Tagged: Bruce Castor Jr, Centre County President Judge Thomas King Kistler, Clinton County Senior Judge J. Michael Williamson reprimands, District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, Judge Bradley P. Lunsford, Judge Jonathan Grine, judiciary open records meeting, Pennsylvania Supreme Court
January 10, 2017 at 7:32 am #7660
The Shakespearean drama continues Updated January 10, 2017
Quick update: A court case was enmeshed in the open records issue discussed extensively above. Jalene McClure was convicted in Centre County Court (September 2014) of an August 2010 assault on a 5-month-old child and sentenced to 10-to-20 years. Within days of sentencing, McClure’s attorney, Bernard Cantorna, filed an open records request for phone records (the open records issue described above) that showed text messages between then Centre County Judge Bradley P. Lunsford and members of the District Attorney’s Office. Some of the communications were suggested to have been made ex parte during trial. The sentence was vacated in August and sent back to Centre County Court for a new trial. Lunsford was removed from hearing criminal cases and then retired in 2015. This is where we are today.
Clinton County Senior Judge J. Michael Williamson decided in a December out of county pretrial conference that the texts were not an influence in McClure’s trial. Williamson dismissed a motion to preclude the trial. Shakespeare wrote: “With respect to the social interaction between [Judge] Lunsford and members of the district attorney’s staff [District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller], while perhaps more extensive [than] would be anticipated in a small county, we find nothing so egregious as to warrant dismissal of the charges against the defendant.” This is, Watchdog opines, code that the extensive “ex parte communications” on county owned cell phones presumably in and out of court were “personal” not judicial in nature. The exact text of the text is protected at a level envied by the National Security Agency.January 18, 2017 at 7:09 am #7661
Watchdogs AskNnew Pennsylvania AG to investigate Centre County DA Parks Miller
“Two Harrisburg watchdog groups presented Josh Shapiro’s office with a request for a full investigation just after he was sworn in at noon as the state’s new AG. Gene Stilp, of Taxpayers and Ratepayers United, and Eric Epstein, of Rock the Capital, want him to take a look at the tangled relationship between Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, convicted and resigned AG Kathleen Kane and her successor, Bruce Castor.” Read the entire article at: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article126950414.html#navlink=SecList
This is a good summary of the case by one of the best reporters in Centre County, Lori Falce.January 26, 2017 at 10:38 am #7664
Pennsylvania Superior Court orders Judge Not to Proceed with Centre County Cases on Appeal
Update: January 26, 2017
Watchdog opines that Centre County and the State College area in particular have a penchant to create chaos when open records and open meetings laws are involved. This particularly includes Pennsylvania State University, the State College Area School District, State College Borough government, and now the Centre County Court System. All of this abetted by a local newspaper renowned more for stenography than investigation. Curiosity may kill a cat but never a Centre Daily Times (CDT) reporter. The CDT lacks the aggressive spirit needed to protect the Pennsylvania Sunshine Laws.
The loonary here is embedded in long standing and deep seated “progressive” attitudes that it is best to protect institutional reputation at the cost of transparency. Violate the doctrine and kiss goodby to advertising revenue.
Two hearings slated for January 25, 2017 at the Centre County Courthouse hit roadblocks when the state Superior Court intervened on behalf of the commonwealth. Two criminal cases (2013 and 2014 respectively) were scheduled for retrials in Centre County this coming February. The retrials are a consequence of the handling of the open records issue pertaining to alleged ex parte texting communication between a judge and the DA using county owned cell phones. The cell phone records were considered to be public not judicial records.
The court expressed “serious concerns that the animosity, which is manifested in these proceedings between [DA] Parks Miller and [Defense Attorney] Cantorna is such that the integrity of the judicial system, as well as the defendants’ right to a fundamentally fair trial, are jeopardized if this case were to proceed to trial before the resolution of the election proceedings.” [Parks Miller and Cantorna are announced opponents in the 2017 election for county district attorney.]
