On August 16, the Disciplinary Board of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court scheduled a disciplinary hearing for outgoing Centre County District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller, for November 29.
Incumbent Parks Miller was defeated on both sides of the ballot by challenger Bernie Cantorna during the primary election on May 16, and will be out of office effective January 2018 when Cantorna is sworn in, if she doesn’t resign or get removed from office before then.
The scheduling of the hearing rendered the underlying Petition for Discipline, filed February 22, 2017 by Disciplinary Counsel Anthony Czuchnicki, a public document at last.
The Petition for Discipline makes clear that, since at least 2013, the Disciplinary Board has been investigating Parks Miller for ex parte communications with Centre County judges (Lunsford and Grine), false statements to investigators, and unethical contact with criminal defendants.
And that the investigators found ample evidence supporting the allegations, despite Parks Miller’s false denials (also known as lies) and attempts to withhold and destroy evidence.
Disciplinary Board investigators found evidence that Parks Miller has repeatedly violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by:
- seeking to influence judges by means prohibited by law – 3.5(a);
- communicating ex parte with judges during proceedings without authorization by law or court order – 3.5(b);
- making false statements of material fact or law to a third person in the course of representing a client – 4.1(a);
- implying that she was disinterested in dealing on behalf of a client with a person not represented by counsel – 4.3(a);
- failing to make reasonable efforts to correct an unrepresented person’s misunderstanding of her role – 4.3(c);
- failing to make reasonable efforts to ensure that nonlawyers under her direct supervisory authority engaged in conduct compatible with the professional obligations of attorneys – 5.3(b);
- ordering, ratifying, and/or failing to avoid or mitigate conduct of nonlawyers that would be a violation if engaged in by a lawyer – 5.3(c)1; 5.3(c)2;
- knowingly making false statements of material fact in connection with a disciplinary matter – 8.1(a);
- knowingly failing to respond to a lawful demand for information from a disciplinary authority, in connection with a disciplinary matter – 8.1(b);
- violating or attempting to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, and/or knowingly assisting or inducing others to do so – 8.4(a);
- engaging in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation – 8.4(c);
- engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice – 8.4(d);
- knowingly assisting a judge or judicial officer in conduct that is a violation of applicable rules of judicial conduct or other law – 8.4(f)
For background, please see the Centre County DA series compilation of reports published by Bailiwick News between Dec. 16, 2016 and May 13, 2017.
While it’s great that there is finally some movement by the Supreme Court to actually address the rampant abuse of power conducted by Parks Miller since at least 2013, it’s tragic – and a shameful sign of the Supreme Court’s cowardice – that it’s taken them four years to take action.
Judges from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, but especially Centre County and Harrisburg judges, have known of the misconduct for years, let it slide, and sealed public records and public hearings that would have allowed citizens and journalists an opportunity to hold Parks Miller accountable.
As a result, many hundreds of people – criminal defendants, their families, victims of crime, whistleblowers and civil litigants subjected to Parks Millers retributive lawsuits – have been grievously harmed by the miscarriage of justice and abuse of power.
That suffering was preventable, but the Supreme Court judges did not act to protect those people’s rights.
The public burden of that failure to protect the integrity of the courts – the loss of trust in and credibility of the county and state judiciary – will linger long after Parks Miller is out of office, disciplined, disbarred and/or charged with crimes and tried.