Centre County Judge Orders Change Handling Right-to-Know Requests About Court


HomePennsylvania Open Government ForumOpen Discussion on Open GovernmentCentre County Judge Orders Change Handling Right-to-Know Requests About Court

This topic contains 59 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Watchdog7 12 months ago. This post has been viewed 5990 times

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  • #7493

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    July 21, 2015 Pennsylvania Office of Open Records Orders Centre County to Produce Phone Records for Judge Bradley Lunsford and District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s Offices

    “Charles Rees Brown, chief counsel with the Office of Open Records, agreed with Crowley in the determination handed down Monday. Brown wrote that because the records requested were bills created by a third party, in this case Verizon Wireless, and not created by judicial officials, they were financial records subject to disclosure under the law.”

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/07/20/4842901/state-orders-county-to-produce.html

    The parties involved have 30 days to appeal the Office of Open Records decision to the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by  Watchdog7.
    #7518

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    August 1, 2015 Grand Jury Report Clears Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller

    Hell hath no fury as a woman determined falsely accused by another woman.

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/07/31/4857721/parks-miller-blasts-accuser-county.html

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 4 months ago by  Watchdog7.
    #7526

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    Just when we thought all was resolved — Centre County DA Parks Miller Calls for County Grand Jury to Investigate County Welcome to Nutty Valley

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/08/04/4861954/centre-county-da-wants-judge-to.html

    #7547

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    Judge Grants District Attorney Parks Miller’s Request for Centre County Grand Jury
    For the first time in Centre County’s 215 year history Happy Valley will have its own Grand Jury. Happy Valley only a memory, now we are Very Crime Valley. http://www.centredaily.com/2015/08/13/4874812/judge-grants-parks-millers-request.html

    #7557

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    August 16, 2015 Centre Daily Times Editorial — Civility in the County and the Courthouse

    ” A courthouse is kind of like a church, a solemn place with a certain expectation of decorum and respect.
    That has been in somewhat short supply lately in Centre County.”

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/08/15/4877632/our-view-civility-in-the-county.html

    #7562

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    District Attorney Parks Miller requests hearing in Centre County Court with the Office of Open Records over two conflicting determinations involving Right-to-Know requests for phone records of county court officials.

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/08/21/4885709/centre-county-district-attorney.html

    #7565

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    Centre County District Attorney Parks Miller Sues County Officials and Attorneys for Defamation

    Commissioners Steve Dershem and Chris Exarchos, county administrator Tim Boyde and solicitor Louis Glantz were each named both individually and in their official capacities. Commissioner Michael Pipe was only named in his official capacity as a commissioner. (Dersham and Exarchos are Republicans, Pipe and Parks Miller are Democrats.) Two of the county’s four judges will now not hear criminal cases until the issue is resolved.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 3 months ago by  Watchdog7.
    #7570

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    Hearing for Centre County DA Parks Miller Lawsuit Against County Delayed

    Happy Valley’s version of Tolstoy’s War and No Peace. Will this take as long as the still unresolved Penn State Child Abuse Scandal (November 2011)? Expect a Wikipedia article about all this too.

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/09/01/4900771/hearing-for-parks-miller-lawsuit.html

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/09/01/4900135/centre-county-commissioners-reviewing.html

    #7573

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    Centre County Judge Bradley Lunsford Pulls Out of November Retention Election

    The Pennsylvania Department of State advised Lunsford had withdrawn from the election. He will retire January 2016.

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/09/04/4905009/judge-bradley-lunsford-pulls-out.html

    #7575

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    DA Stacy Parks Miller lawsuit moved to federal court
    The Centre County attorney filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania transferring the case from the Centre County Court of Common Pleas into federal court. The higher court has jurisdiction because Parks Miller claims in her suit that county officials violated her constitutionally protected due process and equal protection rights in the aftermath of forgery allegations made public at a county commissioners meeting in January.

    Centre County Commissioners Steve Dershem, Chris Exarchos and Michael Pipe, county Administrator Tim Boyde, solicitor Louis Glantz, Judge Pamela A. Ruest and defense attorneys Sean McGraw, Andrew Shubin, Philip Masorti, Bernard Cantorna and Shutt are all co-defendants in the case.

    Other filings made in federal court this week indicate Shutt will be represented by State College attorney Kathleen Yurchak. Shubin and McGraw will be represented by Jacob Cohn, of Philadelphia, and Cantorna will be represented by Timothy Hinton, of Scranton.

    http://www.centredaily.com/2015/09/11/4915707/da-stacy-parks-miller-lawsuit.html

    #7588

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    Update October 23, 2015 about this PaFOIC case that refuses to die. One thing seems certain, if this case is finally resolved in court it will be a landmark decision pertaining to judicial abuse of public billing records. One county judge has decided to not run for retention. John Grisham is considering a novel.
    Centre County challenges judge’s orders regarding phone records

    SUMMARY: Are the publicly owned phone records of the Centre County District Attorney’s Office considered public billing documents or judicial records? Attorneys for Centre County argued on appeal in Commonwealth Court that they are public billing records. Refreshing our memory, It all started in 2014, when a defense attorney asked for phone records amid allegations that Judge Bradley Lunsford was participating in ex parte text communications with DA Stacy Parks Miller. (Ex parte is a decision decided by a judge without requiring all of the parties to the controversy to be present.) Miller argues that releasing the toll records for her county paid cell service was inappropriate. Miller claims her office should be exempt from those requests as a judicial agency. There were other requests made about communications with Judge Jonathan Grine and District Judge Kelley Gillette-Walker. Miller, Grine, and Walker have also called the move an invasion of privacy (and, opined, it probably was hence the uproar) albeit paid for using public funds.

