BELLEFONTE — A Centre County judge has been ordered to stop handling criminal cases.
Centre County Judge Bradley P. Lunsford was recently reassigned “to preclude handling of any criminal matters, with the exception of DUI Court,” until further notice, according to a court document.
The administrative order revealing the change was signed by Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler. The reassignment took effect on Dec. 5.
Lunsford addressed the issue from his office in the Centre County Courthouse annex on Dec. 9.
“I welcome the opportunity to temporarily step back from criminal cases,” Lunsford said, “so that we can work out issues here in the court that could have potentially become disruptive to our normal operations.”
It is unclear as to why Kistler reassigned Lunsford.
Several media outlets have reported that Lunsford has been at odds with local defense attorneys recently. Lunsford denied those claims.
On Nov. 7, State College attorney Bernard Cantorna filed an open records request seeking Lunsford's phone records. That request showed text messages from Lunsford to Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, as well as assistant district attorneys Nathan Boob and Lindsay Foster.
The texts could be viewed as a conflict of interest, according to Cantorna.
“The number of texts, including during trial from the bench, are improper and raise reasonable questions regarding the impartiality of the court,” Cantorna said in the motion.
While Lunsford would not address those claims, he did ask for the patience of the community while this all gets sorted out.
“I just ask the community to be patient while we work through this process,” Lunsford said.
Kistler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.