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Judge Refuses to Disqualify Stacy Parks Miller; DA Appoints Personal Lawyer as Special Assistant District Attorney

by on April 10, 2015 3:42 PM

Centre County District Stacy Parks Miller attorney will continue to prosecute a felony rape and trespassing case, despite attempts from defense attorneys to have her disqualified.

And in a new twist, Parks Miller has appointed her personal attorney to work as a special assistant district attorney to respond to attempts to disqualify her from criminal cases.

Judge Denies Request to Remove Parks Miler from Blake Case 

The criminal case of Justin Blake – who stands accused of sexually assaulting a sleeping woman in 2014 – is quickly becoming the frontline for an ongoing battle between Parks Miller and the Shubin Law Firm.

Attorney Sean McGraw of the Shubin Firm asked specially presiding Clinton County Judge J. Michael Williamson to disqualify Parks Miller from the Blake case because of “an actual conflict of interest” in court documents filed last week. The firm has made similar unsuccessful attempts to have her removed from the case in the past.

At a court hearing Friday morning, McGraw argued that Parks Miller is unable to act impartially in the Blake case because she’s currently suing McGraw and the Shubin firm in one of three ongoing lawsuits against the Centre County government.

Williamson questioned if that was relevant specifically to the Blake case, and McGraw argued it was. He said that Parks Miller’s lawsuit against Centre County and the Shubin firm is “absolutely a direct response to our efforts to represent Justin Blake.”

Parks Miller is suing McGraw, the Shubin firm and the county government because the county released some of her cell phone records to the Shubin firm in response to Right to Know requests -- which she says was improper and illegal. The Shubin firm and other defense attorneys have used records of text messages between judges and prosecutors to allege bias in favor of the DA’s office in criminal cases, including Blake’s.

But Williamson overturned McGraw’s arguments, essentially saying that his role as a judge is to serve as the middle ground between the embattled prosecutors and defense attorneys.

“I’m here to take care of all these conflicts,” Williamson said to McGraw. “I don’t care about her, I don’t care about you, and I don’t care about Mr. Blake. I just want to get this case tried fairly and quickly.”

Williamson also pointed out that he had already addressed some of McGraw’s concerns.

Blake’s case was originally heard by Centre County Judge Bradley Lunsford, who has since been barred from hearing most criminal cases. When Williamson took over, he significantly lowered Blake’s bail and ordered a new preliminary hearing for Blake, both at McGraw’s request.

Although Williamson rejected his motion, McGraw told StateCollege.com he is “committed to fair adjudication” for Blake.

“When you take on power, you’re going to suffer setbacks along the way,” McGraw says.

Parks Miller Appoints Her Attorney as Special Assistant District Attorney 

Bruce Castor, who works as Parks Miller’s personal attorney in her lawsuit with the county, spoke at Friday’s hearing in his new role as a specially-appointed Assistant District Attorney.

He successfully argued that Parks Miller should not be disqualified because she has no financial interest in the outcome of the Blake case, and that a trial judge might not have the authority to disqualify her in the first place.

Parks Miller appointed Castor as a special district attorney before Friday's hearing, and his oath of office was signed by Judge Jonathan Grine (who is engaged in a lawsuit with Centre County that's very similar to Parks Miller's own suit against the county).

Castor says the decision to appoint him as a special ADA was mostly a procedural decision to prevent Parks Miller from acting as both a prosecutor and a witness in cases where attorneys are attempting to disqualify her. He says that a state statute grants district attorneys the authority to specially appoint assistants with legal expertise as needed. 

Castor says his position as a special ADA is not currently paid for by the county, though he can petition the Centre County Salary Board to be added to the county’s payroll. Castor has also previously told StateCollege.com that he is currently working for Parks Miller as her personal attorney free of charge, though he expects his legal fees to eventually find their way back to the county.

According to Castor's oath of office, his appointment is specifically for “cases involving efforts to disqualify the District Attorney…and such other matters as the District Attorney might assign to [him] from time to time.”

Castor says the “from time to time” language was included in his oath of office to prevent him from having to take a new oath every time Parks Miller asks him to work in his capacity as a special ADA. He could not speculate on any other tasks he might perform, and says his primary duties as a special ADA are to deal with disqualification attempts against Parks Miller.

When asked if he thought his two different professional relationships with Parks Miller could be a conflict of interest, Castor said no. He says that assistant district attorneys often have private law practices in addition to their government work, and says comparing civil lawsuits to criminal cases is “apples and oranges.”

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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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