Read the details here: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/crime/article128819014.html#navlink=LeadJanuary 27, 2017 at 7:14 am #7665
Centre County DA’s Secret Fake Facebook Page Smells Like Entrapment
January 27, 2017
Watchdog opines this becomes worser and worser: Defense exhibit 27 (of a January 2017 filing pertaining to retrial of a 2014 Centre County criminal case) is reportedly an attempt by District Attorney Parks Miller to bar retrial of the case. It is an email form DA Miller to staff. “All, I [Miller] have made a Facebook page that is fake for us to befriend people and snoop. Her name is Britney Bella. Please edit it, post things occasionally to keep it looking legit, like things, add things, and add friends …. Use it to befriend defendants or witnesses if you want to snoop.”
Centre County Juror Information Questionnaire – PART 2, Question 9: Would you be less likely to believe the testimony of a police officer or other law enforcement officer because of his or her job? YES or NOFebruary 1, 2017 at 7:09 am #7666
Centre County District Attorney Parks Miller Protests Demand to Preserve Cellphone Texts
February 1, 2017
This Open Records case is the engine that could, its keeps going and going. Former paralegal Michelle Shutt requested a federal court to tell her former boss DA Miller to not destroy what may be evidence in a federal trial about the ongoing imbroglio. District Attorney Miller reportedly called the request galling and Shutt a liar.
Reportedly Miller’s attorney said Miller does not possess the texts in question explaining, “Testimony has already revealed that the technology company hired by Centre County routinely factory resets every phone turned in by any county employee to protect the employee’s privacy and personal information, which happened in this case of the phone at issue in this motion.”
In the meantime all three county commissioners, without known precedence in Pennsylvania, recused themselves from the county election board.
Read more of the ongoing drama here: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article129907199.html#navlink=SecList
Watchdog note: URL posted elsewhere in this chronology pertaining to the conduct of Clinton County Judge J. Michael Williamson by the Williamsport Sun Gazette and The Lock Haven Express have disappeared from the Internet without explanation. Williamson presided cases involving this and other issues in Centre County.February 2, 2017 at 6:44 am #7667
Federal Judge Grants Protective Order for Evidence in DA Case
Update: February 2, 2017
U.S. Federal Judge Matthew Brann granted an emergency motion for a protective order “prohibiting spoliation and preserving evidence.” Brann said he granted the order because it did not require anything to be turned over by the third-party, PATC Tech (a cellphone company holding the electronic devices in question). Brann explained that Plaintiff (paralegal Michelle Shutt) requests that PATC Tech maintain and not destroy potentially relevant evidence.February 11, 2017 at 8:03 am #7668
Superior Court Rules in Favor of DA in Ongoing Cases
February 11, 2017
The article cited below provides adequate summary by the local newspaper of two cases in the center of the imbroglio involving this open records case. Watchdog opines, once again, Senior Clinton County Judge J. Michael Williamson serving in Centre County, is involved with bizarre sentencing. Unfortunately, we opine, revelation of judicial performance, is protected from Pennsylvania Sunshine Laws. Hopefully, the 2015 elections will solve much of the county’s misery.June 19, 2017 at 10:07 am #7671
Voters Solved the Problem That the Courts Could Not After Two Years — Final Update, June 19, 2017
Results of Centre County Municipal Primary Election for District Attorney
Democrat Stacy Parks Miller: 3,135 Democrat votes, 780 write-in votes on Republican Ballot, total: 3,923 votes. Bye, bye Miller.
There will be only one District Attorney candidate on the general election ballot in November.
Democrat Bernie Cantorna: 7,159 Democrat votes, 3,619 write-in votes on Republican Ballot, total: 10,773 votes, 73 percent (likely a county record). Cantorna will be only candidate on both the Democrat and Republican Ballots.
Watchdog (a registered independent) opines that because the Republican Party in Centre County is practically dysfunctional, there was no Republican candidate for District Attorney in the primary election.
Results as of June 19, 2017 with all but 10 write-in votes resolved.August 30, 2017 at 9:24 am #7680
Centre County Judge Jonathan Grine receives a “letter of counsel” from the Pennsylvania Judiciary Conduct Board
Update: August 30, 2017
This follows an investigation into a complaint initiated after a referral from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania regarding conduct that took place in 2014 between Judge Jonathan D. Grine and Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller.
