaliation and false public statements claims, finding no Constitutional cause for the complaints. He also declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the other claims.

"She may nevertheless have a state tort cause of action...," Brann wrote, dismissing the case without prejudice which allows for it to be refiled in the Court of Common Pleas.

The lawsuit stems from the legal battle that unfolded beginning with a fake bail order for an informant as part of an investigation of an alleged murder plot against a former assistant DA by a Centre County Correctional Facility inmate in 2013.

Shutt had worked in the DA’s office since June 2012 and resigned in January 2014. Later that year, Shutt alleged to Philip Masorti, an attorney with her new employer Masorti Law Group, that in 2013 she had witnessed Parks Miller forge the name of Centre County Judge Pamela Ruest on a fake bail order for an informant in the murder plot investigation. Masorti filed a complaint that made its way to Bellefonte Police, who later executed a search warrant at Parks Miller’s office in January 2015.

The Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General took over the investigation and a statewide grand jury ultimately recommended no charges against Parks Miller. Ruest said she could not recall if she had signed the order, and two handwriting experts concluded the signature belonged to Ruest.

Parks Miller later filed a federal civil suit against Shutt, Ruest, the county, county commissioners and administrators, and several local defense attorneys, including Masorti and Bernie Cantorna, who is now her opponent in next week's primary election. Brann dismissed that lawsuit last year

Shutt's attorney, Kathleen Yurchak, wrote in the complaint filed last year that Parks Miller made statements to retaliate against Shutt for exercising her constitutional rights in signing an affidavit alleging the DA had forged Ruest’s signature and in testifying to the grand jury. Yurchak also said the Parks Miller's statements to the media during a press conference following the release of the grand jury’s report were defamatory and meant to intimidate.

Yurchak wrote that Parks Miller called Shutt “a liar,” and alleged that Shutt had committed several crimes, that “She is a felon,” and that she had withheld information about why she left her previous employer when applying for a position in the DA’s office.

In her lawsuit, Parks Miller alleged that Shutt had stolen emails, which Brann dismissed because the emails in question had been widely disseminated by Parks Miller.

Yurchak wrote that those statements about Shutt were false, and that Parks Miller had defamed Shutt because she allegedly knew them to be false.

Shutt also claimed that Parks Miller’s civil suit against her was abuse of process because it was initiated “solely to harass and embarrass Shutt and to interfere with her livelihood.”

Because Parks Miller was a county official, Centre County was also a defendant in Shutt’s lawsuit.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.ru[email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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