HARRISBURG - Centre County officials do not have the authority to investigate whether
the district attorney forged a judge's signature, according to an amicus brief filed in the state Supreme Court Tuesday by the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association (PDAA).
The brief joins a similar filing made last week by the Attorney General's Office, both saying that the underlying allegations against Centre County DA Stacy Parks Miller should be handled by the OAG, not a lawyer appointed by the county commissioners.
PDAA says that Parks Miller properly referred the matter to the OAG due to a conflict of interest in accordance with the Commonwealth Attorneys Act, which requires that the OAG handle the matter.
“We all have a vested interest in legal clarity in this process because integrity is a core value of the profession of district attorney and because the citizens of this commonwealth must have confidence in the system,” PDAA President D. Peter Johnson said.
According to court documents, a former paralegal to Parks Miller alleged in an affidavit that she witnessed Parks Miller forge a judge's signature on a fake court order. Two State College attorneys presented the county commissioners with the affidavit during a public meeting in January 2015, prompting police in Bellafonte to search Parks Miller's office.
Commissioners considered naming a special prosecutor to lead a possible investigation, which compelled Parks Miller to file an emergency petition with the state Supreme Court, which was denied last week. The Centre County commissioners argued that parts of the Pennsylvania County Code permitted the investigation into the district attorney's office, but the PDAA counters that the Commonwealth Attorneys Acts takes precedence.
“The provisions of the County Code relied upon by [the commissioners] in support of their assertion of authority to investigate and/or prosecute an elected district attorney do not grant such power,” the PDAA’s filing reads. “Nor do they grant… the authority to appoint a special prosecutor to try charges that may brought against [Parks Miller].”
Johnson noted that PDAA’s brief is not a commentary on the legal merits of this case, but on an important legal matter impacting the profession of district attorney.
“No one is above the law, including prosecutors,” Johnson said.