According to the letter of counsel, Grine engaged in a “support relationship” with Parks Miller while having marital problems in 2014-2015, which “could lead to a charge of impartiality and could reasonably be questioned in criminal matters and that, due to the relationship, you were subject to improper influence by DA Parks Miller in your official conduct.”
Parks Miller is also accused of several ex parte communications with former judge Bradley Lunsford who retired at the end of 2015. She is slated for a disciplinary hearing in November 2018 when she leaves office as determined by voters.August 31, 2017 at 9:17 am #7686
August 31, 2017
Protesters surround Courthouse Statue claiming ‘Corruption’ at Centre County Courthouse
Some could opine this is nitwittery and loonary (as opposed to lunacy) and the consequence of Sunshine Laws applied to a judiciary behavior long protected behind closed doors. Watchdog suggests instead, it is the result of a branch of government whose behavior is now exposed to Sunshine abetted by modern technology and increasingly to open disclosure of discipline of the judiciary; a judiciary chosen by public election in Pennsylvania. Lesson — if Judges do not want the public to know about a behavior then do not do it under “privilege”.October 6, 2017 at 6:25 am #7691
Centre County Judge Jonathan Grine ‘counseled’ by Judicial Conduct Board
October 6, 2017
“Following an investigation into a complaint initiated after a referral from the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania regarding conduct that took place in 2014 between Judge Jonathan D. Grine and Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, the board voted to resolve the complaint by issuing a letter of counsel to the judge,”
According to the August 29 2017 letter of counsel, Grine engaged in a “support relationship” with Parks Miller while having marital problems in 2014-2015, which “could lead to the charge that (his) impartiality could reasonably be questioned in criminal matters and that, due to the relationship, you were subject to improper influence by DA Parks Miller in your official conduct.”
Read details at: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article170080472.html
October 21, 2017 at 10:22 am #7694
- This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Watchdog7.
Pennsylvania Superior Court Order Denying McClure Double Jeopardy Retrial Vacated
October 21, 2017
Most who follow this open records case involving judicial impropriety and open records believed it was mostly resolved. Yet, it continues.
Background: The prosecution of Centre County resident Jalene McClure for assault and child endangerment was the origin of the open records case. (She was convicted after a September 2014 jury trial and sentenced to 10 to 20 years. That sentence was vacated in August 2016 and a new trial was ordered in conjunction with ex parte prosecutorial shenanigans and closed records deemed protected from Sunshine laws to protect intra judicial trysts). McClure now contends double jeopardy. The Superior Court says, not so fast. Though one’s head may explode, the full details may be read at: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/crime/article180068131.html
The drama deepens. The District Attorney in the McClure Case Stacy Parks Miller was overwhelmingly rejected for reelection in the primaries. The Defense attorney in the case Bernard Cantorna was overwhelmingly nominated by both parties for District Attorney. (None of that has anything to do with McClure’s guilt or innocence). The Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler relinquished his position as President Judge (he remained a county judge) earlier this year. A few weeks ago Kistler was charged with DUI (0.231) after injuring a traffic director hit by his vehicle and then Kistler leaving the scene. Read more here: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/crime/article179746051.html
Watchdog writes often about the cultural oasis created by Penn State and the State College City on the Hill Oligarchy: https://www.scribd.com/user/160046112/State-College-Watchdog
A recent favorite is the $150 million (25 percent cost overrun) State College Area Monolith High School fraught with referendum law violations: https://www.scribd.com/document/354436696/State-College-Monolith-High-SchoolDecember 2, 2017 at 9:34 am #7712
Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks-Miller: DAs are part of Right-to-Know law and must comply. November 24, 2017
It took about two years but the climax (pun intended) resulted in The Pennsylvania Supreme Court agreeing: District attorneys are not a special case when it comes to the state’s Right-to-Know law.