    Read the entire story here: http://www.centredaily.com/2015/10/22/4979964/centre-county-challenges-judges.html

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by  Watchdog7.
    • This reply was modified 4 years, 1 month ago by  Watchdog7.
    #7629

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    Update and hopefully conclusion March 16, 2016

    Appeals court reverses Centre County Right-to-Know ruling — (1) Judge sides with county commissioners that DA’s office is not judicial, (2) County no longer prevented from releasing requested telephone billing documents related to District Attorney Parks Miller

    Reminding a year later — the records in question are not sensitive case investigation documents but rather records pertaining to abuse of county owned cell phones and service fees for mostly questionable personal use between judicial and district attorney officials and suspected [by defense attorneys] ex parte communication, it is opined. DA Parks, we opine, presumed she was beyond compliance with the RTK Law when engaged in extra-office use of county equipment that created billing records.

    “[The] appeals court overturned Centre County rulings on just what documents regarding the district attorney’s office can be released under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know Law. The ruling came March 15, 2016 when Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson wrote an opinion and signed an order reversing two Centre County Court of Common Pleas orders.” (The Centre County Court decisions came from Huntingdon County Senior Judge Stewart Kurtz serving in Centre County because Centre County judges recused.)

    Watchdog opines, once the case was adjudicated outside the shenanigans of the local court the issue and decision was clear. Parks Miller’s position was that her office should receive protections from RTK law requests, as afforded to judicial offices. The county’s appeal stressed the office was not judicial. However, “Employees and elected officials of the DA’s office are not ‘judicial employees’ or court-supervised personnel,” Simpson wrote in his ruling, siding with the county.

    DA Parks continues to put spin on even this decision but the resolution assures that all records at issue must be released.

    The county solicitor concluded: “This is not a win for the DA. The Commonwealth Court found that all of her arguments claiming why she was part of the judiciary were wrong and the county’s reasons as to why she was not part of the judiciary were correct.”

    Read more: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article66267997.html#navlink=Lead

    #7632

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    “In reading the travails of District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, [we] can’t help but wonder if her office has ever excoriated the conduct of those in the Office of Attorney General in trampling the constitutional rights of three residents of Centre County. Even more so now, given the opinions by the appellate and superior courts.” Read more:

    http://www.centredaily.com/opinion/letters-to-the-editor/article70202567.html#navlink=SecList

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 8 months ago by  Watchdog7.
    #7635

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    This Case Keeps on Giving — Court sends Parks Miller RTK review back to Centre County
    From the Centre Daily Times: “The Commonwealth Court doesn’t want to get involved in a dispute between the Centre County District Attorney’s Office and group that asked for information. Last week, three members of the state appeals court sent the issue back to Centre County. Judge Robert Simpson wrote the opinion:”“Concluding we lack jurisdiction, we transfer the matter to the proper tribunal…the Centre County Court of Common Pleas.””

    At issue is a request from Pennsylvanians for Union Reform. The group submitted a request to the DA’s office regarding cellphone usage in 2015, looking for “itemized details of time and length of calls between all current and former members of the DA office and members of the judiciary on their government-issued cellphones. The bill for those phones was paid by the county, the DA’s office maintained that as a judicial agency, that level of detail was not required.

    Appeals and counter appeals followed.

    In May 2016 Commonwealth Court ruled that the county was wrong in releasing a color-coded spreadsheet of information including the judges’ partial phone numbers and duration of calls. The court enjoined the county from such actions in the future, directing that any such requests go to a designated open records officer for the judicial agency, in this case, the court. We are persuaded that greater injury will result from denial of the injunction than from granting it.

    Read the complete story at: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article82361447.html#navlink=SecList

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 6 months ago by  Watchdog7.
    #7647

    Watchdog7
    Participant

    October Surprise — Supreme Court grants Centre County DA right to appeal
    From the Centre Daily Times “The Commonwealth Court advised in June that it didn’t think it was the right body to decide a case between Centre County and its district attorney. On October 5,The state Supreme Court agreed. The Supreme Court Court issued an order granting the petition from DA Stacy Parks Miller to appeal ONE of the [many] questions in the case. The issue, rephrased for clarity, is: Do district attorneys and their offices constitute judicial agencies as defined under…the Right to Know Law…?” the court’s order read.”

    SHOCKED! The county’s counsel, Mary Lou Maierhofer exclaimed: “I am shocked that the [Supreme Court] granted review of this issue of whether a district attorney and their office constitutes ‘judicial agencies’ as defined under the Right to Know Law,” she said. “This goes against the PA Constitution that states the DA is a ‘county official.’ It goes against the rationale of years of case law that hold the DA as part of the county.”

    Read the rest of the story here: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/community/article106334807.html#navlink=Lead

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