The salient wording: “when Parks Miller claimed protection as a judicial agency, the Commonwealth Court said no. Seven justices of the Supreme Court agreed, in two separate opinions.
Justice David Wecht wrote the majority opinion, going to simple definitions of the office as being “related staff” rather than actual judicial agencies, just like others — including sheriffs and public defenders — that work around the court but not as judicial staff.
Justice Christine Donohue agreed with the decision, but was more critical about the path taken to get there.
“I reject out-of-hand Parks Miller’s notion that district attorneys and the judiciary are on the same ‘team,’ ” she wrote. Donohue said the idea “dangerously conflates” the people prosecuting cases with those judging them impartially.
“Parks Miller’s highly generalized view of the unified judicial system misconstrues the role of district attorneys in our constitutional system,” she wrote. Donohue also said the idea would make district attorneys more protected than the state’s attorney general, who is recognized as a member of the executive branch rather than the judiciary, calling the idea “absurd and unreasonable.”
Go here to read the complete article: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article186316443.html#navlink=SecListJune 5, 2018 at 6:38 am #33258
Centre County’s former DA, Stacy Parks Miller, Cited by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Disciplinary Board for Total Disregard for Her Office. June 5, 2018
“The conduct of Centre County’s former district attorney warrants no less than a three-month license suspension because she fails to comprehend the seriousness of ex parte communications and minimizes her misdeeds, according to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.”
“Stacy Parks Miller made a conscious decision to run the risk of engaging in deceptive conduct, without sufficiently considering the implications of the conduct,” Disciplinary councilman Anthony Czuchnicki said in his brief.
Czuchnicki said Parks Miller violated 14 rules of professional conduct, including knowingly or recklessly making false statements during the board’s investigation and on multiple occasions, and misrepresented material facts in order to avoid further investigation,” Read the entire article at: http://www.centredaily.com/news/local/article212476339.html
Watchdog opines — ONLY THREE MONTHS? How about three years, 6 months confinement, $60,000 and permanent loss of law license? Miller was a District Attorney not a first year lawyer.December 10, 2018 at 4:06 pm #40333
FINAL VICTORY FOR RTK — BOARD RECOMMENDS YEARLONG SUSPENSION FOR FORMER CENTRE COUNTY DA STACY PARKS MILLER’S LAW LICENSE
State College ( Pennsylvania) self-flatters as the City on the Hill where political harmony reigns, all children are gifted, taxes are rational, and liberals immune to the foibles of illiterate luminosity. And hence most of the senior Centre County Court fell into their own trap.
In September 2018 the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on recommended Former District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller’s law license be suspended one year. If the suspension is final, she would need to secure approval from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for reinstatement and to operate her newly opened law firm sans clients. The request for Supreme Court Action explained: “Miller betrayed the faith and trust of the public by engaging in misconduct in her official capacity, including dishonest acts, and this factor weighs heavily in the assessment of discipline.” (Previously a hearing committee recommended she be suspended for three months for engaging in ex parte communications with Centre County judges.) And no, her contention of self-imposed time served does not count. Two judges “retired.” Miller and the judges were not immune to to RTK statues.
All of this sordid tale was discovered through access to public records, first refused for disclosure because they were “judicial records”, but then obtained on appeal under authority of the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Act.
Subsequently, Centre County President Judge Thomas Kistler (judge at the time of the Miller incident and who also retired) was later sentenced to 12 months in an accelerated rehabilitative disposition (ARD) program because of a 2017 DUI. In the same incident he barely evaded being charged with leaving the scene of the accident after reportedly hitting a traffic control officer at Pennsylvania State University. Not understanding the gravity of DUI, Kistler filed (August 2018) a motion to the court asking for an early termination of his ARD program because he could not apply for senior judge status with pending criminal charges. Unfortunately for Kistler but not for an outraged public, a probation officer reported that Kistler violated ARD by consuming beer at the Red Horse Tavern on Sept. 13th. Kistler’s motion was denied.
In The City on the Hill, laws are intended for the Hoi pollo but not the oligarchy. Thank God for the Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Act and the Coalition.
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